El Cerrito, California

El Cerrito is a city in Contra Costa County, California, United States, and forms part of the San Francisco Bay Area. It has a population of 23,549 according to the 2010 census. El Cerrito was founded by refugees from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. It was incorporated in 1917 as a village with 1,500 residents. As of the census in 2000, there were 23,171 people, 10,208 households and 5,971 families in the city. The top 20 employers in the city, according to the 2013 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, include such entities as the West Contra Costa Unified School District, the City of El Cerrito, Lucky Stores, Pastime ACE Hardware, and Honda of El Cerrito.

El Cerrito
City of El Cerrito
San Pablo Avenue, with the historic Cerrito Theater

Location of El Cerrito in Contra Costa County, California
El Cerrito
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 37°54′57″N 122°18′42″W
Country United States
State California
CountyContra Costa
IncorporatedAugust 23, 1917[1]
  MayorGreg Lyman[2]
  State SenatorNancy Skinner (D)[3]
  State AssemblyBuffy Wicks (D)[4]
  U. S. CongressMark DeSaulnier (D)[5]
  County BoardDistrict 1:
John Gioia
  Total3.66 sq mi (9.47 km2)
  Land3.66 sq mi (9.47 km2)
  Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)  0%
69 ft (21 m)
  Density6,945.58/sq mi (2,681.82/km2)
Time zoneUTC-8 (PST)
  Summer (DST)UTC-7 (PDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s)510
FIPS code06-21796
GNIS feature IDs277504, 2410410


El Cerrito was founded by refugees from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. They settled in what was then Don Víctor Castro's Rancho San Pablo, and adjacent to the ranch owned by the family of Luís María Peralta, the Rancho San Antonio.[8] A post office opened at the settlement in 1909 and the refugee camp became known as Rust, after Wilhelm F. Rust, its first postmaster.[9][10] The village's residents did not care for the name and changed it to El Cerrito (meaning "little hills" or "knoll") in 1916, in reference to the many individual hills in the village.[9] A year later, El Cerrito was incorporated as a village with 1,500 residents.[8]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 3.7 square miles (9.6 km2), all of it land. The city is at an elevation of 69 feet (21 m).[10]

El Cerrito is located on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay. The hilly areas of El Cerrito provide views of its neighboring city, and of the Golden Gate Bridge. El Cerrito is located along Interstate 80, and nearby Interstate 580. The city is less than 30 miles from two major airports. El Cerrito is bordered by Albany and Kensington to the south, the Richmond annex to the west, East Richmond Heights to the north, and Wildcat Canyon Regional Park to the east. Local landmark Albany Hill is in Albany, just across the border with El Cerrito. (El Cerrito—Spanish, "the little hill"—takes its name from Albany Hill.) The Hayward Fault runs through El Cerrito. In addition, El Cerrito is within 150 meters (490 feet) of Berkeley to the southeast.

El Cerrito is approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) from the University of California Berkeley campus and has two BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) stations: El Cerrito del Norte and El Cerrito Plaza.


The city's primary transportation infrastructure consists of the El Cerrito Plaza and El Cerrito del Norte BART stations, along with several local bus lines operated by AC Transit, providing access to the surrounding area and the nearby cities of Albany, Berkeley and Richmond. In addition to this local service, El Cerrito is also served by AC Transit's transbay buses to the San Francisco Transbay Terminal, as well as its late night service from the del Norte station through Richmond, San Pablo, and Pinole, and one of the All Nighter routes, which follows the Richmond-Millbrae BART line. FAST, Golden Gate Transit, Vallejo Transit, Napa VINE, and WestCat provide feeder service between the del Norte station and elsewhere in Contra Costa County and the North Bay.


San Pablo Avenue stretches the length of El Cerrito and is the primary commercial and retail corridor of the city, though there is a segment in which the businesses on the west side of the avenue are actually in Richmond Annex but have an El Cerrito postal address.

