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Little Gibraltar, Channel Islands

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 This article is a B-class article. It is written to a good standard. This article is part of Altverse II.
Little Gibraltar, Channel Islands
Petit Gibraltar, Îles-du-détroit (fr)
Incorporated city
City of Little Gibraltar
Ville de Petit Gibraltar
View of Little Gibraltar overlooking the Santa Barbara Channel
View of Little Gibraltar overlooking the Santa Barbara Channel
Flag of Little Gibraltar, Channel Islands Petit Gibraltar, Îles-du-détroit (fr)
Coat of arms
Nickname(s): The Gem of Catherine (Catalina) / West Port / (Petite) Gibby
Motto(s): Our Beacon for You
Sovereign state Kingdom of Sierra
Country Sierra
Territory Channel Islands
Parish Étoile
Arrondissement Bonaparte
Foundation May 22, 1808
Founded by Pierre Mulcair
City Hall Château de Sainte-Catherine
 • Type Strong mayor-council
 • Lord Mayor Jules Tiberi (PDI)
 • Total 25 km2 (9.5 sq mi)
 • Land 24 km2 (9.1 sq mi)
 • Water 1 km2 (0.4 sq mi)
Elevation 1 m (4 ft)
Population (2016)
 • Total 146,291
 • Density 5,945.61/km2 (15,399.05/sq mi)
ZIP codes 90704
Call codes 310/424
National Register of Historic Places
Reference no.         2930
Little Gibraltar (French: Petit Gibraltar) is a coastal city located in Étoile Parish, Channel Islands, Sierra, on the central eastern side of Catalina Island. Located about 20 miles from the mainland and Porciúncula, Little Gibraltar is an important port city, a major financial center, and a locally popular vacation destination. The Port of Little Gibraltar, alongside the Port of Porciúncula and Port of Grands Ballons form the Tri-City Maritime Center, one of the world's busiest and largest container ports in the world.

Heavily reliant on tourism, finance services, banking, and trade, Little Gibraltar is one of the wealthiest and most financially successful cities, in relation to its size, in the Kingdom of Sierra, and has the highest cost of living in the entire country. With a population of 146,291, it is the second largest city in the Channels, after the capital, New Bourbon, and the fastest growing city in the entire islands, and one of the fastest in the Southwest Corridor. Little Gibraltar is located entirely in the Bonaparte Arrondissement, and serves as the parish seat of Étoile, one of three in the Channels.

Originally inhabited by Native Americans who referred to themselves as Pimugnans or Pimuvit, Little Gibraltar and the rest of the Channels was claimed by Spain in the mid-15th century. The Channels themselves would not be fully explored or settled until much later, in 18th century, when French settlers arrived, under the joint administration of the islands of Spain and France in the Condominium. The city was founded in 1808 as a new community for the French-Channelier colonists who were displaced by the fire that destroyed Bougainville, the original settlement in the Channels. Over the centuries, control over the Channels and Little Gibraltar transferred between multiple states, first Mexico, then California, before finally becoming a part of Sierra. When it was originally admitted into the Kingdom, Little Gibraltar was an incorporated city of the Gold Coast. Since 1999, it has been an incorporated city of the Channel Islands after the latter achieved independence from the Gold Coast through a partition created by Parliament, in response to Gold Coast Proposition 11.

Since its foundation, Little Gibraltar has emerged as a prominent resort city and financial center, contributing immensely to the economy, and playing a significant role in international trade and interstate commerce. It is also home to Camp Wrigley, a military facility which serves as the headquarters of the Channels' own National Guard and reserve troops, and the Channels' primary airport hub, the Louis Antoine de Bougainville Airport. Over 50 trust funds, 8 banks, 9 trust companies, an options exchange, and 13 multinational companies are based in Little Gibraltar, and a total of 9 casinos and resorts are located along Little Gibraltar's Resort Way.



