The heart and hub of Sonoma County
When Maria Ignacia Lopez de Carrillo established the first permanent residence in the Santa Rosa Valley in 1837, she chose a spot along Santa Rosa Creek for her Rancho Cabeza de Santa Rosa. W.S. Sandles, a Swedish physician noted the beauty of the area in his account of a visit to the Carrillo adobe: “…these beautiful prairies, wooded and watered more like an English park than a wild country farm land…” Plant wizard Luther Burbank called Santa Rosa “the chosen spot of all this earth as far as Nature is concerned” and more than 100 years later thousands of newcomers visit the area and find that Dona Carrillo, Dr. Sandles and Burbank all were right.
But Santa Rosa is much more than a city in a bucolic setting. New residents are attracted by well-paying jobs in a variety of economic sectors, by the nearly limitless selection of recreation activities and the superb climate in which to enjoy them, and by the warmth of the people who make Santa Rosa feel like a much smaller community than its population of over 150,000 would indicate.
Sometimes baffling to newcomers, however, are the myriad neighborhoods that make up this county seat and commercial center. Santa Rosa properties are described as being in either in the adult community of Oakmont to the southeast of the city limits or one of the four quadrants created by Hwy. 101 and Hwy 12: Northeast, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest. Just a few decades ago, eastern Santa Rosa in general would have been described as the more desirable part of town, but with the growth of housing, schools, shopping and services that has accompanied the vibrant economic expansion of the area, each area of Santa Rosa offers opportunities to make a home and live a lifestyle enviable by any standards.
NORTHEAST SANTA ROSA
Northeast Santa Rosa’s charming Junior College area (affectionately called “JC”) offers a delightful mix of homes built at various times since the 1906 earthquake.
Extending north from Hwy. 12 and east from Hwy. 101, Northeast Santa Rosa encompasses the stately Victorians of the McDonald Avenue area, the cozy well-established tree-lined Proctor Terrace and Grace Tract neighborhoods, the commanding new homes of the Fountaingrove developments atop Rincon Ridge, the charming older homes surrounding Santa Rosa Junior College, the warm family enclaves in Rincon Valley, the secluded custom homes among the redwoods of Montecito Heights-and more.
North of downtown and stretching toward the east from Santa Rosa Junior College is the “JC Area,” with a delightful mix of homes built at various times since the city was for the most part leveled during the 1906 earthquake. Styles range from Victorian to mission-style bungalow to 1920s and 1930s vintage cottages. The area has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years as homeowners remodel and restore homes with features like 11 ft. ceilings, spacious wrap-around porches, built-in china cabinets and detached garages that become studios and workshops.
The prestigious McDonald Avenue area, with its concrete streets and variety of historic architectural styles, and adjacent Proctor Terrace are both high-demand areas where no two homes are exactly alike.
In the lushly wooded hills above the city’s landmark Flamingo Hotel and extending north along Rincon Ridge are both custom homes well hidden in the trees and new developments in the Fountaingrove area, land which once was part of the famed Brotherhood of the New Life community and winery. The homes are prized for their size, stunning architecture and views of the Santa Rosa Plain, Reibli Valley and Rincon Valley.
To the east is Rincon Valley, populated largely by families who find condominiums and ranch-style homes built from the 1960s-1980s as well as brand-new homes like those in Skyhawk on the eastern edge of the valley. Residents pride themselves in Montecito Park, with its popular dog park, the Oak Park private swim and tennis club, and good selection of both public and private schools.
To the north the topography again defines the areas, with the Mark West area along Mark West Creek into the hills offering unique properties, many with some acreage, not far from the popular Safari West wildlife preserve. Larkfield and Wikiup are just minutes from the northern edge of incorporated Santa Rosa, offering a full range of homes from condominiums on up.
SOUTHEAST SANTA ROSA
Near Stony Point and Giffen roads you’ll find one of Santa Rosa’s new-home subdivisions, a popular area for newcomers and move-up buyers.
Like the Northeast, Santa Rosa’s Southeast offers a wonderful microclimate and encompasses both the flood plain that once was one of the largest walnut orchards in the world as well as the hills extending east toward Kenwood and south toward Rohnert Park.
Montgomery Village, one of the first of the post WWII subdivisions developed in response to the Baby Boom, is adjacent to one of the city’s first shopping centers, now a favorite for its unique clothing and home accessory shops as well as several well-known restaurants and the occasional jazz concert. The 50-year old homes range from 900 sq. feet to 2,500, and many have been remodeled over the years with the room afforded by the area’s spacious lots.
Nearby Bennett Valley, with townhomes and comfortable ranch-style homes on the flats and newer multi-level homes that increase in size as one continues up into the hills bordering Annadel State Park, also is prized for its schools and accessible shopping. Further into the hills toward the south and the east, are more one-of-a-kind properties with room for horses or vine-yards, sweeping views and a sense of privacy just 15-20 minutes from either downtown Santa Rosa or Rohnert Park.
