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Reunification of Courthouse Square

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Courthouse Square

In this 1927 photo of Courthouse Square, the old courthouse can be seen on the left.

photo courtesy of © Sonoma County Public Library

Courthouse Square, the heart of Santa Rosa, doesn't actually contain a courthouse. And it's not really a town square. And, if the truth be told, it's not much of a "heart of the city" either.

Unlike the squares in Sonoma and Healdsburg and now even Windsor, Santa Rosa's square is not a central meeting ground. Granted, Santa Rosa is larger than these towns and it has several neighborhood gathering spots. But, even big cities have their central hub. If something happens in the world that calls for an impromptu celebration, New Yorkers know to head to Times Square. Where would Santa Rosans go to spontaneously? Courthouse Square? The mall? Railroad Square? The neighborhood bar? No one knows for sure. And therein lies the problem. There is no unifying center. We have no nucleus.

This wasn't always the case. As you can see from the above photo, Santa Rosa once boasted a majestic square. And, according to old-timers, this is where everyone went to meet and talk and find out what was going on in the community. It was the proverbial water cooler. But, after a long and convoluted history, the square lost its courthouse and then, it was cut in half by Mendocino Ave. The folks who are in favor of reunification say that being split in two was the final blow that killed the Square. And they believe that reunifying it will provide Santa Rosa with a much-needed city center.

Current Status

Background

To get an idea of what the plan calls for, look here. This is an old version, but some of the specific points which are still of concern are best illustrated here. Make sure to drag your cursor on and off the diagram, and the picture montage below it.

Keep in mind: This isn't simply a matter of closing off that stretch of Mendocino Ave. that cuts through the square. Instead, this reunification plan, which is estimated to cost around $5.3 million, calls for:

  • Re-establishing two streets that were eliminated when the courthouse was torn down and Mendocino was extended through the square. The two streets would run north-south (the same as Mendocino does now) and would be on either end of the square.
  • These two new streets would be lined with angled parking spaces, creating a total of 80 additional spaces. Meaning, the Square would be bordered by parked cars on two sides, and by 3rd and 4th Streets on the other two sides.
  • The large redwood trees would be removed. New trees would be added in a more symmetrical arrangement around the square. They would be pruned high to allow for clear visibility underneath, in an effort to promote a feeling of openness and safety.
  • Almost all the fountains, ponds, brickwork, walkways, etc. would be removed from both sides of the existing square. The Asawa fountain would be moved to another location. A new fountain would likely be built in the middle of the new square.
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