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San Luis Obispo County, California

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County of San Luis Obispo Official Board Seal

new sealAdopted in 2016, the County seal has been designed into a circle to depict early San Luis Obispo County History. The updated seal is now in full color and is cleaned up to make the symbols within the seal more easily discernible. The following is a description of each symbol within the seal, as written by past Board Chairman and former District Four Supervisor Howard Mankins.


A slogan was desired to best illustrate our County. In search for a proper slogan, I suggested a Latin or Spanish phrase. Ann Zaneis, Secretary to the Board, interested in my work on a new seal, furnished me a long list of various sayings, from which I selected the Latin phrase, "Non Nobis Solum", (Not for Ourselves Alone). I chose to use the English words for better understanding. To me, it represents the past, present, and the future in many various ways of interpretation. In that which our historical ancestors did for us, surely they must have thought, "Not for Ourselves Alone".


In 1542, the Viceroy of Mexico, Don Antonio de Mendoza, dispatched an expedition under Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese navigator, to explore the coast of California. Sailing northward, he entered the Bay of San Luis Obispo which he called the Bay of Todos Santos, or All-Saints Bay. This was in the summer of 1542.

Sailing northward from Port San Luis, he discovered "Los Esters" and, in the bay, the high, conical rock, "El Moro". There, Cabrillo supplied his ships with wood and fresh water.

Northwestward sailed the old pioneer explorer entered upon his chart the "Piedras Blanchas", and a bay which he called the "Bay of Sardines", anchoring and landing there. This is now called San Simeon Bay.

Thus, the Ship, the Bay, and Morro Rock, in the seal, represent this early expedition and landing by Cabrillo in San Luis Obispo County by sea.


The first land expedition into San Luis Obispo County started in 1769 by Don Gaspar de Portolá, Governor of Lower California, to rediscover Monterey on September 1, 1769. The explorers halted in the Oso Flaco (Lean Bear) Valley. Here, soldiers of the expedition went out to hunt bears, of which there had been signs, and succeeded in shooting one.

Portolá’s expedition moved on up the coast and into Los Osos Valley (Valley of the Bears) where, once again, the soldiers went out to hunt the bears. In Los Osos Valley, they saw troops of bears which had plowed up the soil and dug pits in their search for roots, their favorite food.

Grizzlies were plentiful over most of the southern portion of the County. Many encounters with grizzlies were reported by early Californians. One such incident related by Francis Z. Branch (an early County Supervisor) concerns one time when he was in a canyon near Arroyo Grande and saw a grizzly eating berries in a thicket on the hill-side. Having his rifle with him, he thought he would secure a good position and have the sport of slaying the troublesome brute. Obtaining the desired position, he took the precaution to look about him, and the savage animals were seen on all sides; but, as berries were plentiful, they were engaged and did not notice him. This was a time, he concluded, when discretion would be the better part of valor; and he carefully made a good retreat. He said he counted nine grizzlies.

The grizzly in the seal, therefore, represents the prevalence of the beast early in San Luis Obispo County’s history.


Spain decided early to occupy California by means of a chain of Missions along the coast. Father Junipero Serra was selected to carry out this plan. In the string of Missions was the founding of the Mission San Luis Obispo de Toloso September 1st, 1772. Another Mission at San Miguel was established July 25, 1797.

A third Mission was established, early in the Mission chain, at Santa Margarita. It, however, was only a branch Mission of San Luis Obispo de Toloso; and its use is little mentioned, except for a granary for one of the large ranchos of the day.

The arch with bell in the Seal, therefore, represent a very significant portion of this Mission chain built early as a means of occupation by Spain. San Luis Obispo County can be proud to have two well-preserved Missions within the County.


The central design of the Seal has an outline of the County boundary, centered with the faces of the early explorers and inhabitants. First, the face of an Indian; followed by the face of an early explorer, portraying both Cabrillo and/or Portolá. The face of the early Padres and the Mission influence is next. Last, the face of all those early Californians who came to settle this County and make it flourish, is illustrated.

In 1850, the legislature provided for the organization of the counties. One the first Monday of April, 1850, an election of the following County Officers was held: one Clerk of the Supreme Court, District Attorney, County Judge (for each Judicial District), Clerk, Attorney, Surveyor, Sheriff, Recorder, Coroner, Assessor, and Treasurer. February 18, 1850, the State was divided into counties (27 counties). In April, one additional county was created. Thus, the State was divided into counties, and elections were held to elect the officers of County government. Thereby, County government was formed in 1850.

Therefore, the date - 1850 - under the word "Alcaldes" indicates the year this County was formed.


The ten stars in the outer circle represent the original division of the territory (now California) into ten districts, thus forming a territorial government which held a convention at Colton Hall, Monterey, and drafted a Constitution for the State. One of these stars represents San Luis Obispo County (one of the original ten districts formed).


From the days of the established Missions in San Luis Obispo County, September 1, 1772, the County has been stocked with horses, sheep, and cattle. Agriculture still remains the prime industry of San Luis Obispo County; therefore, the horseman and animals on the mountain skyline on the right center of the Seal.


The mountain represents one of the Morros in the chain of peaks in the center of San Luis Obispo County. At the foot of the mountain, and in the foreground of the bay, are depicted the many various valleys and hills of the County.


The oak leaf cluster represents the early food from which the Indian sustained himself.

It also represents the north part of our County, particularly "Paso Robles" (Pass of the Oaks), so named by those who marveled at the beautiful and mighty oak trees in the north part of our County. The old saying, "From little acorns mighty oaks grow", certainly depicts the birth and growth of this County.


The unbroken, braided rope around the outer circle of the seal securely holds together the heritage that founded our County.


San Luis Obispo County is a general law county, meaning it is governed by a variety of statutes enacted by the California State Legislature providing common functional and organizational guidelines for county governments.

At the direction of the Board of Supervisors, each elected by the voters for alternate four-year terms, San Luis Obispo County provides a spectrum of local government services, including: law enforcement, criminal justice, fire protection, health service, public assistance, road construction and maintenance, water and sewage systems operation, land use planning, agriculture, library and recreational opportunities.

San Luis Obispo County government not only provides "umbrella" service and protection for those 112,000 residents who live in the County’s incorporated cities, it provides direct and local government to some 81,000 residents who live in the unincorporated portions of the county, such as Baywood/Los Osos, Cayucos, Cambria, Nipomo, Oceano, Templeton and San Miguel.

San Luis Obispo County is, in recent history, a growing county. Population reached 33,000 in 1940 and grew to 51,417 in 1950; 81,044 in 1950 and 105,690 in 1970. In 1980 the census reports show the population to be 166,435, showing Atascadero, Baywood/Los Osos, Nipomo, Arroyo Grande and Grover City as the significant growth areas. San Luis Obispo County focuses tremendous effort upon balancing the resource requirements of its ever-growing population with the need and desire to maintain the county’s attractive and hospitable environment.

The annual budget, a strategy for allocating the county’s financial resources each year, is prepared, analyzed, and submitted for public review and input prior to being adopted by the Board of Supervisors in June of each year.


The County receives requests from outside agencies and groups to use the County seal for purposes other than County business. It is the policy of the County that

  1. All County departments are authorized to use the County seal;
  2. All requests by outside agencies/groups to use the seal will be referred to the County Clerk-Recorder's Office for review and consideration. Approval will be granted in those instances where there is a direct County participation in the activity;
  3. All other requests will be denied. Appeals of the Clerk-Recorder's decision will be referred to the Board of Supervisors for a final decision.

Revised March 2016