A Little History of a Big Valley – Pleasanton California

History Pleasanton CA

Few towns or cities have been blessed with such a great name like the one in the Amador-Livermore Valley has. Pleasanton was sighted for the first time in 1772 by a Spanish foot patrol soldier and half a century later the land was settle on as Alisal. This beautiful place later changed its name to Pleasanton – an adaption of the name of a Civil War general, Alfred Pleasonton – and Spanish settlers were the first people to make their homesteads here. The town soon became popular among those stopping over on route to the gold fields of the Californian valley.

The railroad soon arrived in Pleasanton and this increased the population from a small 500 to a populace into the thousands. By 1870, the town was attracting many ranchers and breeders of thoroughbred horses. They loved the climate, the abundance of rain, fertile soil and agricultural-friendly land. Such an area also meant it attracted dairy farmers, hop-growers, wine growers and the economy of the town simply boomed because of it. Brewers across America heard of the fine hops that grew here and wanted them for its beers. So sought after were they that even brewers in the big markets of Europe began to import hops from Pleasanton.

It quickly became a place with a bit of international fame and by the start of the 20th century Pleasanton was about to make a bustling and thriving community complete with its own bank, world-renown vineyard at Ruby Hill, internationally famous hop industry and several top graded hotels.


It developed a main central area where business and communities became part of the town’s character. It was well on the way to becoming a thoroughly modern community and started to leave its agricultural roots behind.

However, raw industries like sand and gravel mining started to take place in the 1930s just on the town’s outskirts. It was the gravel industry that gave Pleasanton another 20th century economic boost. The ballast much demanded by America’s ever-growing road building industry. And so the profits for the town boomed and the community here began to grow strong.

Around the 1960s the population began to grow rapidly, and by the 1980s most of the town supported opulent homes, schools and international businesses. The Hacienda Business Park was completed in 1982 and this thriving, bustling network of industries created jobs for thousands. Today, the city is a legacy to what was once an agricultural backwater to today’s bustling community and city status.

It’s location is only a short drive from either San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and Palo Alto. If you get a chance, a visit to Pleasanton is a must do.

Contact Armario Venema Homes for more information on Pleasanton California.

Val Vista Park in Pleasanton CA – A kid friendly park in the Tri Valley

Val Vista Park Pleasanton CAThere are so many exceptional parks and recreation areas in the Tri Valley but the Val Vista Park in the town of Pleasanton California is an oasis for parents wanting to spend the day with the kids. A place to play sports, enjoy the snack bar and nature trails to take in the fresh air and unwind. It is the ultimate activity day where Pleasanton and East Bay children can play for hours to their hearts content.

There are two play areas within the park. There is also a large picnic area where families can gather and have lunch on any afternoon during the week. There are soccer fields here, a giant skateboard park, roller hockey rink and a climbing wall for the more adventurous.

Val Vista Park also has a nature trail walk and don’t forget to bring your swimwear to experience either one of its two water sports areas. There are three play structures to keep kids occupied all day and those coming from all around East Bay will be pleasantly surprised to learn there is plenty of parking around the park.

Val Vista Park East Bay

The approach to the park is down Stoneridge Drive where you will notice the roller hockey rink, several soccer fields and a skateboard park. These are just a taster of things to do within the park. Once you have parked, you will notice the two huge play structures, a big area for families enjoying a picnic and a water feature to take your selfies at.

The play structures are for kids of all ages. There are tiny tot swings, four slides for larger children and a small water feature boat. There is also one huge play structure for kids and juniors up to the age of 12, a main playing structure that has so many different ways of climbing up that children will be spending most of their day on this, and six different slides to accommodate all the kids. There is also a safe high bridge and plenty of wheels to spin on or just hang onto.

The play areas are a haven for the kids and there are areas specifically designed for smaller children (aged two to five). This wonderful park has a snack bar area and bathroom facilities and a lovely little stream running through the nature trail walking area.

If you are ever at a loss of what to do with your family one afternoon in the Tri Valley, you should bring them here to the Val Vista Park. It is what childhood memories are made of and makes for a complete day out.


