Pleasanton is a city in Alameda County, California, incorporated in 1894. It is a suburb in the San Francisco Bay Area located about 25 miles (40 km) east of Oakland, and 6 miles (9.7 km) west of Livermore. The population was 70,285 at the 2010 census. In 2005 and 2007, Pleasanton was ranked the wealthiest middle-sized city in the United States by the Census Bureau. Pleasanton is home to the headquarters of Workday, Ellie Mae, Roche Molecular Diagnostics, Blackhawk Network Holdings, and Veeva Systems. Other major employers include Kaiser Permanente, Safeway, Oracle, and Macy’s. Although Oakland is the Alameda County seat, a few county offices and a courthouse are located in Pleasanton. The Alameda County Fairgrounds are located in Pleasanton, where the county fair is held during the last week of June and the first week of July. Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park is located on the west side of town.
Pleasanton was ranked number 4 by USA Today in its 2014 “America’s 50 best cities to live in” listing, number 63 in Money’s list of “The Best Places to Live” in 2010, and was named one of “Americans’ Top Hometown Spots” in the United States in 2009 by Forbes. Pleasanton was named the third wealthiest city in terms of earnings in the United States by NerdWallet in 2013.
Before the establishment of Pleasanton in the 1850s, an earlier settlement, called Alisal was there. It was located on the lands of the Rancho Santa Rita near the site of an Indian ranchera, around the Francisco Solano Alviso Adobe, called El Alisal (The Sycamores), one of the earliest houses built in the valley in 1844. It is still standing and serves as the centerpiece of the Alviso Adobe Community Park. Alisal, nicknamed “The Most Desperate Town in the West”, was one of the settlements located along La Vereda del Monte that was a haunt and refuge of bandits and desperados in the era following the beginning of the California Gold Rush. Main Street shootouts were not uncommon. Banditos such as Claudio Feliz and Joaquin Murrieta would ambush prospectors on their way back from the gold rush fields and then seek refuge in Alisal. In the 1860s Procopio, Narciso Bojorques and others took refuge there.
Pleasanton is located on the lands of the Rancho Valle de San José and Rancho Santa Rita Mexican land grants. Its name came from John W. Kottinger, an Alameda County justice of the peace, who named it after his friend, Union army cavalry Major General Alfred Pleasonton. A typographical error by a U.S. Postal Service employee apparently led to the current spelling.
The reputation it had gained from its days as Alisal passed and in 1917, Pleasanton became the backdrop for the film Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, which starred Mary Pickford. The town was once home to Phoebe Apperson Hearst, who lived in a 50-room mansion on a 2,000 acres (8.1 km2) estate, now the site of Castlewood Country Club.
Because of the preservation of Pleasanton’s historic downtown area, many examples of architectural styles dating back to the mid-19th century exist. Buildings in Gothic Revival, Pioneer, Italianate, Commercial Italianate, Colonial Revival, and Queen Anne styles can be found within walking distance of each other.
One of the icons of downtown Pleasanton is the Kolln Hardware building, located at 600 Main Street. It is designed in the Commercial Italianate style, but the prominent five-sided corner tower and a few other features are indicative of the Colonial Revival style. The structure mixes in a little bit of Queen Anne design in the tower and gable. This building was built in 1890 and has always housed a hardware store, first by the Lewis Brothers, then Cruikshank and Kolln. The hardware store has been known as Kolln Hardware since 1933. In 2004, the Kolln Hardware business shut its doors. Bud Cornett, a Pleasanton developer, purchased the landmark and has invested in its renovation and earthquake retrofit. After more than 100 years of serving the community as a hardware store, the space is now occupied by Comerica Bank.
La Hacienda del Pozo de Verona (The House of the Wellhead of Verona), located in southwest Pleasanton, was an area landmark until it was destroyed in a fire in 1969. The house was built by architect A.C. Schweinfurth for William Randolph Hearst in 1898. Phoebe Apperson Hearst had the hacienda remodeled and expanded by architect Julia Morgan for use as her primary residence after her husband died. The estate was built upon a 453-acre (1.83 km2) rancheria obtained in 1886 by George Hearst, who intended to use the location for a race horse farm. Its name was inspired by the circular, carved marble wellhead purchased by Phoebe and William in Verona, Italy and installed in the middle of the courtyard. The hacienda was the only female-owned estate to be mentioned in Porter Garnett’s Stately Homes of California. The architecture of the hacienda has been called California Mission style by various sources. The original architect used the term “provincial Spanish Renaissance”, while Garnett wrote it would be more accurately called “Hispano-Moresque”. Moorish influence was found throughout the estate, such as in the guardhouses which stood on either side of the courtyard entrance. The hacienda was topped by imported red Spanish tiles and had undecorated walls of white stucco. After Phoebe’s death in 1919, William had the wellhead and other furniture and objects moved to Hearst Castle at San Simeon and sold the estate.
Events and festivals
Pleasanton continues to maintain a small town flavor with regular events for the community. Every Saturday morning a farmers’ market sets up on Angela, off Main Street. In 2009, Pleasanton appeared on Newsmax magazine’s list of the “Top 25 Most Uniquely American Cities and Towns,” a piece written by current CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg. The article cited the popular farmers’ market among the reasons for the city landing on the list. There are several parades during the year, commemorating Christmas, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day, as well as kicking off the beginning of the Alameda County Fair and soccer season.
