Emotions ran hot in 1907 Santa Rosa over three topics: Prostitution, the near-collapse of the entire economic system, and sidewalks.
The first issue is easy to understand; the City Council legalized prostitution that year without public discussion, and the churches were up in arms. People were also upset about the bank panic, of which much will be written about later. But…sidewalks?
Every month or so during this era, the newspapers reported that angry citizens, sometimes entire neighborhoods, were appearing at Council meetings to protest the laying of concrete sidewalks. One of the early entries on this blog was about the sidewalk-haters on Benton Street, who turned out in 1904 to speak out and also present petitions. But the articles never explained why seemingly everyone was so upset; all coverage just ended by noting that the issue was “referred to the street committee.” Arrggghhh!
Finally, a pair of little items printed in 1907 were the Rosetta Stones. As was already guessed, sidewalks were being added to Santa Rosa slowly, and on a street-by-street basis. This makes eminent sense; the entire city couldn’t be sidewalked all at the exact same time because there just weren’t enough cement contractors (and the workforce was one short that year, due to dope fiend Joseph N. Forgett being in the slammer). But the reason everyone was so mad was because the property owner was held responsible for doing the work. If the sidewalks weren’t in by deadline, the town could hire a contractor – who just might be a high-priced friend of a city official, perhaps? – and put a lien upon the property for the amount of the bill. Now the widespread public outrage is understandable; the sidewalk ordinance mandated both giving away a portion of your property in a kind-of eminent domain, and that you paid for the privilege. Or else.
Still, some people bucked the law. Later that year, a contractor appeared before the Council and asked for the city to crack down on his neighbors on Carrillo Street. “The poor had laid their walks and the rich had not,” he complained. Can’t we all just get paved?
The matter was referred to the street committee.
SHOULD LAY CEMENT SIDEWALKS AT ONCE
From many sections of Santa Rosa property owners are calling on the city council to order cement sidewalks constructed on the thoroughfares. At the present time cement is cheaper than it has been for many months past, and it has been suggested that now is the time for the property owners to make their contracts and save money. Many miles of these splendid sidewalks have already been laid in the City of Roses, but there are numerous streets that should be completed with these walks at once.– Santa Rosa Republican, July 17, 1907
WILL RUSH WORK ON WALKS
Residents on Carrillo street between Ripley and Morgan streets are losing no time in getting cement walks laid after the adoption of the resolution of intention a week ago by the City Council. Most all the lots on both sides of Carrillo street in that block now have gravel on the ground for the walks. As yet there is no sign of action between Morgan and Glenn streets. Property owners all over the city where walks have been ordered laid will find it much cheaper to do the work by private contract than to allow the city advertise and let contracts and place a lien upon the property.– Press Democrat, August 22, 1907
MUCH BUSINESS IS DONE BY THE CITY FATHERS
[..]Property Owners Protest
A protest, numerously signed, was read from property owners of Morgan street against the laying of cement walks on that street between Ninth street and Berry Lane. At the last meeting a petition was presented asking the council to order the laying of the walks. Those protesting urged that there were sidewalks needed on other streets between Morgan street and the court house, which should be laid first. Referred to the street committee.
[..]Nichols Makes a Speech
W. E. Nichols, the contractor, adressed the council. He said he wanted to see rich and poor join hands when it came to laying cement sidewalks. Up on Carrillo street on his block, he said, “the poor had laid their walks and the rich had not.” He asked the council to order the city attorney to proceed against those who had failed to do their portion of sidewalk construction. The matter went to the street committee. The street commissioner is preparing a list of property owners who have not complied with the council’s order regarding the laying of walks on a number of streets. When that is handed in there may something doing.
The matter of new walk laying City Attorney Geary stated that in view of the present stringency of the money market he would not advise the council to impose more taxes on the people than at present.– Press Democrat, November 13, 1907