The city name is derived from the large rock formation that parts of the Old City was built upon, which was called Little Gibraltar by the original settlers as it bore striking resemblance to the Rock of Gibraltar in Europe as a miniature version. The name Gibraltar itself is the Spanish deviation for the Arabic name Jabal Ṭāriq (جبل طارق), which means "Mountain of Tariq". The name refers to the actual Rock of Gibraltar itself, and was named after the Umayyad general Tariq ibn-Ziyad who initiated the conquest of Hispania. Historically, the city was referred to by Sierran Anglophones by its French name, Petit Gibraltar, but starting in the 20th century as mainlander investors and entrepreneurs arrived to the settlement, the name was changed to Little Gibraltar as a marketing ploy to emphasize the town's "quaintness" and identity as a diminutive form of Gibraltar.

Prior to establishment

Louis Antoine de Bougainville is credited with establishing French presence in the Channels, and indirectly, Little Gibraltar itself.

Prior to European discovery and contact, the area around Little Gibraltar was inhabited by the Tongva (better known by their Spanish name as the Gabrielinos), who referred to Catalina Island as Pimu or Pimugna, and mined soapstone from the islands. Living in the mainland, the Tongva commuted between the island and their mainland villages on a constant basis. Soapstone was a valuable resource in the pre-Columbian local economy, as it was used to build cooking equipment.

After the Spanish explored the region, increased exposure with the Europeans led to the decline of the indigenous population on the Channels, including Catalina Island. In 1767, French admiral and explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville arrived on the shores of Catalina Island. Desiring to establish French presence in the North American West Coast, and impressed by the geography, Bougainville, with the permission of the Spaniards, left 30 of his men behind with the express supplication that the men would establish a new settlement. Establishing the tiny seaside town, Louisville, later renamed Bougainville, Louisville is located just 3 miles south of present-day Little Gibraltar.

Over the course of fifty years, the population of the Channels grew at an appreciable rate, with Jean-François de Galaup, a French naval officer, arriving in 1786 and bringing with him money, supplies, and more settlers, including women, to the islands. The Channels became one of, if not the most important settlement in all of Alta California, and following the deposition of the French monarchy during the French Revolution, the islands came under the full control of Spain. As the population expanded, and the Spanish granted the French-speaking colony autonomy, the Channeliers branched out from Catalina Island, and formed New Bourbon on San Clemente Island. Bougainville would however, remain the largest settlement in the Channels until 1807, when a fire destroyed virtually the entire town.


Displaced, the majority of the former residents sailed to New Bourbon or the mainland, while a small group remained on Santa Catalina, in hopes of rebuilding the town. Relocating, the 63 colonists moved to Mission Saint Catherine d'Alexandrie (Mission Santa Catalina de Alejandría), which was about four miles north of the Bougainville town limits. There, with the help of the garrisoned Spanish soldiers, mission Indians, and the mission priests, the town of Little Gibraltar was created, so named due to the striking visually resemblance of a natural rock formation on-site with the Rock of Gibraltar in Europe.

From the original population of roughly 121 and handful number of buildings, Little Gibraltar's population grew rapidly and its infrastructure expanded at an exceptional rate. By 1821, just fourteen years later, when Mexico gained independence from Spain and received the Channels as part of its integral territory, Little Gibraltar had accumulated a population of 898, rivaling that of the 1,023 living in the largest city, New Bourbon. The addition of the Phare du Petit Gibraltar (Little Gibraltar Lighthouse) was a purely cosmetic (as the harbor had no dangerous rock formations) but highlighted the wealth that the town had amassed. Alongside New Bourbon, Little Gibraltar became the hub of commerce in Alta California, and frequently traded with the Spanish colonials on the mainland. Developing an irrigation system and growing vineyards of grapes and olives, as well as citrus fruits, Little Gibraltar became locally renowned for its wine and vibrant cuisine, attracting people throughout the region.

