September 4, 2009

San Leandro in 1940: The "White Spot" City

San_Leandro_Brochure_1940_small.jpg This brochure was produced by the San Leandro Chamber of Commerce and the City of San Leandro to advertise the qualities of San Leandro. The following text was scanned in from the brochure.

Essentially San Leandro is a suburban community neither rural nor big city. To live in San Leandro is to live in a small-town community where one's neighbors are one's friends, where one's social activities are those of club, church, and lodge, where parents take an active interest in their children's affairs through parent-teacher work, where news of their community is brought to them by friendly little community newspapers.

It is such happy situations as these, combined with its blessings of nature, that have built San Leandro's reputation as an ideal residential community.

Because of its many residential advantages, San Leandro during the depression years since 1929, has enjoyed a quiet unspectacular growth. Not a boon in the sense of inflated prices, but a growth which has established it as the "White Spot" city of California.

The rest of the text continues below.

With an estimated population of 17,500 persons, a house-to-house count by Uncle Sam's mail carriers showed 4,669 places of residence in November, 1937, 4,375 of which were single-family residences.

Building permits for the last three years have shown $928,164 in 1936, $730,968 in 1937, and $1,048,185 in 1938, of which latter sum, $100,000 is for a new city hall now in process of construction.

There are some exceptionally fine and well restricted residential districts in which homes costing from $10,000 to $15,000 have been built recently. The majority of the homes, however, averaged $4,600 to construct during the past two years.

The city's climate is ideal for residential, horticultural and factory purposes.

San Leandro's residential desirability is enhanced by its extremely rich, loamy soil, which makes a beautiful garden possible in every yard.

The atmosphere is mildly tempered by the waters of nearby San Francisco bay. The city is protected from the bay region fogs by low-lying hills to the north. Its exposure to the southeast, south and west, makes possible the city's boast of "Sunshine and Flowers."

unlike many small communities, San Leandro does not rely on one or a dozen industries for its prosperity. Its residents represent a cross-section of workers in every line of endeavor in a great metropolitan area, working in a thousand industries and drawing their living from the very ends of the earth.

Four public and one parochial schools serve the grade school needs for education.

The San Leandro junior and senior high schools are of the Oakland educational system.

Seven churches, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Lutheran, Congregational and Scientist server the spiritual needs of the community.

The city has excellent transportation.

The East Bay Transit and Key System companies, which operate 61 lines in the East Bay area, closely tie San Leandro to its sister communities by extending free transfer privileges to and from the lines serving San Leandro.

Purest of mountain water, brought to the city by the East Bay Municipal Utility district through a hundred miles of aqueduct and carefully filtered and sterilized, gives to San Leandrans a sparkling drink unsurpassed by the finest mountain brook.

Two newspapers, one a semi weekly, the other a weekly, give the city's residents a digest of the local activities, while the daily newspapers of the nearby larger cities bring daily telegraphic accounts of world events.

The city enjoys a city manager form of government whose efficiency has kept the tax rate down to 93 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

In August of 1938, the voters bonded the city for $185,000 for a new city hall and new sewage and garbage disposal plant, to cost a total of $335,000, the difference being provided by the federal government in PWA grants.

Two great trans-continental railroads and two great inter-state bus lines and sever intra-state bus lines serve the city. Electric interurban trains and ultra modern coach lines give rapid transportation to commuters and others to San Francisco across the new San Francisco-Oakland bay bridge. One of the finest airports in the U.S. is a ??? two miles from the city.


1900 census . . . . . 2,253
1910 census . . . . . 3,471
1920 census . . . . . 5,703
1930 census . . . . .11,455
1938 estimate . . . .17,500

Places of residence (U.S. postal survey Nov., 1937): Single family homes, 4,669; Apartments, 24, units 154; Flats, 60, units 139; occupancy, per cent, 98.9.

Stores and businesses: Store building, 305; places of business, 407; (C. of C. canvass, 1938.)

Industry: Manufacturers, 31.

City Government: Form, city manager; council of 5 who elect mayor.

Assessed value, $9,435,405: city rate, 1938, per $100 assessed value, which is approximately 40 per cent of actual, .95; county rate, $3.38; bonded debt, city, $185,000. Rainfall, average past 12 years, 19.53; area, square miles, 4; elevation, feed, 48.

