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By Tim Hunt

Determining history in San Ramon

Uploaded: Jan 14, 2016

I will admit to chuckling when I read that the San Ramon City Council was considering adopting a date for the formal founding of the city. Its incorporation date is 1983 after years of being under the jurisdiction of Contra Costa County. Mayor Bill Clarkson, who has run his own real estate business for decades in San Ramon, has been pushing for a formal date from the city.
The recommendation is 1867 when the San Ramon Grammar School was completed. So be it, but the challenge San Ramon faces, as does Dublin, is that there is no there, there.
The best example is the number of studies done by the city, the chamber of commerce and Sunset Development Co. (Bishop Ranch owner/developer) trying to decide where to put “downtown.” There may have been an elementary school in 1867, but there is still no downtown gathering place today.
No city with an established downtown would have split the city in half with a business park as Contra Costa County did with San Ramon.
Dublin faces and continues to face a similar challenge, except its so-called core is filled with big box retailers and acres of parking lots. There’s precious little streetscape in the older areas of Dublin that invites strolling.
Both San Ramon and Dublin were “planned” by their respective counties which certainly had an eye on tax revenue when deciding land uses.
Among the Tri-Valley cities, Pleasanton and Livermore both were incorporated well over 100 years ago, while the other three all officially became cities (a town in Danville’s case) between 1981-1983. Danville leaders were fortunate that it has a long-established downtown in sharp contrast to San Ramon and Dublin.
I mentioned the San Ramon plan to long-time Tassajara Valley rancher Gordon Rasmussen, whose grandfather John bought the family spread on Highland Road in 1913. He recalled the story he was told about those days in the valley. Elliott’s bar in downtown Danville was the hangout for the ranch hands and has been since 1907. When John relocated the ranch, one of his key cowboys quit because it was too long a ride from the ranch to Elliott’s.
Reminds me of old-time Pleasanton when the race track and gravel were the key industries. Pleasanton was known for having the most bars downtown on Main Street of any town in Northern California. The one remaining bar from those times, the Pastime, was knocked down in the last couple of years and replaced by Starbucks.
That’s part of the reason Pleasanton has gone from a community of characters to the current version.