And while first-time buyers may not find the ranches off Grange Road affordable, they will find many properties perfect for that initial home. The condominiums and townhomes at Vista Del Lago, the Knolls, the Arroyo Sierra development off Hoen and others offer minimal upkeep responsibility along with amenities like community pools and clubhouses. Other new developments south along Petaluma Hill Road, with both condominiums and detached homes, have increased the supply of housing even more.
The area is further enhanced by its abundance of parks. Howarth Park, with its cherished carousel, miniature train, and Lake Ralphine offering boating and fishing along with many trails and picnic sites, has been a favorite for decades. Nearby Galvin Park has an 18-hole community golf course, tennis courts and soccer fields. Annadel State Park is a favorite with mountain bikers and horseback riders as well as hikers, many of whom pause for a swim in seemingly hidden Lake Ilsanjo.
SOUTHWEST SANTA ROSA
Santa Rosa’s southwest quadrant is the last to see major development. New home communities adjoin open spaces and high-tech business centers.
Extending south from Hwy. 12 toward Rohnert Park and east through the beautiful Santa Rosa Golf and Country Club, the area was dominated by ranches, both large and small, until relatively recently. Now with other business parks and commercial developments following the lead of Optical Coating Laboratory (OCLI) which opened its film coating manufacturing operation off Stony Point Road decades ago, brand-new housing developments offer families a chance to build their own neighborhood traditions from the ground up.
With median prices still running sightly lower than some of the older areas of Santa Rosa, the Southwest offers close proximity to the large new shopping centers in the southern part of the city, sparkling new schools and the excitement of creating a new community.
New homes include both townhomes and single family homes up to approximately 2,500 square feet. Some are built in a Tuscan or Spanish Mediterranean styles while others feature the nouveau farmhouse style with railed porches, gridded windows and more steeply pitched rootops.
Elsie Allen High School, one of Santa Rosa’s two newest, features some of the city’s best facilities. Many of the elementary schools in the Southwest also are brand-new, with up-to-date wiring and other high-tech features. Santa Rosa’s “A Place to Play” sports and recreation complex is just across Hwy. 12 on West Third Street, and by the time of its completion a few years hence, will include a six-acre pond and patanque courts, playgrounds for little ones, adult softball fields and everything in between. Some soccer fields are already completed.
NORTHWEST SANTA ROSA
With plenty of shopping and services nearby, northwest area residents don’t have far to drive to find everything they need in an area that was once ranches and orchards.
Residents of Northwest Santa Rosa are fond of saying that they rarely have to leave the neighborhood. With Coddingtown, one of the city’s two major shopping malls, located conveniently at the north tip of town along with a wealth of furniture stores and other retailers, most locals don’t drive more than 15 minutes to shop for virtually anything.
Like the Southwest, the Northwest once was dominated by prune orchards and small ranches. More established neighbor-hoods in the area include a mix of older homes on a half-acre next to newer ones on 7,000 sq. foot lots. Small ranches with fruit trees and a sense of seclusion are still avail-able, although high demand and low turnover make them harder to find.
Newer housing developments with family homes and fresh community parks extend from Coffey Lane north to River Road and south to West College Avenue. Typically they include room for growing families on quiet streets with new to mature landscaping. Brand new homes open as in-fill is completed-one new development offers three-to four-bedroom floorplans, soaring ceilings and large kitchens adjacent to great rooms.
Santa Rosa Vital Statistics
Year settled: 1837
Year incorporated: 1868
Area (square miles): 36.8
Services, Retail, Manufacturing
? Santa Rosa Certified Farmers Market – 8:30 a.m. to noon Wednesdays and Saturdays, year-round, rain or shine, at Veterans Memorial Building east parking lot, 1351 Maple St. Food stamps accepted. 522-8629.
? Santa Rosa Downtown Market – 5 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays, May 31 through Sept. 6, B Street in front of Santa Rosa Plaza, and Fourth Street between B and D streets. Information: 524-2123.
Santa Rosa History
The proper way to view Santa Rosa is both up close and on high. Stroll along the two-story downtown storefronts on Santa Rosa’s Fourth Street. Then climb the hills to the east of the cities – to the top of Fountaingrove Parkway in north Santa Rosa or to one of the country roads near Sonoma Mountain, east of Rohnert Park. Look down upon the plain below to the county’s urban center – surrounded by farmlands and flanked by the coastal hills to the west.
The fertile land of Santa Rosa, originally the home of the Pomo Indians, was first settled by Europeans in 1837 when Donna Maria Carrillo, mother-in-law to General Mariano Vallejo and a widow with 12 children, arrived from San Diego in an ox-drawn cart. Her family established an 8,800-acre ranch and built a home along Santa Rosa Creek – the ruins of which remain today near Montgomery Drive in Santa Rosa, east of St. Eugene’s Cathedral.
Americans soon settled the valley, too, and in 1868 Santa Rosa became an incorporated town. It grew steadily for the next 80 years – despite the 1906 earthquake that reduced the domed courthouse and the rest of downtown to rubble.
After World War II, Santa Rosa mushroomed, growing from less than 13,000 people in 1942, when Alfred Hitchcock filmed “Shadow of a Doubt” in the city, to a population of 127,000 today.