Schools (Elementary school district): Grade schools, public, 4; Grade schools, parochial, 1; High school, public, 1; Junior high, public, 1. (Junior high and senior high schools part of Oakland school system.)

Higher education: A dozen colleges and universities are located within easy reach of the city.

Churches: 7. Catholic, Methodist, Episcopal, First Presbyterian, All Saints Episcopal, St. Peter's Lutheran, First Congregational, First Church of Christ, Scientist.

10 years, '28-'38 incl. . . $5,696,663.50
Yearly average . . . . $ 464,853.85
1938 . . . . $1,048,125.00

Public Utilities: Gas, electricity, 9,000 outlets; water, 3,748 outlets.

Transportation: Steam railroads: Southern Pacific, Western Pacific . . . Interurban electric, to Oakland and San Francisco . . . Coach services, Greyhound lines, Peerless Stages, Santa Fe (unified bus and rail) Key System, to San Francisco; East Bay Transit company, free transfer over 62 lines. Air transport, United Air Lines, et al.

Recreation: Public parks, 7; Parks open for recreation, 4; School playgrounds under supervision, 6; Tennis courts, located on two parks and at two schools, 8; Swimming pools, public, open air, municipally conducted,2; Veterans' Memorial building, 1. All public schools open as community centers. Numerous private social halls available for public assemblage.


RECREATION is spelled with capital letters in San Leandro.

Never was a community more blessed by location for its residents to take advantage of the facilities offered by nature for the outdoor sportsman and sportswoman, whether the sportsman be child or adult. Besides natural advantages there are those supplemented by the city and school administrations of San Leandro and by the city's large nearby neighbors.

Among the sports provided by nature is striped bass fishing in which sport hundreds upon hundreds of San Leandrans indulge. Within five minutes of the city is San Leandro bay where many limits of this most sporting of all fish are caught. By boat from San Leandro bay it is a matter of but a few minutes to the channel where the big ones lie in wait for bait or lure. Forty minutes by automobile will bring the sportsman to the finest bass fishing on the entire Pacific Coast, Carquinez straits.

Along the shores of San Leandro bay, just a few minutes from town, is excellent duck hunting, and for some of the best hunting in the state, two hours by auto brings one to the duck fields of Gustine, three and a half to the rice fields of Colusa.

Deer are to be found in the nearby hills, in Crow Canyon, the Livermore hills, from 10 to 30 minutes from the city. The better hunting of the state is to be found within three or four hours by motor to the north.

Swimming in San Francisco bay is another sport which hundreds enjoy, though the city is provided with two out-door swimming pools, one operated without charge by the city at Thrasher park, the second operated by the school department at a nominal charge barely sufficient to pay the cost of operation.

In the nearby hills back of San Leandro, the East Bay Regional park is now engaged in developing one of the most extensive park systems in the world, over 10,000 acres having recently been taken over and intensively developed for hikers, campers, golfers, picnickers, swimmers, fly and plug casters, archers and other sportsmen.

Within a mile of San Leandro's southerly city limits is the Oakland Speedway, fastest dirt track in the world, where automobile classics are staged several times each year.

All of the collegiate sports are easily available at the nearby campuses of the University of California, Stanford University, San Francisco University, Santa Clara University, Saint Mary's College, Mills College and other colleges.

The city administration with its recreation department, which at present has a personnel of some 33 directors and assistants, conducts supervised recreation at three city playgrounds, Thrasher, Estudillo and Memorial parks, and six school playgrounds. Memorial park is a new development completed for tiny children, fully furnished with the latest playground equipment in June, 1938. Tennis courts for tournament play have been built by the city at Estudillo park and at the Roosevelt school, the Estudillo courts being

Thrasher park as well as the McKinley school are also provided with tennis courts. Thrasher park is also equipped with flood lights for night softball.

Yachting and motor boating is another sport enjoyed by hundreds, with ample docking facilities provided along 30 miles of waterfront from Alameda to Port Chicago.

Indoor sports are provided by a hundred organizations. Dances, whist parties, bazaars and get-togethers of all kinds offer amusement throughout the year. One of the finest neighborhood moving picture theaters in the bay region brings the cinema to San Leandro, while the best in stage productions are easily available in nearby Oakland and San Francisco and at the nearby colleges.