In the early 20th century, the financial success of the nearby town, Avalon, as a resort city, influenced Little Gibraltar's decision to invest in the construction of its own resorts and development of a tourist-oriented economy. Construction of the Marco Polo, the oldest casino in town, was completed in 1921. Offering a gambling resort town that rivaled Avalon, Little Gibraltar continued to expand with its wineries, botanical gardens, and health spas, becoming a popular retreat for wealthy mainlanders seeking to spend time off on their holidays.

Following the Great Depression, Little Gibraltar saw business slow, and several casinos declared bankruptcy, and former occupants sold the buildings to the government for repurposing. Deciding to renovate the buildings, the city government would hold on to the bankrupt properties until the economy improved again, with the hopes of reselling it to private companies, thus meeting returning demand in the region. By the 1930s, Little Gibraltar's population started to decline, making its future seem unclear. With the outbreak of World War II however, production plants sprung up throughout the Channels, including some around Little Gibraltar, bringing jobs to the Channeliers. In an effort to capitalize on this growth in demand for heavy goods, Little Gibraltar and the Channels funded a large project in kickstarting a port in Little Gibraltar's waters, possibly to provide relief to the Ports of Porciúncula and Grands Ballons, and to drive down shipping costs to the islands themselves.


Little Gibraltar is located on Santa Catalina Island, approximately 20 miles south-by-southwest of the breakwater of Porciúncula Harbor, and its cityscape is oriented towards the sea, against the hills of the northern central part of the islands. Cradled between the Rock of Gibraltar and Long Point, it is situated alongside Cabrillo Harbor at the base of steep hills. The southern terminus of the San Pedro–Bonaparte Tunnel is located at Downtown Little Gibraltar, and is the one of the two only sources of physical connection between Catalina Island and the mainland (the other being the Pio Pico Tunnel between Avalon and Newport Beach).

The city is divided into four wards, each governed by a local council consisting of 5-8 members, who are primarily responsible in overseeing the public services, utilities, and law enforcement in the respective ward. The Resort Row is part of its own special ward, and is governed by the Cabrillo Resort Area & Gambling Commission, a special public body supported by the row's resorts, casinos, and businesses. The Commission is considered one of the strongest and most influential government institutions in the Channels due to its influence and positive impact on the economy. As with other major towns in the Channels, there is an active effort towards land reclamation, particularly expanding the eastern section of Resort Row.


Little Gibraltar has a mild subtropical climate, typical throughout the Channel Islands, with warm temperatures year-round. Summer days typically do not exceed 80 °F, and winters are mild, similar to temperatures found on the mainland in the Southwest Corridor. The year is divided into two distinct seasons: wet and dry, with the wetter months typically coinciding between late fall and early spring, the drier months between late spring and early fall.

Climate data for Little Gibraltar (Resort Row)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 87
Average high °F (°C) 64.6
Average low °F (°C) 49.3
Record low °F (°C) 29
Average precipitation inches (mm)
Source: Royal Climate Administration



The city is divided into four normal wards (quartiers), and a special ward. They are as follows:

  • The Old City, the original center of town development and administration
  • Les Chalets, the principal residential area, west of the Old City, and further inland along the hills
  • La Crête, the central business district and port
  • Le Bachut, a newer section in town with a more multicultural, cosmopolitan makeup
  • Resort Row, the resort and casino area, and recreational beaches

Resort Row

West towards Rue de L'Ascension

2015, Vintage
V&K's Vacation Club
Casino de Fontainebleau
Boulevard des Laurentides Pacific Ocean
Grand Maltese
Club Solaris
San Pedro–Bonaparte Catalina Terminal Station
Interprovincial 1A Interprovincial 1A
(San Pedro–Bonaparte Tunnel)

North towards the mainland (San Pedro)

The Belgian San Pedro–Bonaparte Catalina Terminal Station
Cranston Regency International Marketplace
Diamond Bar
Hotel Charlemagne
Marco Polo

East towards Boulevard de Michelin


The 2010 Royal Bureau of Census reported that the city had a total population of 137,892 residents. As of 2016, there was an estimate of 146,291 residents. In 2010, the racial makeup of the city was 109,762 (79.6%) White, 13,927 (10.1%) Asian, 4,688 (3.4%) Black, 2,895 (2.1%) Pacific Islander, 827 (0.6%) Native Sierran, and 5,791 (4.2%) from other races, or two or more races. Hispanic and Latinos of any race accounted for 7,859 residents or 5.7% of the population.