El Cerrito is home to El Cerrito Plaza, a large automobile-oriented (though it is also served by public transit at the adjacent BART station) shopping center originally built as a regional mall in the 1950s, and the Cerrito Theater, a restored two-screen movie theater known for offering beer, wine, and a full dining menu. The shopping center is surrounded by other commercial and retail businesses along San Pablo Avenue and Fairmount Avenue.

El Cerrito city parks include both recreation/sports parks as well as undeveloped nature areas. Most notable are the 80-acre (320,000 m2) Hillside Natural Area open space, Huber Park (Terrace Drive), Cerrito Vista Park (Moeser Lane and Pomona Avenue), and Arlington Park (Arlington Boulevard), Tassajara Park (Tassajara Avenue and Barrett Avenue), Poinsett Park (Poinsett Avenue), and the Canyon Trail Park and Art Center (Gatto Avenue). The City is home to a 2.6-mile (4.2 km) segment of the Ohlone Greenway (named after the Native American Ohlone people), a trail that runs the length of the City along a former railroad grade underneath the BART right-of-way that is popular with walkers, runners, and bicyclists, as well as the blind, deaf, and mute population.

The city is nominally home to Arhoolie Records (actually located in Richmond Annex), part of the Smithsonian Institution. Also located in the city was Playland-Not-At-The-Beach, a now-closed popular amusement park museum.


Historical population
Est. 201825,601[7]8.7%
U.S. Decennial Census[11]


The 2010 United States Census[12] reported that El Cerrito had a population of 23,549. The population density was 6,385.3 people per square mile (2465.6/km²). The 2010 racial makeup of El Cerrito was:

Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2,621 persons (11.1%).

The Census reported that 23,456 people (99.6% of the population) lived in households, 48 (0.2%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 45 (0.2%) were institutionalized.

There were 10,142 households, out of which 2,394 (23.6%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 4,703 (46.4%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 1,047 (10.3%) had a female householder with no husband present, and 416 (4.1%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 509 (5.0%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 189 (1.9%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 2,953 (29.1%) were made up of individuals and 1188 (11.7%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31. There were 6,166 families (60.8% of all households); the average family size was 2.84.

The population was spread out with 4,087 people (17.4%) under the age of 18, 1,281 people (5.4%) aged 18 to 24, 6,918 people (29.4%) aged 25 to 44, 7,036 people (29.9%) aged 45 to 64, and 4,227 people (17.9%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43.5 years. For every 100 females, there were 92.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.1 males.

There were 10,716 housing units at an average density of 2905.6 per square mile (1122.0/km²), of which 10,142 were occupied, of which 6,145 (60.6%) were owner-occupied, and 3,997 (39.4%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.1%; the rental vacancy rate was 5.4%. 14,474 people (61.5% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 8,982 people (38.1%) lived in rental housing units.


As of the census[13] of 2000, there were 23,171 people, 10,208 households, and 5,971 families residing in the city. The population density was 6,356.5 people per square mile (2,451.1/km²). There were 10,462 housing units at an average density of 2,870.1 per square mile (1,106.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 57.79% White, 8.54% Black or African American, 0.50% Native American, 24.38% Asian, 0.25% Pacific Islander, 3.06% from other races, and 5.48% from two or more races. 7.93% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 10,208 households out of which 20.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.4% were married couples living together, 9.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.5% were non-families. 30.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.81.

In the city, the population was spread out with 15.9% under the age of 18, 6.7% from 18 to 24, 31.2% from 25 to 44, 25.7% from 45 to 64, and 20.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females, there were 89.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $57,253, and the median income for a family was $69,397 (these figures had risen to $77,650 and $97,488 respectively as of a 2007 estimate[14]). Males had a median income of $50,316 versus $40,866 for females. The per capita income for the city was $32,593. About 3.5% of families and 6.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.9% of those under age 18 and 3.9% of those age 65 or over.