FLOWERS! One of the most beautiful creations known to mankind. Always in demand, they are always suitable as gifts and willingly accepted by the recipient.

From the time Alameda county became known to the outside world, this community was recognized as a center for flower growing. The soil in and near San Leandro was proved to be especially adaptable for growing flowers. History informs us that among the first iris and tulips imported from abroad were some planted near San Lorenzo.

In later years, the dahlia became a favorite with gardeners who desired a large flower for decorative purposes. The dahlia has been improved since it was first planted here some 40 years ago. Today, San Leandro is rated as one of the outstanding dahlia centers in the United States.

More than half a century ago the chrysanthemum was first successfully grown in the United States in Alameda county, and in experimental gardens near San Leandro.

And San Leandro was the site of the first large commercial green, or hot house. Gardeners were brought over from Scotland to start the enterprise which proved to be a success from the start.

The result is: San Leandro is the center of the floricultural industry which annually amounts to more than eleven million dollars in real money, from a retail standpoint.

A massive flower garden comprising some 3500 acres is what San Leandro and surrounding sections offer as their contribution to beauty of this great Eastbay Empire.

Here are a few salient facts which illustrate the real importance or the floral industry to this community:
San Leandro is the home or the time-honored dahlia show, an enterprise sponsored by civic leaders who enjoy raising dahlias in their backyards.

Carnations and roses grown here have been awarded the highest honors for six consecutive years at the California State fair in Sacramento.

Gladiolus competing against the cream of California's crop were declared the best at the State fair; they were grown in San Leandro.

The outside market demands San Leandro-grown flowers. Each day a fast motor truck equipped with refrigeration leaves San Leandro for Los Angeles to supply the markets of the southland.

By fast train and by airplane fresh blooms are shipped daily to practically every city of importance on the Atlantic seaboard.

From a field in San Leandro thousands of peonies are shipped each year, the greater part of the crop being sent to Louisville, Kentucky.

Growers in New Zealand, Australia, London and Holland call on San Leandro for new creations in dahlia bulbs.

Love of flowers is best exemplified here by the fact that nearly every yard is a beautiful flower garden. The climate, together with a rich soil, makes it possible for the best type of blooms to grow.

Mention San Leandro to the stranger, and he immediately connects the name with the floral industry. More worthwhile publicity for this community has resulted from the enterprise of the floral products than from any other one factor.

Perhaps the best tribute paid San Leandro was when the late Luther Burbank, recognized as the world's outstanding plant wizard, selected San Leandro for his experimental gardens during the Panama Pacific International Exposition in 1915.

Iris, dahlias, peonies, gladiolus, Transvaal daisies, zinnias, asters, perennial delphinium, sweet peas, larkspur and other colorful blooms are grown in large quantities during the proper season.

Throughout the year the green houses produce roses, carnations, snapdragons, gardenias, orchids.

Chrysanthemums are grown under cloth to keep the delicate blooms from receiving too much sun.

A tour of inspection among the man beautiful gardens is well worth one's time. San Leandro flower growers will be happy to conduct you on a tour of inspection.


QUALITIES which have contributed to making San Leandro an ideal home community, have made it an ideal place in which to locate industry.

The city's almost perfect climate, with its exceptionally equable temperatures, neither too hot nor too cold, with its abundance of sunny days, make for the finest of working conditions.

There is an abundance of available labor, for industry located in San Leandro can also draw upon the manpower or neighboring communities.

Transcontinental rail service is provided by two railroad systems, the Southern Pacific company and the Western Pacific Company. Numerous truck lines serve the community to deliver the community's products to ocean shipping terminals wherever located throughout the bay region. Oakland port facilities are located but a few minutes from San Leandro's industrial center. A harbor is now being developed at San Leandro bay, 5 minutes from the city's industrial district.

Products from San Leandro factories have world-wide distribution.

Caterpillar Tractor company, the world's largest manufacturer of track-type tractors. Diesel engines and road machinery, had its beginning in San Leandro.

The Holt Manufacturing company of Stockton and the C. L. Best Tractor company of San Leandro consolidated in 1925 to form the Caterpillar Tractor company, with headquarters in San Leandro.

