Events of recent months, including the long-awaited annexation of Roseland and the fire losses in Fountaingrove and Coffey Park, have focused attention on the boundaries of Santa Rosa and how the city has grown in clumps and chunks along the edges through the past six decades.
It started with Montgomery Village, which added 14,000 people to the city’s population in just one day in 1955. For comparison’s sake, we note that Roseland will add 7,400. But today’s topic is Oakmont, where annexation was much less complex. There were no residents to say yea or nay when Santa Rosa annexed it in 1963.
Riding the new wave of adult communities that blossomed nationwide in the 1960s (think Sun River or Leisure World, or, closer to home, Temelec), Oakmont was the creation of Sacramento Valley developer H.N. “Nor” Berger who proposed 600 homes on the parcel along Sonoma Highway that had been the Annadel hop yard in earlier times.
It was 7 miles from Santa Rosa — closer to Kenwood, in fact, than to the city limits — but it became, officially, part of the City of Santa Rosa in a flurry of unparalleled municipal maneuvers. It was a strip annexation, Highway 12 being the connection.
As you might imagine, there was a fair share of outrage from Rincon Valley, which was still rural, an area with the clear evidence of old prune orchards and sheep ranches, with enough “old-timers” to be considered an entity unto itself.
The newer Rinconites, who built along the east side of Santa Rosa Creek believing they would be country dwellers, went semi-ballistic as well.
They stood before the council and warned that this move would turn Highway 12 into a strip mall — and that it was just wrong in so many ways.
Still, the Oakmont annexation was much tidier than anything before or since. Consider that we have been talking about annexing Roseland for more than 20 years, working out the myriad details. Oakmont — 1,527 acres of Annadel Farms, fronting on Sonoma Highway — was proposed for annexation in March and approved in August. Five months, start to finish.
Timing, as usual, was everything. Seated in arguably the most beautiful spot in Jack London’s beloved Valley of the Moon — with the standout mountains of the Mayacamas, including the sentinel Hood Mountain and Sugarloaf on one side and the wooded hills that would become Trione-Annadel on the other — development of that land would undoubtedly be contentious in today’s “green” county.
But the Battle of Bodega Head, considered the beginning of the environmental movement here, was just ending. There was no Open Space District, no Land Trust, no Urban Boundary.
This new idea in the valley took its share of lumps from the outset. The rules said that at least one of the residents had to be over 45, and there could be no children under 18; this in the ’60s, the decade when youth took charge. At 45, one could be lumped with the “prunies” and the “fogeys” by those in their increasingly self-assured teens and 20s.
If you were here, you will remember the Croakmont jokes and the quizzes about how many of vehicles on 12 were ambulances.