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Pleasanton History

Pleasanton, the jewel of the Amador Valley, is located in the eastern portion of the San Francisco Bay Area. Our geographic location has been one of the major factors in shaping our past and will continue to shape our future.

A Natural Wonderland
Two hundred fifty years ago, meadowlarks graced our valley with their beautiful songs. They were joined by elk, grizzly bears, cougars, salmon, coyotes, reptiles of all kinds, a true cornucopia of wildlife. Oak trees, sycamores, buckeyes, California bunch grass surrounded a large lagoon which nourished tulles, sedges and a myriad of aquatic life.

The Ohlone
The Valley was also part of a permanent settlement of Indians who came to the area approximately 4,000 years ago. The Indians, now called the Ohlone, called themselves the People. Their settlements along Pleasanton Ridge and the lagoon were part of the largest concentration of native Americans in North America. Their remains and relics have been found all around what is now Pleasanton. Their descendants today look upon this place as a very special one, to be revered and remembered and celebrated.

Spanish Settlement

The advent of the Spanish in 1772 brought enormous changes to the People and the Valley. Mission San Jose, the fourteenth California mission, was founded on June 11, 1797, by Father Lausen. The Ohlone were aggressively incorporated and absorbed into the life of the mission. The Valley became the mission's pasture lands. Cattle were raised not for their meat but for their tallow which earned hard currency for the mission.

In 1821, Mexico won its independence from Spain. The new "Secularization Law" intended for mission lands to be shared between Mexican citizens and the Indians, but it was not followed. By the late 1830's the vast majority of lands had been granted by the Governor to loyal Mexican politicians, soldiers, and supporters.

Gold!
The huge influx of Yankee gold seekers, squatters and settlers, and the admission of California to the United States on September 9, 1850, quickly brought an end to the Spanish/Mexican period of California's history. Alisal, as Pleasanton was known at the time, was located on one of the main routes to the gold fields and quickly became a mercantile stopover for miners seeking their fortune in the Mother Lode.

Agricultural Heritage

Blessed with rich soil, Pleasanton soon became the agricultural center for the Amador Valley and home to the oldest horse racing track in the nation. Even today, famous horses from around the country continue to be sent here to showcase their speed because of the excellent soil and facilities. The hops grown here were sought by many of the largest beer producers in the United States and Europe, making Pleasanton internationally famous.

Small Town America
After being chosen as the background for the movie, "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm", starring Mary Pickford, our town served as the location for many films because of its historic downtown and rural environs, eventually becoming known as the "Hollywood of the North".

A Commercial Center
Pleasanton's rural character was maintained through the late 1950's while other cities in the Bay Area grew rapidly, often routinely bulldozing blocks of historic buildings in the name of "progress." It was only a matter of time until developers made their move on Pleasanton and the 1960s and '70s brought drastic increases in both our boundaries and population. Located at the intersection of I-580/I680, Pleasanton became a magnet for retail/commercial developers. Several business parks were constructed including Hacienda, which is the largest in northern California. Jobs multiplied rapidly. By the mid 80s, Pleasanton was the third fastest growing city in California based on economic indicators.

A Resurgent, Charming Downtown

As the housing boom continued and prices skyrocketed some of our young adults, senior citizens, and less advantaged residents were forced to look elsewhere for a place to live. Concerned, the community and City addressed the problem and continued to work toward its full resolution. So far, we have achieved our goal of "positive growth", the ability to grow in population while retaining the spirit and personal interrelationships that constitute a small town. However as the outlying neighborhoods and commercial centers grew and prospered, many of the downtown core businesses moved or were forced to close. Thus began a period of stagnation and deterioration in our historic downtown. It was the pride and spirit of our citizens that motivated community action groups and businesses to focus on the importance of downtown. Through their effort and municipal programs, downtown is once again buzzing with activity around new restaurants and retail businesses that have moved back to Main Street.

The City of Planned Progress
Revenues from our commercial and retail centers have helped the City fund many of the essential recreational and cultural services that set Pleasanton apart from other towns of like size in the Bay Area. Pleasanton, "the City of Planned Progress", manages to preserve our "turn of the century" flavor while promoting the growth and progress necessary for the economic health of our citizens. Our city now has the largest active sports park in northern California, a public swimming complex with four pools, a regional park with facilities for boating, fishing and swimming, a City-owned theater for live performances, state-of-the-art basketball facilities built by the joint efforts of the City and School District at all middle schools, vast open space parks connected throughout with miles of trail for horseback riding, walking, or bicycling . . . and even a skateboard park.

A Vibrant Community

As we move through the 2000s, Pleasanton remains a welcoming family town and continues to emerge as a major job center with many corporate businesses moving their headquarters here. Over 5,460 businesses and industries employing over 50,000 people are presently located in Pleasanton. Our resident population now exceeds 67,724 and is still growing. And as Pleasanton grows, its population is diversifying. Currently there are many cultural and recreational programs for all ages and cultures. Local churches have implemented programs to celebrate ethnic and cultural diversity. The schools have taken the lead in offering many new ethnic and cultural classes along with other progressive programs which have resulted in the State of California naming both of our comprehensive high schools, all three of our middle schools, and seven out of our nine elementary schools to the elite list of "California Distinguished Schools". Several Pleasanton schools have also been named as National Blue Ribbon Schools, and one school was named a National School of Character, one of only 10 in the nation.

A Community That Cares
Pleasanton is truly a community that cares. When a need arises, regardless of size, whether it is a child with a critical disease, a non-profit needing enlarged facilities, a city service that needs expanding, or an issue about community growth, citizens from all walks of life unite to identify and implement positive solutions. The degree of success in accomplishing community goals has been exceptional and continues to enhance the quality of life in this sparkling jewel called Pleasanton.


Historical Photos provided by the Livermore-Amador Valley historical society
 

 

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