Martinez, California

Home to John Muir and the Martini

Downtown Martinez
Downtown Martinez
George Miller Trail
George Miller Trail
Carquinez Shoreline
Carquinez Shoreline
Waterfront Park
Waterfront Park

The Best Thing About Martinez?

Affordability

“Affordable” may sound like an oxymoron when used in the same sentence as the “Bay Area,” but it's true. There are of course homes in Martinez over the $1 million mark, but it’s common to find homes from $600 - 700,000, which is definitely considered affordable relative to other nearby cities.

Not only do you get a greater value in your home, but you also have pretty great natural areas and an evolving downtown area to entertain you on the weekends. For those who love to get outside, you can drive almost any direction to find your escape. Bordered to the north by the Carquinez Straight, residents can unwind kayaking or walking along the trails through the Martinez Marina and multiple waterfront parks. Oh, and did we mention that the water means weather here can be as much as 10-20 degrees cooler than in other parts of the Eastbay interior? That’s a big deal. Bordered to the southwest by Briones Regional Park, residents are never too far from this park’s 6,255 acres of scenic hiking trails, camping and picnic areas and archery range.

This access to nature is fitting for the city that John Muir, the “Father of the National Park System,” called home. The John Muir National Historic Site is here, just two miles south in Alhambra Valley, offering free tours of his home.

While some feel that Martinez lacks a vibrant culture, others adamantly disagree. A hidden gem for live music in the Eastbay, a night out in downtown means walking along cute, early 1900’s brick buildings that house great bars, antique shops, and new breweries hosting live entertainment. Looking for family fun? The city hosts several events, parades and festivals throughout the year to keep your calendar full (because that’s what you busy parents need, more to do).

The Worst thing about Martinez?

Refineries

Not everyone knows that the Bay Area is home to five historic oil refineries. Martinez itself is home to two major refineries in its northern section (north of Highway 4). The concentration of oil refineries in the Contra Costa County, of which Martinez is a part, has worsened air quality, impacting the health of residents and disproportionately disadvantaged communities and communities of color. When crude oil is refined into gasoline and jet fuel, the process can release compounds that smell like oily rags, rotten eggs, or rotten cabbage. These smells have been noted downwind of the refineries when there are flare ups, but not every part of Martinez is impacted by this. Residents desiring to avoid the worst of the air quality issues live south of Highway 4. That being said, modern regulations have certainly improved conditions and monitors will shut down refinery operations if the air quality is impacted, making living closer to the refineries much more tolerable than when they first opened decades ago.

We also wouldn’t be doing our due diligence if we didn’t mention the other two most common complaints about Martinez are select residents’ racial prejudice and a population of unhoused people centered in the downtown area around the county hospital and county jail.

Lifestyle of Martinez

Small Town + Suburban

Martinez has a rich history dating back before California had its statehood. It was home to John Muir who played a vital role in beginning the national park system in the U.S., and bartender Jerry Thomas who is said to have invented the martini.

Today, Martinez offers a diverse array of neighborhoods to fit many lifestyles – everything from a walkable and charming downtown area to larger homes set on lucious green pastures. The entertainment options are ranging too. The city offers weekly events (often in partnership with its growing list of restaurant, brewery and shop owners), miles of walking trails within some 16 parks and even state of the art bocci ball courts. Didn’t see that coming, did you?

Some parts of Martinez feel like a small town while other parts feel like the true suburbs. Many families have lived here for generations and cherish that there’s always a little league game or other family-oriented event where they can see and chat with their neighbors and friends. Contributing to the small town vibes are the town’s four annual parades: Little League, Fourth of July, Homecoming and Light (around the holidays).

Residents also enjoy easy access to neighboring towns’ amenities, but they do so by car as public transportation is kind of average here. For those who do need to commute, freeways border and bisect the city, making Martinez an appealing home base for those who work in other parts of the Bay Area.

It’s worth noting that as you move further out from the cities of San Francisco and Oakland, there’s a visible downtick in crime and homelessness. The same is true in Martinez. However, certain areas within the city do experience a higher crime rate and have a greater unhoused population than other East Bay cities like Lafayette, Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek.

Schools in Martinez

Well Above Average

The public schools are rated “A-” by Niche.com. The Martinez Unified School District (MUSC) consists of five elementary schools, one middle school, one high school and an adult education program. It serves the majority of Martinez, Alhambra Valley, Mountain View, Vine Hill and portions of Reliez Valley. One elementary school within Martinez is actually part of a neighboring district, so students assigned to that school will complete middle and high school in nearby Pleasant Hill, which also is rated “A-” on Niche.com. The one middle school in MUSC is Martinez Junior High School (6th-8th) which offers both honors and advanced courses as well as popular electives in art, music and physical education. The high school, Alhambra High School (9th-12th), helps students become more well-rounded with offerings ranging from advanced placement courses to career technical education to a variety of extracurriculars.

There are also some very highly rated private schools like the Bentley School, Carondelet High School and the Salesian College Preparatory within driving distance. Within the city, you’ll find St. Catherine of Siena School (TK-8th) and Vicente Martinez High School, an alternative high school.

Why You Should Move Here Now

You Can Call It A Comeback

Martinez wasn’t always like this. It didn’t always have cute breweries, higher value homes and an attractive public school system. But over the past several years, the area has seen a resurgence. Join the wave of families and young professionals moving to Martinez who are adding new energy and momentum to this city’s designation as a hidden gem within the East Bay.