Since the consolidation, Caterpillar Tractor company has had a phenomenal growth, outgrowing its San Leandro manufacturing facilities. "Caterpillar" now has a 60-acre plant at Peoria, Ill., but continues in San Leandro its corporate offices, Western Sales, Service and Parts headquarters and a manufacturing force of nearly 700.

In 1936 the Friden Calculating Machine company, one of the world's largest manufacturers of calculating machines, selected San Leandro as its manufacturing home because of the ideal working conditions found here.

Here, too, is located the Hudson Lumber company, the largest manufacturer of pencil slats in the world.

At San Leandro's very doors is located the truck assembly plant of the Chevrolet Motor company, the city at the same time offering home accommodations for hundreds of employees of the Fisher Bodyworks and the Chevrolet Motor company.

Here, too, is located the manufacturing plant and head office of the United Engine and Machine company, large manufacturers of automobile and truck pistons.

The Wurm-Woven Hosiery Mills are also located here.

Just a short distance over the line in Oakland is the new million dollar manufacturing plant or the Standard Brands corporation, manufacturer of yeast and malt products, scores of whose employees are making San Leandro their home city.

In San Leandro is located plant No.8 of the California Packing corporation, one or the world's largest canners.

Here in San Leandro is located the Universal Pencil Company, the only pencil factory west of St. Louis.

In all, there are 31 manufacturing institutions, large and small, located in San Leandro, and yearly the number increases.

Large acreages of open land located along the rights-of-way of the city's two transcontinental railroads still remain open for industrial development at exceptionally low prices for such ideal sites.

Power there is in abundance, furnished at reasonable prices by the Pacific Gas and Electric company. The finest of water in the largest amounts desired is available from the East Bay Municipal Utility district.

Manufacturers seeking sites for their plants in the far-west should investigate San Leandro as a place in which to locate.


HISTORICALLY, San Leandro can be said to date its white-man's history back to 1820 when Don Maria Luis Peralta received his grant of land from the king of Spain. The grant, which took in practically the entire city of Berkeley, Oakland, Alameda, Emeryville and Piedmont, also included about half of what is now San Leandro.

Actually, however, the city's history began when in 1837 Don Joaquin Estudillo took up holdings which included. among other lands, all of the rest of San Leandro not included under the Peralta grant.

Having established his home some two miles from the site of what is now San Leandro, Estudillo in 1847 built the first house to be erected in San Leandro, a home still standing at 1291 Carpentier Street. He and his family were the city's first white settlers. About 1847, Estudillo erected the Estudillo house, a famous hostelry of the early days which up to 10 years ago continued to serve the wayfarer.

II was after Don Luis Peralta divided his vast holdings evenly among his four sons that his son, Ignazio Peralta in 1860, erected for himself a beautiful home, said to be the first brick structure in Alameda county, in San Leandro. The home is still standing and serves as the club house of the Alta Mira club.

San Leandro was the second county seat of Alameda county, serving in this capacity from 1854 to 1871 when the county seat was removed to Oakland. It was incorporated as a city in 1872.

Site of the old court house is now occupied by the Saint Mary's parochial school, directly opposite the original Estudillo home which is now owned by St. Leander's parish of the Catholic church.

Growth of San Leandro was slow during its early days, the city having but 2253 population in 1900; 3471 in 1910; 5703 in 1920.

During' the '20s, however, it took a sudden spurt which developed into a steady drive which brought the population up to 11,455 by the 1930 census. Since that time, despite the depression, growth has been rapid, and today the population is estimated at 17,500.

Posted by Mike Katz-Lacabe at September 4, 2009 10:01 PM | TrackBack

Not sure if "White Spot" is supposed to be some racial double-entendre. Under its current leadership, San Leandro these days is a "dark spot" on the East Bay.

Posted by: Frank Lynn at September 8, 2009 7:44 AM

I wish I never moved back here over 3 years ago after a 15 year absence, it is now dirty, dumpy and poorly run. Now I am stuck due to the housing bust.
It is indeed a dark spot, sad. It is not even good enough for the Chief orf Ploice or City Manager, but who can blame them for deciding to live in Castro Valley - less crime, cleaner, higher property values and better schools.

Posted by: BK at September 10, 2009 9:10 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?