Livermore looking up in 2013

Home Prices In Livermore Expected To Rise This Year

Real estate website forecasts price increases for 2013 in all but one Bay Area zip code

Patch.com | February 20, 2013 | link


Home prices in Livermore will rise about 6 to 7 percent this year, according to a study done by an online real estate site.

The site, zillow.com, predicts home prices in 244 of the 245 zip codes in the Bay Area will rise in 2013. The only exception will be the 94515 area in Calistoga, according to a story in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The story says the biggest reason for the projected price increase is a lack of homes for sale on the market.

Even with the increase, prices are still well below the peak prices of a few years ago in most zip codes.

Here is the individual zip code data for the Livermore area.

Zip Code Dec. 2012 median Dec. 2013 projection Increase % decrease from peak price
94550 $500,000 $542,620 8.5% -27.5 percent
94551 $394,100 $424,725 7.8% -34.9 percent

Learn more about Livermore

Five surprising facts about the Livermore Valley

Susan Hathaway | Mercury News | March 18, 2013 | link

Brett Caires, owner, walks to unlock the tasting room at BoaVentura de Caires Winery in Livermore, Calif. on Monday, March 11, 2013. (Jim Stevens/Staff)

Brett Caires, co-owner and winemaker of BonaVentura de Caires Winery, grew up in Livermore with fifth-generation winemaker Karl Wente. Before he made wine, Caires worked as a real estate broker in the area for 26 years. Here, he shares five surprising facts about the Livermore Valley — things you probably never knew.

1. It’s old

The Livermore Valley is probably the oldest wine region in California. There were well over 50 wineries in Livermore Valley before Prohibition, but the 18th Amendment demolished much of the wine industry there. In fact, the wine business still hasn’t caught up to its pre-Prohibition winery count, which was around 70.

2. It has its own orientation

Most California wine regions run north-south, but Livermore runs east-west. This is a good thing for wine grapes because it helps the vineyards cool as coastal breezes come through from the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay.

3. We saved the French

We gave them phylloxera, the wine version of herpes, and then gave them the cure. A lot of grape cuttings originally planted in the Livermore Valley were from France and when some cuttings went back to France, they brought with them the sap-sucking pest that wiped out much of the French vines. Later, phylloxera-resistant American root stock from Livermore was sent to France to help them recover.

4. It’s fueled by geek power

About half the winemakers in this region are highly educated in areas like physics and engineering. Many retired from Lawrence Livermore Lab or Silicon Valley, and come armed with other technical backgrounds. They are off-the-charts smart.

5. Agriculture conservation is a priority

The South Livermore Area Plan, first adopted in 1993 to ensure “orderly development” of the area, includes permanent agricultural easements that must be followed by developers. Each building permit must include one acre used for “intense agriculture,” which has led to significant expansion of vineyards in the region. Today, you see newer subdivisions with vineyards planted between them.

Buyers coming from abroad

Wealthy homebuyers in China embrace the McMansion

Mary Umberger | Chicago Tribune | February 22, 2013 | link
  • Wealthy Chinese fancy Western-style homes, such as this one in Lagoon Manor, a development in northeast Beijing.
Wealthy Chinese fancy Western-style homes, such as this one in Lagoon Manor, a development in northeast Beijing. (Dahlin Group photo)

An American export has turned out to be a surprising hit in China: the McMansion.

Though “McMansion” may not be the kindest term for this Chinese architectural phenomenon, that’s the case: Wealthy locals in Beijing and other cities have become smitten with Western-style houses that are huge (even by U.S. standards) and in planned subdivisions. And they’re farming out the design work to American architects.

Not unlike in certain U.S. communities, such homes have become a way of advertising their success for well-to-do Chinese, according to Chip Pierson, a principal of Dahlin Group, a Pleasanton, Calif.-based architecture firm that has designed many of them. The homes are also perceived by the buyers as a safe haven for cash — usually very large amounts of cash, he said.

In an edited interview, Pierson explained how these well-heeled buyers’ tastes favor a vaguely French chateau look, with a hefty dash of “Downton Abbey” thrown in:

Q: How involved is your architectural firm in Chinese residential design?