The Census reported that 130,445 people (94.6% of the population) lived in households, 5,929 people (4.3%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 1,516 (1.1%) were institutionalized.

There were 47,490 households, out of which 32,198 (67.8% of the population) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 10,875 (22.9%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 1,567 (3.3%) had a female householder with no spouse present, and 1,377 (1.9%) had a male householder with no spouse present. There were 522 (1.1%) households with unmarried same-sex partnerships, and 949 (2.0%) households with same-sex married couples or partnerships.


Little Gibraltar's economy relies primarily on tourism, gaming, trade, and finance, which all also contribute towards the local real estate and retail industries. In 2015, Little Gibraltar had one of the fastest growing economies in the Kingdom, and had a GMP of $45 billion in KS dollars. It has become an important center for commerce, finance, industry, retail, technology, and entertainment, and serves as an important satellite city for Porciúncula.

The Port of Little Gibraltar is the fifth largest port in Sierra, and handles over 10 million tonnes of cargo annually, and most ships, by law (the Port Integrity Protection Act, or Bougainville-Niles Act), depending on the content and size of their load, which arrive to the Tri-City Maritime Center (which includes the Port of Little Gibraltar, the Port of Porciúncula, and the Port of Grands Ballons) must first dock and unload at Little Gibraltar before proceeding to the mainland. This law has been the single largest contributor to the Port's importance, as it prevents shipping companies from avoiding the Channel Islands altogether in favor of saving costs with a direct route to Porciúncula or Grands Ballons instead.

Visitation to Little Gibraltar has also been linked due to the fact that the city is renowned for its cooking scene. Having been called the "gastronomic capital" of the Kingdom due to its high concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants, chefs, and food markets, Little Gibraltar has consistently ranked high for being a destination of choice for dining. The New Bourbon Institute of Culinary Arts, one of the leading culinary schools in the world, is located within city limits, and has produced many famous chefs including Renaud Sartre and Wendall Yamada.


While Little Gibraltar's casinos, hotels, and beaches are the main attractions, other attractions have emerged in the city including art museums and galleries, a water park, a zoo and aquarium, an international food market, several piers, hiking paths, ATV runways, and seasonal events. Shopping has been a major source of cash flow into the city, and the Channels, and attracted international visitors from East Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. In order to accommodate the projected expectation of 12 million visitors arriving to Little Gibraltar in 2020 has led to an expansion of the Louis Antoine de Bougainville Airport, and prompted calls to install a rapid transit line in the San Pedro–Bonaparte Tunnel.

Most casinos in Little Gibraltar are located along Resort Row, a major street that runs along the bay, with Resort Row being the second largest resort area after the Strip in Las Vegas, Clark. Along with the casinos and resorts along Resort Row, there are number of other smaller hotels in operation throughout the city including timeshares and vacation homes.

International trade

Most imports into Little Gibraltar are ultimately redirected to the mainland, with much of the city's exports being re-exports. Due to its location between Porciúncula and Grands Ballons, the two foremost ports in Sierra, Little Gibraltar has been largely responsible in relieving traffic congestion, and reducing costs for those who distribute goods in Little Gibraltar due to tariff exemptions and duty-free policies. Little Gibraltar has been at the forefront of international finance, with the multinational companies basing their operations and administration in the city, and enabling the city to be a major guide for investment and cash flow toward the mainland.

