Soledad is a city in Monterey County, California, United States. Soledad is located 25 miles (40 km) southeast of Salinas, at an elevation of 190 feet (58 m). The population was 25,738 at the 2010 census.
The town is located near the Spanish mission, Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (the mission of Our Lady of Solitude), founded October 9, 1791 by Fermín Francisco de Lasuén, the 13th of 21 missions in California. The town’s name comes from the mission.
Soledad is seated at the heart of one of the most economically productive and technologically advanced agricultural regions in the world; hence, the Salinas Valley name, „Salad Bowl of the World“. Agricultural companies working out of this region include: Dole Fresh Vegetables, Tanimura & Antle Fresh Foods, Taylor Farms, D’Arrigo Bros. Inc and Mann Packing Inc.
Soledad is located in one of the primary wine grape growing regions of California with over twenty vineyards and wineries within a thirty-mile radius, several of which have tasting rooms and offer a wide selection of wines for sale. Some of the vineyards and wineries located nearby are Chalone, Scheid, Paraiso Vineyards, Pisoni Vineyards, Hahn Estate, San Saba, J.Lohr, Kendall-Jackson, Ventana, Hess Select, Estancia, The Michaud Vineyard, and Graff Family Vineyards.
The original community of Soledad was founded as a Spanish mission October 9, 1791 by Fermín Lasuén, and founded under the rule of the Viceroyalty of New Spain (Virreinato de Nueva España) 1535 to 1821. „Soledad“ is a religious reference to the Virgin in the Catholic religion.
The Soledad post office opened in 1869. The current community of Soledad in 1874 had a few buildings and shops. The two main streets were named Front and Main. In 1886, land was subdivided into lots and sold by its owners, the Munras family. In the late 1880s the Southern Pacific Railroad laid rails and began serving the area.
In 1898 Fort Romie was founded a few miles north of the mission and west of the city. San Vicente School was built in 1913 forming the Soledad School District. The City, a general law city, incorporated in March 1921 with a City Council/City Manager form of government. The city’s name comes from the mission Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad.
Soledad is used as a backdrop in John Steinbeck’s 1937 novel Of Mice and Men, an emotional story about two close friends of opposite personalities who must farm others‘ land to make meager living, and who dream desperately of buying a patch of land to have a farm of their own. One of the most important themes of the novel is tragical loneliness, which is likely one of the reason why Soledad was chosen as the setting, as soledad is Spanish for ’solitude‘.
Soledad has been rocked by the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.
The Soledad Prison was three miles (5 km) north of the city until annexed in 1992. It was built in 1946 and currently has an operating budget of $245 million.
The infamous „Nortenos“ gang was founded in 1968 along with Nuestra Familia crime syndicate in the Soledad Prison. Most of the members became FBI informants to bring the nuestra familia crime syndicate apart. Due to this the „Norteno“ association has been dealt a severe blow to their structure, resulting in the weakening of their units.
In May 1996 the Salinas Valley State Prison was opened at a cost of $236 million, with an annual operating budget of $60 million. Currently as of 2007 the annual operating budget has risen to $177 million yearly.
On April 28, 2009, a tour bus transporting 34 French tourists flipped over at an overpass on Soledad’s north entrance. At least five passengers were killed, one of whom fell over the bridge onto the railroad tracks beneath it.
Soledad’s slogan was „It’s happening in Soledad“ was used until 2013 when „Gateway to the Pinnacles“ was introduced.
In July 2015, Ghost Adventures filmed an episode for three days at the infamously haunted Los Coches adobe. The city is hoping it will create national attention and could be made into a tourist destination. The episode aired September 26, 2015.
Soledad is located at .
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.6 square miles (12 km2), 96.68% of it land and 3.32% of it water.
Soledad is about six miles (10 km) southwest of Pinnacles National Park, nestled among the nearby Gabilan Mountains.
This region experiences warm (but not hot) and dry summers, with no average monthly temperatures above 71.6 °F. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Soledad has a warm-summer Mediterranean climate, abbreviated „Csb“ on climate maps.
As of the census of 2000, there were 11,263 people, 2,472 households, and 2,242 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,680.0 inhabitants per square mile (1,035.4/km²). There were 2,534 housing units at an average density of 603.0/mi² (232.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 31.90% White, 1.15% African American, 1.73% Native American, 2.35% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 58.56% from other races, and 4.23% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 86.82% of the population.
There were 2,472 households out of which 60.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 69.9% were married couples living together, 13.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 9.3% were non-families. 7.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 3.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 4.54 and the average family size was 4.58.
In the city the population was spread out with 36.7% under the age of 18, 12.9% from 18 to 24, 31.4% from 25 to 44, 13.1% from 45 to 64, and 5.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 25 years. For every 100 females there were 108.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 106.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $42,602, and the median income for a family was $41,188. Males had a median income of $31,566 versus $23,964 for females. The per capita income for the city was $11,442. About 16.3% of families and 18.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.1% of those under age 18 and 9.2% of those age 65 or over.