A: Our firm has spent 35 years in development and homebuilding for Fortune 500 companies, some of America’s biggest homebuilding companies. We’ve been involved in developments all over the country.

I’ve been working in China personally since 2001, when a Chinese employee of ours led us to become involved with homes for expatriate housing there. Now we are designing homes for communities whose residents are going to be Chinese.

Q: What is the attraction of the Chinese to these Western designs?

A: More people in Chinese cities live in high-rises than in single-family homes. The idea of a single-family villa, which is what we call these detached homes, for the Chinese buyers was incredibly unique. Nobody had built single houses for individuals there since the 1930s.

As the United States’ economy went down from 2006 to 2010, the Chinese economy went up. As their economy grew, the middle class grew, and they began investing in real estate — homes like these.

At the peak of the market over there, our company hired 45 people in the U.S. to do design work for Chinese buyers, which is the opposite of what most people would think — they’d think, you’re offshoring work and talent to the Chinese, but actually the Chinese are offshoring their work to American architects.

Stylistically, in the bigger villa projects, some of the designs are contemporary, but many are very European. If you think back to the early development of what became the wealthiest American suburbs, (the grand mansions) they built were a takeoff on their vision of traditional European style. That’s the trend for the single-family home in China now.

Market researchers in China say that these buyers prefer styles (derived from) the old houses in France and England. The people feel that the styles of the English and French are more “wealthy looking” than Spanish or Mediterranean styles. Think of “Downton Abbey” or Fontainebleau. Those are perceived as the homes of royalty. Homes in Spain or Italy, they perceive those homes as more casual.

And they want to show that they have money.

Local education looks for change…

Assemblywoman Buchanan talks education, budget
Proposes changes to state education code

Glenn Wohltmann  | Pleasanton Weekly Staff | March 6, 2013 | link

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State Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo) is proposing a package of three bills that could measure teacher performance, streamline discipline and dismissal procedures for teachers and require reporting on suspected child abuse by school personnel.

Buchanan, formerly a school board member in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District for 18 years, is now chair of the State Assembly’s Education Committee.

The assemblywoman caught flack last year when she voted against a bill that could have let school districts fire teachers who commit sexual or drug-related acts with children.

Buchanan has defended herself regarding her vote. She explained that the bill was flawed, and said districts already have ways of ousting an employee involved in physical, sexual or drug-related child abuse.

In the proposed legislation, Buchanan says teacher performance should be measured, but not by test scores alone. Buchanan told a group of Pleasanton educators last week that teacher performance should be judged by “multiple measures,” including formal and informal evaluations as well as student performance.

“If you’re a teacher, you give a test not only for a grade, but to see what students have learned,” she told the group last week.

Buchanan said teachers need time to work with other teachers, too.

Regarding discipline and dismissal procedures, Buchanan told the group, “It just takes too long and costs too much money.”

“The focus of our bill is going to be cleaning up the part of the statute that needs cleaning,” she said. “You want to preserve the intent, but you want to update it.”

Buchanan said that includes reducing the appeals process from a year and a half to six to seven months.

In child abuse cases, she pointed to two school districts, Miramonte and Moraga. In Miramonte, third-grade teacher Mark Berndt was charged with committing lewd acts on 23 boys and girls, ages 6 to 10, between 2005 and 2010, despite complaints that date to two decades ago. No complaint was filed by that school’s principal.

The Moraga school district is being sued by former student Kristen Cunnane, who claims two middle school teachers sexually abused her in the 1990s. Again, Buchanan said, the principal filed no complaint.

Buchanan said districts will be required to have a policy regarding mandated reporting, make sure all personnel are aware of the requirement, and will have to review the policy every year.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Bill Faraghan, assistant superintendent of human resources for the Pleasanton school district. “It’s hard to understand that it hasn’t been required.”

Buchanan also discussed Gov. Brown’s proposal to give poorer school districts in California more money.

“It’s hard to go from a convoluted formula to a straightforward one on one sweep,” she said. “The problem is that every one of the districts has been cut by 21 to 23%. It’s going to be hard to put into place next year. Whatever we do, it’s going to change education for the future.”