At home the percentages of the languages residents speak are English 70.47%, Spanish 6.26%, Chinese 5.96%, Japanese 2.70%, Mandarin 1.80%, Cantonese 1.57%, Persian 1.43%, Tagalog 1.30%, Korean 1.08%, French 0.90%, German 0.83%, Formosan 0.73%, Italian 0.66%, Vietnamese 0.57%, Urdu 0.50%, and 3.23% of people spoke some other language which represented less than 0.50% of the population.[15]


Top employers

According to the City of El Cerrito's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the year ended June 30, 2013[16] the top employers in the city are:

Note: Data not available for ranking or total employees for each employer.


According to the California Secretary of State, as of February 10, 2019, El Cerrito has 16,304 registered voters. Of those, 10,560 (64.8%) are registered Democrats, 1,020 (6.3%) are registered Republicans, and 4,156 (25.5%) have declined to state a political party.[17]


Primary and secondary schools

El Cerrito is in the West Contra Costa Unified School District, a multi-city district that operates three elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school in the city:

  • Alvarado Elementary School (closed; currently used for adult education)
  • Castro Elementary School (permanently closed; now the site of Fred T. Korematsu Middle School)
  • Fairmont Elementary School
  • Harding Elementary School
  • Madera Elementary School
  • Fred T. Korematsu Middle School
  • El Cerrito High School

El Cerrito is home to a private preschool as well as private elementary and middle schools:

  • Keystone Montessori School (preschool)
  • Montessori Family School
  • Prospect Sierra School
  • St. Jerome Catholic School
  • St. John The Baptist

Additionally, El Cerrito has one charter middle school and high school:

  • Summit K2

Public libraries

There is a branch of the Contra Costa County Library system in El Cerrito.[18]

Notable people

listed alphabetically by first name

  • El Cerrito has been mentioned in the book ttfn by Lauren Myracle. Character Angela finds out the family is moving to El Cerrito.[20]
  • El Cerrito is mentioned in the song "Golden Gate Fields" by Rancid
  • Metallica wrote Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets in a small house in El Cerrito where the band lived for a while. Cliff Burton joined the band only if Metallica would agree to move to El Cerrito
  • Game Theory's 1988 song "You Drive" mentions El Cerrito in the first line.
  • Cracker recorded a song titled "El Cerrito" released on their 2014 album Berkeley to Bakersfield.


  1. "California Cities by Incorporation Date". California Association of Local Agency Formation Commissions. Archived from the original (Word) on November 3, 2014. Retrieved March 27, 2013.
  2. "City Council". El Cerrito, CA. Retrieved March 21, 2013.
  3. "Senators". State of California. Retrieved March 21, 2013.
  4. "Members Assembly". State of California. Retrieved March 21, 2013.
  5. "California's 11th Congressional District - Representatives & District Map". Civic Impulse, LLC. Retrieved March 9, 2013.
  6. "2016 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved Jul 19, 2017.
  7. "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved July 28, 2019.
  8. Contra Costa/Alameda County Line Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, Mervin Belfils/El Cerrito Historical Society, October 1975/June 2006, retrieved 2007-08-01
  9. Durham, David L. (1998). California's Geographic Names: A Gazetteer of Historic and Modern Names of the State. Clovis, Calif.: Word Dancer Press. p. 628. ISBN 1-884995-14-4.
  10. "El Cerrito". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey.
  11. "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Archived from the original on April 26, 2015. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  12. "2010 Census Interactive Population Search: CA - El Cerrito city". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  13. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2013-09-11. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  14. "American FactFinder". Factfinder.census.gov. Retrieved 2014-01-09.
  15. El Cerrito entry, MLA Data Center, retrieved October 21, 2007
  16. "City of El Cerrito CAFR". Principal Employers. City of El Cerrito. Retrieved 9 September 2014.
  17. "CA Secretary of State – Report of Registration – February 10, 2019" (PDF). ca.gov. Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  18. "El Cerrito Library." Contra Costa County Library. Retrieved on April 1, 2010.
  19. "Alice Schwartz". Forbes. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  20. Lauren Myracle (1 February 2007). TTFN (Ta-Ta for Now). Harry N. Abrams. ISBN 978-0-8109-9279-5.
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