Brentwood was originally laid out on land donated from property owned by John Marsh, an East Contra Costa County pioneer who acquired Rancho Los Meganos, the land grant that Brentwood is built upon, in 1837 from Jose Noriega. Brentwood was named after Marsh’s ancestral home, the town of Brentwood in the County of Essex, England.
Brentwood’s first post office was established in 1878. The city incorporated in 1948.
Balfour, Guthrie & Co., a British investment company, purchased the John Marsh ranch in 1910. The company invested heavily in other California agricultural properties as well. In 1910, it built the Brentwood Hotel at Oak Street and Brentwood Boulevard, across from the railroad station. This replaced an earlier hotel on the same site that had burned down in 1903. The hotel was razed in 1967, and replaced by a service station.
The Brentwood water tower perhaps symbolizes the city’s transition from a rural farm community to a modern bedroom community. This landmark on Walnut Street, across the street from the Brentwood Park and Ride lot, is the tallest structure in the city. It is no longer used for its original purpose, but now serves as a cell phone tower. City water is stored in large tanks atop hills outside the city.
The city is bordered on three sides by the Contra Costa County Agricultural Core which consists of 11,000 acres of preserved and still actively productive farm land. The members of the non-profit Harvest Time in Brentwood produce an annual farm trail map to help u-pickers find fresh and local produce all year long. harvest4you.com
During the 1990s, many types of retail stores were built along the Brentwood/Antioch border on Lone Tree Way, on both sides of SR 4 B, about 3.5 miles (5.6 km) from downtown Brentwood. The Streets of Brentwood, an outdoor lifestyle retail center, opened in Brentwood in 2008. The region’s upscale shopping and dining is found in Brentwood including REI, Banana Republic, Swarovski, Coldwater Creek, White House Black Market, Hollister Co., JoS. A. Bank Clothiers, Victoria’s Secret, DSW, Inc., ULTA Beauty, Trader Joe’s, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, BJ’s Restaurant & Brewery, Johnny Garlic’s, and Vic Stewart’s, a nationally recognized steakhouse, with locations in Walnut Creek, California and Brentwood.
The city broke ground for a new civic center in November, 2009. The Mission-style architectural inspiration for City Hall, the main building, was the 1910 Brentwood Hotel. The $60 million project, completed in May 2012, includes the 58,000-square-foot City Hall and state-of-the-art City Council Chambers, 32,000-square-foot community center, 280-space parking garage and redevelopment of the 2½-acre City Park. The community center also includes arts and crafts rooms as well as studios for dance classes and community exercise programs. The center received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification for amenities such as green roofs, bioswales, permeable paving and infiltration planters. City departments began moving into the new facility in October 2011, and the former city hall was demolished during November 2011.
Brentwood’s public education system has about 7 elementary, 3 middle, and 4 high schools, Independence High School, Liberty High School, Freedom High School and Heritage High School. The city is served by the Brentwood Union School District, Knightsen School District and the Liberty Union High School District. The Brentwood Union School District runs on a modified traditional school calendar. The Brentwood Union School District has many schools designated as a California Distinguished School. Approximately five percent of California schools are awarded this honor. Heritage High School includes a full range of Advanced Placement courses and the highest Academic Performance Index (California public schools)(API) score in the area, stellar performing arts programs, and championship athletic teams. Heritage is also a solar school. The 2.38 kW photovoltaic project installed at Heritage High School is designed to demonstrate the benefits and opportunities created by renewable energy technology and provide a powerful learning tool for both students and the community.
Los Medanos College operates a satellite facility at Sand Creek Road and Brentwood Blvd.
Brentwood was one of 118 cities designated by KaBOOM! as a Playful City USA for 2010 – with only 10 in California and only Brentwood, Redwood City and San Francisco in Northern California. Each community selected demonstrated creative commitments to the cause of play and fitness. Brentwood was selected for a variety of reasons, including that fact that it offers the community its Wellness Policy, a community-wide aspirational goal which promotes physical activity and education as the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. Brentwood has 58 parks within nearly 12 square miles (31 km2), and miles of jogging trails, to support healthy lifestyles.
Agriculture remains important to the local economy, but has declined in relative importance as the city has become more suburban. Local wineries including Bloomfield, Tamayo, and Hannah Nicole have gained in sales and prestige after winning numerous medals in recent years at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the California State Fair. There is no heavy industry and only a small light industrial area in the northeastern part of the city. Brentwood underwent a strong economic boom from 2000 through 2008. Population expanded from 23,302 in 2000 to about 48,000 in 2006, a higher growth rate than other communities in the Bay Area. Some of the new neighborhoods were centered around two new golf courses, the Shadow Lakes Golf Club and the Deer Valley Gold Club, that were constructed to take advantage of the views of Mt. Diablo. The boom stalled in 2009, paralleling the economic crisis that affected all of California, but successful new home subdivisions, including a gated community (Carmel Estates), appeared again in 2010. Within an active adult community (Trilogy at the Vineyards), Club Los Meganos opened in 2010 with 34,000 square feet (3,200 m2) of athletic club, pool and cabanas, gourmet studio, spa, tennis courts, and events center. In 2013, Brentwood’s economy displayed renewed economic vigor with substantial new activity in residential and commercial/retail construction. Sales offices of new home subdivisions commonly advertise new houses beginning in the $500Ks with the largest homes with many upgrades nearing $1M. The overall improvement in the Bay Area economy and anticipation for the 2015 completion of eBart and highway improvements in East Contra Costa County are playing a part in the revival of strong economic growth in Brentwood. One of the most exciting development opportunities in Brentwood is linked to the two Federal research facilities – Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories – that are located 25 minutes south of Brentwood. Brentwood has established close relations with the national labs and is a member of i-GATE, which is a regional partnership designed to promote tech-oriented business growth connected with the labs.