Buchanan has also co-authored legislation that would require districts to inform voters if they want to use an interest-only bond. Those bonds, known as Capital Appreciation Bonds, became a hot-button issue recently when it was discovered that a $105 million CAP issued in Poway will cost the district nearly $1 billion to repay.

A day after her meeting with school officials, Buchanan and State Controller John Chiang met in Pleasanton with officials from the Contra Costa Council to talk about the state budget.

“Today we have slow growth but a better economy,” Chiang told the group.

Buchanan noted that young people now have more student loan debt than credit card debt.

“My concern is what is the engine of growth? My belief is it’s education,” she said. “If we don’t have a more educated workforce, we’re going to be in real trouble.”

Buchanan noted that future manufacturing may move back to the U.S., and that manufacturing will require more educated employees to operate sophisticated equipment.

Chiang said Proposition 30, the voter-approved tax increase, with money targeted for schools, will stabilize things, but only for the next seven years.

“Then, we’re going to lose $6 billion,” he said, adding that could mean California becoming insolvent. Chiang added that California has already dropped from 47th to 49th in per-pupil spending.

In terms of revenue, Buchanan said California “seems to be a state that rides a bubble, each bubble as it comes along.” She pointed to the savings and loan bubble, the dot-com bubble and the real estate bubble as examples.

The good times, she said, meant the state could offer better pensions to workers, which led to the problems with CalPERS, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, and CalSTRS, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System.

While she’s pushing for pension reform, she said courts have ruled that the state cannot renege on promises made to employees.

“We need to come up with a plan that will raise these funds up over time,” she said.

Pleasanton at its best…

Community Presents Pleasanton Family With New Home

When a fire devastated the home of April Martinez, community members came together to help her get back on her feet.

Patch.com | February 27, 2013 | link


From Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty’s Office

Many local businesses and city and county agencies came together last week to raise enough money to buy April Boag Martinez and her family a new (gently used) trailer, which was presented in a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony last Friday.

April Boag Martinez is a jockey and horse trainer, who works on the Alameda County Fairgrounds and also lives there in the R.V. South trailer park with her two young children.

Due to a devastating fire, which took place the family’s trailer on Monday, February 11, Martinez and her children (ages 12 and 5) have been staying with a friend in same the R.V. park with nothing more than the clothes they were wearing the day of the fire.

Martinez, a Pleasanton resident of nearly 12 years, said the fire began
in the bedroom of her 32-foot trailer, and then consumed the entire trailer within only a couple of minutes.

Luckily, she, her 5-year-old son, and the family dog were able to escape unharmed with only the clothes on their backs, and no shoes. Martinez’s 12-year-old daughter was not home when the fire started.

When asked what she thought of all of the people and organizations who came out for the ribbon-cutting ceremony, and those who made the new trailer possible, Martinez was gracious.

“This is incredible! I am at a loss for words,” Martinez said. “The amount of support we have received from the community and the race track is amazing. We are just normal, everyday people, and after such a devastating turn of events, this is like winning the lottery.”

Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern said of the fire and the trailer presentation, “I’m just glad that nobody was hurt. I am happy to help, and I wish April and her family the best. Welcome to [their] new home!”

The ribbon-cutting ceremony took place in the field across from the R.V. South trailer park located on Road 8, near gate 12 on the Alameda County fairgrounds.

During the presentation, Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty addressed Ms. Martinez and the crowd of contributors and supporters, “All that has taken place following this unfortunate event is a direct reflection of the strength of our great community. This has truly been a community effort, and one which I am beyond proud to be a part of. This is what happens when people get together to make things better.”

Frank Imhof of Imhof Tractor Services, who worked for 10 days to coordinate much of the donors list and facilitate the purchase of the trailer said, “It was a sad story of a single mom in need. She needed help, and I could, so I did.”

“It’s our community, and it’s the right thing to do. It is my pleasure to help the family get back on their feet, and to be associated with so many others who feel the same,” said Jim McGrail of McGrail Vineyards.

If any member of the community wishes to contribute to Martinez family as they begin to put together the pieces of their new lives in their new home, a bank account has been set up at the Fremont Bank-Pleasanton branch located at 6654 Koll Center Pkwy., suite 345 in the name of April Boag Martinez.