Despite being sent on relatively simple missions, this class suffered disproportionately high loss rate. During the course of 2380, at least three ships of this class were destroyed. The USS Merced was destroyed during a mission to tow an alien generation ship, when terraforming fluid erupted, resulting in the ship being completely destroyed. (LD: "Moist Vessel") Later that year, the USS Rubidoux was overtaken by an alien feeding on energy. The alien later grew large enough as to destroy the ship. (LD: "Much Ado About Boimler") Some time after that, the USS Solvang encountered a Pakled ship, and was completely destroyed, with all hands lost. (LD: "No Small Parts")
- 1 Technical data
- 2 Interior design
- 3 Ships commissioned
- 4 Appendices
Its design consisted of a saucer section and a wide secondary hull positioned below and aft of the saucer between two elongated nacelles. The nacelles connected via pylons to the saucer, while separate pylons connected the secondary hull between them. The pylons contained turbolift access in their aft-most section. The navigational deflector dish was located on the forward face of the secondary hull. (LD: "Second Contact") The ship also carried an embarked captain's yacht. (LD: "Terminal Provocations")
Unlike Galaxy-class starships, the warp engine of this class incorporated inverted plasma distributors. It was believed that these caused the sound of their warp engines to be a little bit higher pitch, however, other sources maintained that the unique sound was caused by the vibrations in the dilithium dispersement manifold. (LD: "Terminal Provocations")
The bridge is located on Deck 1. The basic layout of the bridge was similar to bridges aboard Galaxy-class starships (specifically the bridge of the USS Enterprise-D). The captain's chair at the center, flanked by chairs for the first officer to the right, and an additional officer to the left. Unlike the bridges aboard Galaxy-class starships, the additional seats did not include side consoles. Behind the seats was the security station.
The captain's ready room was located off the bridge, with a single room-wide window to space. The room featured shelving and framing built into the walls, a desk and chairs, a replicator, and bench-style seating along the wall opposite the desk. (LD: "Second Contact")
- See: Main engineering
Two main shuttlebays were at the aft of and to either side on the saucer section, spanning Decks 5 and 6 with further room for shuttlecraft storage deeper into Deck 6. The ship carried a complement of at least five Type 6A shuttlecraft and had at least four Argo-type ground vehicle stored on Decks 5 and 7 adjacent to the shuttlebay. An additional shuttlebay was located aft and center of the engineering secondary hull. This permitted engineering supplies, hazardous materials, and non-hazardous cargo to be separated from one another during shuttlecraft operations. The MSD also depicted several Type 8 shuttlecraft.
- See: Repair bay
- See: Sickbay
- See: Brig
The primary crew quarters for lower-ranking members were barracks-style, with bunk beds lining the walls in a shared living space at the lower aft portion of the saucer section. Each bunk had its own assigned compartment beside it, which could be extended out from the wall and the bunk occupant could use as a closet to store a few extra uniforms or other items. This area, known as a residential hallway, also featured a large aft-facing viewing window overlooking the secondary hull. (LD: "Second Contact") Higher ranking crew members were afforded their own quarters. (LD: "Moist Vessel")
- USS Alhambra
- USS Cerritos (NCC-75567)
- USS Merced (NCC-87075)
- USS Rubidoux (NCC-12109)
- USS Solvang (NCC-12101)
Per series showrunner Mike McMahan:
The ship is in great condition. It’s a California-class ship, which has always existed in Starfleet – [this is] what we’re saying – that they’re the utility support ships. In the California-class [line], there are three types of hull painting: there’s blue, red, and yellow.
We’ve extended the visual metaphor of the uniforms to the ships, and the Cerritos has yellow on the hull because it’s primarily a second contact engineering ship. They show up to planets that need engineering stuff done on them in order to be able to communicate with the Federation.
There’s also, you’ll see in the show, blue-hulled California-class ships, which are usually deployed to places where there has to be more medical expertise, and red-hulled ships that are like for moving around ambassadors and doing more command-level stuff. 
McMahan also stated that he was always a fan of the (Miranda-class) USS Reliant, and used that design mixed with the stylization of the (Galaxy-class) USS Enterprise-D as the visual inspiration for this class. (The Ready Room, "Premiere Special")
The class has three shuttlebays facing aft, two in the primary hull and one in the engineering module. 
Unlike most Federation starships, the ship's registry and name plate of the California-class was located aft of the bridge on the primary hull's dorsal surface.