The 2010 United States Census reported that Soledad had a population of 25,738. The population density was 5,637.5 people per square mile (2,176.7/km²). The racial makeup of Soledad was 12,625 (49.1%) White, 2,945 (11.4%) African American, 367 (1.4%) Native American, 757 (2.9%) Asian, 103 (0.4%) Pacific Islander, 8,189 (31.8%) from other races, and 752 (2.9%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 18,308 persons (71.1%).
The Census reported that 15,635 people (60.7% of the population) lived in households, 0 (0%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 10,103 (39.3%) were institutionalized.
There were 3,664 households, out of which 2,471 (67.4%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 2,387 (65.1%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 586 (16.0%) had a female householder with no husband present, 291 (7.9%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 224 (6.1%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 30 (0.8%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 301 households (8.2%) were made up of individuals and 123 (3.4%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 4.27. There were 3,264 families (89.1% of all households); the average family size was 4.41.
The population was spread out with 5,674 people (22.0%) under the age of 18, 2,455 people (9.5%) aged 18 to 24, 10,126 people (39.3%) aged 25 to 44, 6,296 people (24.5%) aged 45 to 64, and 1,187 people (4.6%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34.9 years. For every 100 females there were 235.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 301.8 males.
There were 3,876 housing units at an average density of 849.0 per square mile (327.8/km²), of which 2,092 (57.1%) were owner-occupied, and 1,572 (42.9%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 2.4%; the rental vacancy rate was 4.1%. 8,642 people (33.6% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 6,993 people (27.2%) lived in rental housing units.
The mean household income within the Soledad city limits was $58,841, and the median household income was $44,343. Roughly 7.8% of households were below the poverty line.
Socioeconomically, 31.8% of Soledad’s households were considered upper middle income to upper income while 45.8% were considered lower middle income to upper middle income. Roughly 22.4% of households were considered lower income.
Although Soledad is known for its agriculture, it was once the home of timber production. Soledad was home to the Sequoia Forest Industries sawmill. It was closed in 1991 and approximately 91 jobs were lost due to the closure of the mill. The warehouse is still in the city as a reminder of past industrial opportunities the small town had to offer.
Land for agriculture is Soledad’s most abundant natural resource. Soledad’s farmland is considered „Prime Farmland“, meaning the soils around and near the city have some of the best physical and chemical characteristics for farming. Due to this fact great efforts in conserving farmland are a very high priority for the city. Prime farmland is the backbone of the Soledad economy. Future planning will consider the effect of urban sprawl amongst the farmlands. Class I, II, and III soils are the most valuable to farming. The climate also allows for year-round crops.
Although Soledad has great soil for salad green crops, it also has a large presence of vineyards and wineries in the valley and foothills. Some famous wineries include Chalone Vineyard, Paraiso Springs Vineyards, Hahn Estate Winery, Zabala Vineyards, Richard Boyer Wines, and Ventana Vineyards. It was once the home of the Paul Masson Winery which is now closed.
Dole Food Company maintains a plant in Soledad. Opened in 1994, it is touted as being the „world’s largest pre-cut salad plant.“
As of 2007, Soledad features a weekly certified Farmers‘ Market on Soledad St.
Soledad is home to the Soledad Energy Partnership, operators of a wood-waste burning electric power plant. This 13.5 megawatt facility was restarted in July 2001 after a six-year shut-down due to termination of a PG&E purchase agreement. The plant was recommissioned during the California electricity crisis.
As of mid-2006, the plant was again closed.
Several violations at the plant have been issued by the California Integrated Water Quality System Project. The plant was issued violations from 2002 to 2006 for various reporting and pollution allegations.
Soledad power plant.
Soledad power plant.
Soledad is located on U.S. Route 101 and is accessible via northbound and southbound exit ramps on Front Street, at the north and south ends of town. It is the western terminus of California State Route 146, which connects the city to nearby Pinnacles National Park.
Soledad is serviced by the Monterey-Salinas Transit line 23 (Salinas – King City). As of September 5, 2009, the bus stops in Soledad are located at the correctional facility, Front & San Vicente and Monterey & East.
There are two school districts in the Soledad area: Soledad Unified School District & Mission Union School District
San Vicente School
Television service for the community comes from the Monterey-Salinas-Santa Cruz designated market area (DMA). Radio stations Monterey-Salinas-Santa Cruz area of dominant influence (ADI) or continuous measurement market (CMM). Local newspapers include the Monterey County Herald, Salinas Californian and Soledad Bee.
Soledad is also the setting of the story in John Steinbeck’s novel, Of Mice and Men.
In a 2013 Safe Cities report, Soledad was rated California’s eleventh safest city. Soledad was highly regarded for its sense of community and high amount of volunteerism.
Soledad was also rated the ninety-fourth safest city out of one hundred cities nationwide in a 2014 Neighborhood Scout Report.
The city has two separate correctional facilities in the northernmost part of the city. The first and oldest prison is Soledad CTF (Correctional Training Facility) built in 1946. It was also one of the first 12 prisons of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The other one is Salinas Valley State Prison, which opened in 1996.