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Publication Date: Friday, February 15, 2002

Name that street Name that street (February 15, 2002)

City's street names reflect history, heritage, scandal and whimsy

by Kathy Cordova

Bernal, Kottinger, Neal, Sunol - all streets in Pleasanton named for notable figures of our city's past. There are also neighborhoods with Spanish and Native American street names, reflecting the influences of those cultures on our heritage. And then there's Chocolate Street, named for a 92-pound, half Australian shepherd, half golden retriever.

While many Pleasanton street names have historical roots, some are just fun or frivolous, while others are faulty - or even scandalous.

The road to the history of Pleasanton begins with Bernal Avenue, named after brothers Agostin and Juan Pablo Bernal. The Bernals, along with fellow Spanish soldiers Antonio Sunol and Antonio Maria Pico, received the largest land grant in the area from Mexico in the early 1800s. Sunol and Pico married Bernal sisters, expanding the family's influence in the area.

The route continues with John Kottinger, an Austrian school teacher and lawyer, who immigrated to California to mine for gold. Unlucky in mining, he instead found his fortune by marrying Juan Pablo Bernal's daughter, Maria Refugia, and receiving 4,500 acres of land as her dowry. Kottinger, the first non-Hispanic settler in the area, was also the first Justice of the Peace of Alameda County. He was known for holding court in his house and keeping the prisoners in his adobe barn, which still stands on Ray Street.

Next along the historical trail came New Hampshire native Joshua Neal, who married Agostin Bernal's daughter Angela and received 530 acres as her dowry. Neal, who was renowned for his civic contributions, donated the land for the town's first school in 1864, where the school district offices are today at First and Bernal.

Kottinger and Neal became the founding fathers of Pleasanton, agreeing to subdivide their land to form a town in 1869. Division Street was named because it was the dividing line between the properties of the two men.

Some other early settlers who had streets named after them were ranchers Joseph Black and Henry Mohr, hotelier J.R. Rose, and Joseph Nevis, who owned the old racetrack.

To preserve this tradition, the city decided to create a list of "heritage names" in the late 1980s. Longtime citizens were asked to devise the list of either early residents of Pleasanton or old Pleasanton establishments, which was to be provided to developers to encourage them to incorporate historical names into their new neighborhoods.

"They included saloon keepers, bankers, bakers, dairy farmers, blacksmiths, horse trainers, a buggy builder, and a shovel operator," said Tricia Maier, assistant planner for the city. "The intent was to honor old-timers who were integral to the city in the early days, though they were not bankers, large property owners or politicians."

At least 25 of these names have been incorporated into city street names. "Some of the street names from this original list include Guzman Parkway, named for the last known native-American family in Pleasanton, and Delucci Drive, for a former police chief," said Maier. "The Kottinger Ranch development has a number of historic names, including Smallwood Court, for Claude Smallwood, the founder of the First National Bank, and Chadbourne Court, named for the owner of the old Rose Hotel."

Along with prominent citizens of the past, Pleasanton's Spanish roots are reflected in the names of several streets. Historian Charles Huff explained some of the street origins: "Del Valle Parkway translates into parkway of the valley, Arroyo Del Valle means creek of the valley. Alisal, the spanish word for the Cottonwood trees that were prevalent along the many arroyos that run through our valley, was the original name of our city and now is the name of Alisal Street and Alisal School."

"Mission Park and Del Prado neighborhoods predominantly used Spanish street names. In the Del Prado area, the words 'Calle' (street), 'Via' (way), 'Paseo' (drive), and 'Corte' (court) are used in conjunction with Spanish place names," said Huff.

The street names in one neighborhood, at the southwest of the intersection of West Las Positas and Santa Rita, honor our Native American history, with tribal names, like Apache, Comanche, Navajo and Zuni.

Some streets are named for their functional histories. Two main thoroughfares of the city - Santa Rita Road and West Las Positas Boulevard - are named after old rancheros in the area.

"Hopyard Road started out as a small dirt road that served as the connector route between the hop fields in Pleasanton valley and the hop kilns, which were located approximately where Hopyard Road turns into Division Street," said Huff. "Main Street historically served as part of the main artery for gold miners traveling from San Francisco via San Jose."

With the influx of subdivisions in Pleasanton, the names of new streets are increasingly determined by the marketing departments of the builders. This leads to street names designed to invoke opulent feelings (like Regency Drive) or beautiful imagery (like Moss Tree Way, an upcoming street name in a new neighborhood) that developers hope will sell more houses. It also leads to names that sound good, but don't necessarily make sense, like Walnut Hills (the new development on the Bernal property) on a flat parcel of land.

Other naming conventions have been more fitting to their surroundings. For example, Vintage Hills, which has streets named with a vineyard theme, is located on property that was once planted in grapes. "Crellin Road, one of the main arteries of the development, is named for Louis Crellin, (once) owner of Ruby Hills Vineyard," said Huff.

Although developers are dependent upon the city and local emergency response agencies for final approval of street names, they may propose any names they wish, for any reason. Some builders have named streets after wives or children, following the family-friendly example of founding father Joshua Neal, who named Angela Street for his wife and Abbie Street for his mother. In other cases, rumor has it, certain developers have named streets after their mistresses.

Several years ago, Pleasanton decided to give the general public the opportunity to name streets, while raising money for good causes. They implemented a program allowing several nonprofit organizations to auction off the right to name a street to the highest bidder. Thus, Pleasanton ended up with Huff Street, Trevor Parkway, and Maria Street, named after local residents Charles Huff, Trevor Dawson and Maria Behm. And, of course, Chocolate Street, which was named after the Behms' dog.

Then there are the puzzling street names. For example, have you ever wondered what kind of a name is Eull Court, and what is it doing in a neighborhood populated by bird names like Canary, Raven, and Blackbird? Chalk the mystery up to a simple typo. It turns out that Eull was originally intended to be Gull, but the "G" was transcribed as an "E" by mistake on the list that went to the city, and so Eull Court was christened. Human error is also responsible for Racoon Hollow Court ("raccoon" is the proper spelling). Residents could petition the city to change the misspelled names, but, so far, nobody has, and the names remain.

Continuing with the tradition of naming streets after notable local personages is a current movement to change the name of Bradley Drive to Tom Burnett Lane. Mayor Tom Pico proposed the name change to honor the former chief operating officer of Pleasanton's Thoratec Corp., which is located on Stoneridge and Bradley. Burnett was one of the heroes of United Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, diverted by passengers and crew from a more potentially devastating target.

This latest name change is proceeding quickly, in part because there are no businesses or residents located on Bradley Drive, which would complicate the logistics of the change. The name change proposal goes before the City Council on Feb. 19 and is expected to pass easily.

Naming our town Naming our town (February 15, 2002)

It's widely believed that our city was named after Gen. Alfred Pleasonton, a Union general of the Civil War, who was greatly admired by city founding father, John Kottinger. But, there are other possible origins. One legend attests that the name Pleasanton was derived from its beautiful (pleasant) location. Charles Huff provides another story, which he had saved from the Pleasanton Times in the 1920s.

"When it was determined to change the name of Alisal, Joshua Neal and Antonio Bardellini (later a prominent resident of Livermore) were discussing the matter with other residents and each suggested a name, the latter insisting upon the name of his birthplace, Lerci in Italy. This was not considered practical, but one of the circle insisted that a name should be selected to 'please Antone.' While not offered as a name, the phrase struck the fancy of those present as an acceptable compromise and with some modification became the title of the town - Pleasanton." -Kathy Cordova

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