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Encyclopedia > Ojai
Downtown Ojai

Ojai (pronounced "O-High") is a city located in Ventura County, California. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 7,862, making it one of the smallest cities in the county. The town of Ojai is situated in the Ojai Valley, (10 miles long and 3 miles wide, approximately) surrounded by hills and mountains.



The valley was home to Chumash Indians before becoming one of many Spanish land grants along the California coast. It became a cattle ranch in 1837, when it was granted to Fernando Tico. In 1853 he sold it to prospectors searching for oil, without much success. By 1864, the area had been settled, and in 1874, the City of Nordhoff was founded.

The city was renamed Ojai - a Chumash word - when the name Nordhoff was determined to be too German post-World War I.

The main turning point in the development of the city was the coming of Edward Drummond Libbey. He saw the valley and fell in love, thinking up many plans for expansion and beautification of the existing rustic town. He helped design, finance and build a more modern and fitting downtown, including a Spanish-style arcade, a bell-tower reminicient of the famous Campanile in Havana, and a pergola opposite the arcade. His buildings still exist today in exquisite condition as the symbols of the city and its valley. To thank Libbey for his gifts to the town, the citizens proposed a celebration to take place on March 2nd of each year. Libbey declined their offer to call it "Libbey Day," and instead suggested "Ojai Day." The celebration still takes place each year.

Today, Ojai is an active, though small, community. Libbey's pergola was destroyed in 1971 after being damaged in an explosion, and was recently rebuilt to complete the archtectural continuity of the downtown area. The town completed a new park in 2002.


Ojai is located at 34°26'57" North, 119°14'48" West (34.449079, -119.246654)1.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 11.5 km˛ (4.4 mi˛). 11.5 km˛ (4.4 mi˛) of it is land and 0.22% is water.

Ojai is situated in a small east-west valley, north of Ventura and east of Santa Barbara. It is approximately 15 miles inland.

The weather is characterized by hot summer highs (often exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit) and cool winter lows (often below freezing); the climate is generally mild and temperate.


As of the census2 of 2000, there are 7,862 people, 3,088 households, and 1,985 families residing in the city. The population density is 685.2/km˛ (1,773.0/mi˛). There are 3,229 housing units at an average density of 281.4/km˛ (728.2/mi˛). The racial makeup of the city is 88.01% White, 0.60% African American, 0.50% Native American, 1.58% Asian, 0.17% Pacific Islander, 6.26% from other races, and 2.90% from two or more races. 15.84% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 3,088 households out of which 31.7% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.0% are married couples living together, 11.6% have a female householder with no husband present, and 35.7% are non-families. 29.0% of all households are made up of individuals and 13.9% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.48 and the average family size is 3.06.

In the city the population is spread out with 24.9% under the age of 18, 6.5% from 18 to 24, 23.9% from 25 to 44, 26.8% from 45 to 64, and 17.9% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 42 years. For every 100 females there are 88.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 83.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $44,593, and the median income for a family is $52,917. Males have a median income of $40,919 versus $30,821 for females. The per capita income for the city is $25,670. 10.7% of the population and 7.9% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 15.9% of those under the age of 18 and 9.3% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.


Ojai is the home of the fictional character Jamie Sommers in the television show The Bionic Woman.

Film and Music

The Ojai Valley was the setting of the mythical city of Shangri-La in the 1937 film Lost Horizon It is also a popular vacation spot for many celebrity figures and others in the entertainment industry. The town is also home to the Ojai Film Festival, showcasing independent films from around the world.

There is only one movie theater in the town -- the Ojai Playhouse, located downtown.

The Ojai Music Festival, founded in 1947, is an annual festival of performances by some of the world's top musicians and composers, and occurs on the first weekend after Memorial Day. Notable appearances include Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland, and Pierre Boulez, who was festival director in 2003.

The local public high school (Nordhoff High) also has a decorated music program. Their wind ensemble holds the California State Champion title in their division, and performed in Carnegie Hall in April 2003.


The town of Ojai and its surrounding area is home to many unique recreational activities. Los Padres National Forest borders the town on the north, and many backcountry areas within the forest are accessible from Highway 33, which is the major highway through town south to north. To the west, the Lake Casitas Recreational Area offers camping, picnicing, and hiking as well.

The valley is home to the oldest continuous tennis tournament in the world -- the Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament, and has several public courts in the downtown Libbey Park. There are also two major golf courses: the Soule Park Golf Course, and the famous Ojai Valley Inn Golf Course.


In addition to its public school system, the Ojai Valley is home to several private boarding schools, including The Thacher School, the Ojai Valley School, Happy Valley School, and Villanova Preparatory School.

External links

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