Finance and companies

Little Gibraltar's finance industry is located in the Central Business District, and is one of the premier financial centers in the West, with some banks established in the port city as early as 1969. In addition to benefiting from the Channel Islands General Corporation Law (as much as 60% of publicly traded companies in Sierra since 2005 have been incorporated in the Channels), the city hosts 13 multinational non-banking companies, 8 banks, 9 trust companies, 50 trust funds, 4 insurance companies, and dozens of other corporations have offices in the city. As much as 10% of the city's population is employed by the financial services in Little Gibraltar, with this percentage much higher (70%) when including over the Central Business District.

Real estate

Top employers

# Employer # of Employees
1 Krahn Resorts International 7,529
2 City of Little Gibraltar 7,207
3 Little Gibraltar Port Authority 6,980
4 Prescott Financial 6,764
5 Government of Sierra 5,999
6 Golden World 5,836
7 Saint-Catherine Healthcare 5,717
8 Bank of Sierra 5,663
9 Platinum Resorts International 5,658
10 Fletcher Winston Group 5,644


Little Gibraltar has been an important cultural center in the French-speaking world in the Western Hemisphere. It is home to several major French-language media productions, publishing, print, and radio. It and New Bourbon have long held a strong rivalry between each other over dominance and influence on the French-speaking community in Sierra, and the Channel Islands. Renowned for its combination of Spanish-colonial and modern architecture, it is home to structures predating the 20th century including the Lighthouse, a 118-feet structure jutting out of the harbor, the Mission Saint Catherine d'Alexandrie, the minor basilica Saint Catherine's Oratory (the third-largest cathedral in the Kingdom), the Château de Sainte-Catherine, and the Salle des Artistes.



Little Gibraltar is governed by an elected mayor and a five-member council. Operating as a charter city rather than a general law city, the charter governs the city administration, and consists of ordinances and bylaws passed by the City Council. Alongside the elected City Council and Mayor of Little Gibraltar, there is also the city attorney, city controller, city clerk, and city treasurer.

The City Council is democratically elected and chosen from each of the city's five districts, and serve for two-year terms with no term limits. The City Council is responsible for various city matters, and controls legal aspects of public security, infrastructure, subsidy programs, urban planning, and city sanitation. The Council works closely with each district council, and cooperates with the Mayor in running the city.

The Mayor, who is indirectly elected by all 100 members from each of the city's 5 districts, and the 5 members on Council, is answerable to the Council. Candidates for the office of the mayor must be nominated by a member from any of the councils, and each represented party nominates their official candidate. The mayor is elected every four years on an odd-year so that it does not coincide with the council elections, and enables potentially outgoing council members to choose the incoming administration.

The Mayor, who is currently Laurent Fournier (PI), was elected on October 16, 2015, succeeding former mayor Claire Bernard (PI), who had served two terms since her first election in 2007. Fournier was sworn in on December 16, 2015, and is expected to serve until October 16, 2019 when he must face reelection or resign.

Public security and law enforcement is provided by the Little Gibraltar City Police, in conjunction with the Étoile Parish Sherif and Channel Island State Police; fire safety is serviced by the Little Gibraltar Fire Department; and the hospital services is provided primarily by the L'Ascension General Hospital, a non-profit, public hospital, and the Saint-Catherine Hospital Bonaparte, a privately owned hospital.


As the parish seat, Little Gibraltar is the administrative center of the Étoile Parish and houses the Étoile Parish Sheriff's Office, the Central Catalina School District (DSCC), Étoile Parish District Court, and other parish-level offices in the city.

Territorial, federal, and CAS representation



Colleges and universities




Public utilities

The water supply to Little Gibraltar and its vicinity is primarily provided through the Jean-Baptiste Colbert Desalination Plant, and the Moyen Ranch Watershed, and is managed by the Metropolitan Water District of Santa Catalina. The plant alone provides for over 90% of the city and the island's water needs, and has the ability to pump and filter 100 million gallons of water per day, providing water for the island's 1.4 million residents.

Notable people

Sister cities

Little Gibraltar is officially twinned with the following cities:

See also