The Pleasanton Downtown Association organizes the popular First Wednesday celebrations from May through September. On every first Wednesday of those summery months, Main Street is blocked to traffic and adopts a street fair atmosphere. Each First Wednesday celebration is given a different theme and planned with related activities. Typically the first theme is Cinco de Mayo since May is the first month for these street parties. At this local event, businesses and organizations from downtown and around the Tri-Valley set up booths in the center of the street. A local band performs in the Inklings coffee house parking lot, which is closed off for dancing. The parking lot is also set up as a beergarden, with beer and wine available for consumption.
Friday Concerts in the Park
Another Pleasanton Downtown Association tradition is the Friday Concerts in the Park series. Every Friday from June until September the PDA schedules different local bands to perform in the evenings at the Lions’ Wayside Park off of First Street. The events are free of charge and draw a crowd. Locals will start laying out blankets in the park on Friday mornings as a way to reserve a spot.
The Alameda County Fairgrounds is a 270-acre (110 ha) facility located in Pleasanton. It is home to the annual Alameda County Fair, held since 1912, as well as numerous trade shows and community events. Located on its grounds, the Pleasanton Fairgrounds Racetrack was built in 1858, making it the oldest one-mile (1.609 km) horse racing track in the United States. There is a 3,000 seat amphitheater, as well as a nine-hole golf course located within the track’s infield.
The Alameda County Central Railroad Society has maintained a model train exhibit at the fairgrounds since 1959, which has grown to two 15 foot by 100 foot layouts in O scale and HO scale.
Firehouse Arts Center
The Firehouse Arts Center, opened in 2010, is a center of culture and art for Pleasanton. It features a 221-seat theater, the Harrington art gallery, and classrooms for art and drama. It is also home to the critically acclaimed teen improv comedy troupe Creatures of Impulse.
Pleasanton experienced a major economic boom starting in the early 1980s, largely associated with the development of a number of business parks, the largest of which is the Hacienda Business Park. These host a number of campus-like clusters of low-rise and medium-rise office buildings. Pleasanton has been successful in attracting a number of corporate headquarters, such as those of Safeway, Blackhawk Network Holdings, Workday, Simpson Manufacturing, The Cooper Companies, Shaklee, and Patelco Credit Union. Despite an increase in office space vacancy rates in 2000–2004, economic development has remained strong through the middle of the decade.
Pleasanton was also the headquarters of the former PeopleSoft, Inc. (which was acquired by Oracle Corporation), Documentum (which was acquired by EMC Corporation), Thoratec (now part of Abbott), E-Loan (which was acquired by Popular), Spreckels Sugar Company (which was acquired by Imperial Holly), Ross Stores (which moved to nearby Dublin in 2014), and the home loan operation of Providian (which was acquired by Washington Mutual, itself later acquired by JPMorgan Chase). Oracle occupies two buildings of the former PeopleSoft campus, and is the fourth-largest employer in Pleasanton, behind Workday, Safeway and Kaiser Permanente. In addition, Pleasanton is the site of a large AT&T campus.
Other companies with major operations in Pleasanton include Hitachi High Technologies America, Inc., Cisco Systems, Sage Software (Accpac, etc.), CooperVision, Clorox, Fireside Bank (closed in 2012), Roche, BMC Software, Applied Biosystems, EMC Corporation, Portrait Displays, Inc. and Symantec.
In retail operations, Pleasanton has one major regional mall (Stoneridge Shopping Center) and a number of other shopping centers. Most national and regional retailers have a Pleasanton location; besides the anchor tenants Nordstrom, Macy’s, Sears, and JC Penney at Stoneridge, notable large stores elsewhere in the city include Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and Kohl’s.
In addition to the business parks and retail centers, Pleasanton is known for its lively downtown, which is home to a number of fine-dining, casual, and ethnic restaurants, specialty retailers, and service businesses. A redesign of Main Street in the 1990s emphasized pedestrian traffic and outdoor dining.
According to the latest U.S. Census information, Pleasanton is the wealthiest midsize city in the nation. In 2005, the median household income in Pleasanton was $101,022, the highest income for any city with a population between 65,000 and 249,999 people. Similarly, for 2007, the median household income rose to $113,345, also the highest in the category. According to City-Data.com, the median household income had risen to $121,622 by 2013, compared to a statewide median of $60,190.
According to the Bay East Association of Realtors, the median price of a detached single family home was $935,000 as of September 2015. According to Zillow.com, the median home value in Pleasanton was $927,200 as of September 2015.
Pleasanton is situated at the crossroads of two major Interstate Highways, I-580 and I-680, which mirror the prehistoric crossroutes of Native American tribes who used the precursor paths as major trading routes. This fact was first discovered with the excavations for Hacienda Business Park, revealing significant tribal artifacts and human skeletal remains.
The eastern terminus of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) commuter train system’s Dublin/Pleasanton – Daly City Line is located in Pleasanton. Another station, the West Dublin/Pleasanton station, is located just west of the I-680 interchange.
The WHEELS bus transit system, which has a number of routes in the city, serves Pleasanton. The Altamont Commuter Express rail service stops near Pleasanton’s downtown at Pleasanton Station.
Pleasanton’s two comprehensive high schools, Amador Valley and Foothill, are ranked by Newsweek among the top 400 high schools in the nation. There are also two continuation high schools: Village and Horizon; the latter is for school age mothers and young fathers. Pleasanton’s middle schools are Harvest Park, Hart, and Pleasanton Middle School. Pleasanton’s Elementary schools are Alisal, Donlon, Lydiksen, Fairlands, Hearst, Mohr, Valley View, Vintage Hills, and Walnut Grove Elementary School. There are a number of private schools in Pleasanton, including Stratford School and Hacienda School.
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