June 25, 2017
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1962: 70 votes incorporates RP

By: Irene Hilsendager
April 7, 2017

On Aug. 27, 1962, Rohnert Park was incorporated by a vote of 308-238.The original population was 2,775.

This weekend, 5,000 residents later, the maturing city celebrates its 10th anniversary.

Although incorporation was in 1962, steps leading to it began seven years earlier.

Most of the land which is now Rohnert Park was a seed farm owned by the late Waldo Rohnert. 

Talks were held with Rohnert and a master plan was drawn for the area. In 1955, the Valley View Land Development Co. purchased the Ben Bryan Ranch, about 3,300 acres. In the fall of that year the Spivock family purchased large interests in corporations for developing the area. 

In 1956, required utilities were provided and the Rohnert Park District, a community services district, was formed.

The district, having general bonding powers, issued general obligation bonds for sale. The proceeds, $550,000, were used for construction of a sewage treatment plant, sewage collection systems, wells, pumping plants, pressure systems and water distribution mains.

By 1957 the first houses were constructed and the first residents moved in Thanksgiving Day.

In 1960, a movement was made for corporation. An election was held, but with a population of about only 500, it failed.

A feasibility study was conducted in 1961 for incorporating the entire area surrounding Cotati and Rohnert Park. At that time Cotati was not incorporated. 

However, it was deemed not feasible for the entire area to incorporate. It was noted Rohnert Park seemed to have a good chance for incorporation by itself.

An election for incorporation was held in August 1962, with the residents voting 308-238 for forming a city. 

Just what to call the new city seemed to be a problem with two names, Rohnert Park and Cotati Park, the favorites. But the voters went in favor of the former name, giving Rohnert Park 398 votes while Cotati Park received only 128.

The original city council was elected at the same time. Elected were Pete Callinan, Jack Buchanan, Ken Bell, Vern Smith and Dale Foust. Callinan later became the first city manager. Smith is still a member of the council. 

City offices were originally located in the Knudsen Building on Commerce Boulevard. After the public safety building on Southwest Boulevard was constructed, the city offices were moved there. Almost 10 years after the incorporation, the city offices were moved to their present location on Commerce Boulevard. 

But that is a temporary location as the city plans to eventually move to a Civic Center location almost directly east in a few years.

When Rohnert Park incorporated, it became the seventh city in the county and was, by far, the smallest. 

It also was the first new city in the county since 1905. Since then, the Park has grown tremendously and now is the third largest city in the county, having passed Healdsburg three year ago and stands behind only Petaluma and Santa Rosa, the county seat.

Just what is in store for the Park in the coming 10 years is anyone’s guess.


Irene Hilsendager’s column each week touches on moments in the history of Cotati, Rohnert Park and Penngrove.