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Living - May 18, 2007

Presenting the Past: Who's in charge? Incorporation efforts in the 1970s (Part 2)

by Beverly Lane

In the 1970s, proponents tried to incorporate a San Ramon Valley-wide city twice. Both attempts, in 1973 and 1976, went down to defeat. The freeway was finished south to Danville in 1964 and extended to Dublin in 1966; valley population escalated from 28,000 in 1970 to 57,307 in 1980. Advocates for incorporation felt it was almost too late for local people to affect a rapid development because it was being controlled by the County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. Nonetheless, two huge volunteer efforts were mounted.

The Jan. 23, 1973, vote was the result of an active effort by people throughout the Valley. There was a campaign office, a speakers bureau and neighborhood grassroots organization. The Taxpayers for Incorporation touted the need for local control and population growth that would reflect the rural nature of the valley. They noted that only 64 percent of local tax dollars were being spent in the Valley. Committee members included Gene Rolandelli, Roy Bloss, Bill Ketsdever and Richard Kennett.

The Valley Residents for Non-Incorporation stated that taxes would go up and decried the loss of identity a City of San Ramon Valley would bring to individual communities. Western Electric, which had purchased the Bishop Ranch, did not want to deal with a new council and it helped fund the opposition.

There was a spirit of optimism among the supporters who felt that, this time, success would be theirs. But the vote was 5,623 in favor; 5,178 against. The council would have been Claudia Nemir, Roy Bloss, Eric Hasseltine, Dick Kennett and Brian Thiessen: three Alamo residents, one Danville resident and one San Ramon resident.

A fresh attempt tried for a Valley-wide incorporation on Nov. 2, 1976. The Taxpayers for Local Control through Incorporation organized throughout the Valley, again producing an all-volunteer campaign and calling for better police protection, local planning decisions and better parks. One ad said "Bring Government Home - YES on K - TOWN NOW!"

Developers and other opponents put up signs announcing WAIT or Work Against Increased Taxes. Broadmoor Homes, in the process of developing Crow Canyon Country Club, did not want unknown policy-makers deciding on their development and underwrote the WAIT campaign. They also sued the county, using the new California Environmental Quality Act and contending that a full environmental report was needed for the proposed city. This suit was rejected by the courts, but it successfully sent the election to a November vote where getting out the "pro" vote was not as effective. One anti brochure said, "If you want to live in a city, move to Concord!"

The Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) again set up the potential city boundaries, this time omitting Diablo and Round Hill Country Club and various agricultural land. The potential City of San Ramon Valley lost by the vote of 10,426 to 7,846. The new council would have been Claudia Nemir, Don Sledge, Norm Roberts, Bob Bush and Gene Rolandelli.

Success for local city advocates was delayed until the 1980s when they were able to defuse the "more taxes" and "loss of identity" arguments. By that time Proposition 13 had passed, capping the property tax. And the advocates worked to get the LAFCO-set boundaries, which allowed Danville and San Ramon to have a vote within their own communities, not a Valley-wide election. Nearly 30 years after the first serious discussion of incorporation, the two new cities were created by the voters in 1982 and 1983.

Sources: Museum of the San Ramon Valley has extensive files on each of these incorporation efforts.

Beverly Lane, a longtime Danville resident, is curator of the Museum of the San Ramon Valley and co-author of "San Ramon Valley: Alamo, Danville, and San Ramon."

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