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March 4, 2014 > History Column: City Beautiful Committee

History Column: City Beautiful Committee

By Philip Holmes

The Fremont City Council decided that it would be helpful to have an advisory committee to assist them protecting and developing their city. They adopted Resolution No. 44 that established the City Beautiful Committee of seven members appointed by the Mayor with the concurrence of the council. The purposes of the committee were to propose plans controlling billboards, overhead wires, unsightly structures and beautification of the City. They were also to advise the council on the aesthetics of public buildings and monuments, and encourage city wide cleanup campaigns.

Committee members were to serve for two years and until their successors were named. The first members listed were: Mrs. L. E. Bailey, Hegel Delanoy, Peter Jacobsohn, Maurice Marks, Roy Mathiesen, E. C. Parks, Mrs. and Floyd Dillon. Members appointed in 1958 were Hugh Block, Helyn Dutra, Dale Ehlers, Frank Serpa and Ernest Vayssie.

The committee was deeply involved with the problems and opportunities of the new City. Floyd Dillon (father of Mayor Don Dillon) presented the plans of Mission San Jose Junior Chamber of Commerce to establish historical areas in sections that retained early California character. Maurice Marks reported on Òno-dumpingÓ signs, the cleanup campaign and new trash receptacles in commercial areas. Peter Jacobsohn was chairmen of the committee at this time.

Maurice Marks was appointed to take pictures to show the need for signboard control. The Architectural Control Committee was asked to investigate dilapidated buildings along Highway 17. Floyd Dillon contacted the City about a Photographic Contest of Scenic Areas; newspaper articles reported on people taking pictures for the contest, judging entries and eventually announcing the winners. The City Council granted $100 toward the Photographic Contest. A 1958 newspaper article displays a photograph of J. A. McDonald in a garden of flowers preparing a photo for the contest. Mrs. J. A. Silva was appointed Chairman of the Fremont Photographic Contest. E. C. Parks and Floyd Dillon were also on this committee.

Peter Jacobsohn resigned as Committee Chairman and was replaced Parks. It was proposed that a comprehensive landscaping design be agreed upon by all city directors. Norm Hale was designing Fremont City Limit Signs.

The City of Fremont, encouraged by the City Beautiful Committee, adopted a tree preservation ordinance in 1966 Òto encourage and promote the preservation of trees.Ó The committee was granted approval by the council in May 1970 to conduct a survey to aid in the selection of outstanding landmark trees. The survey located 124 landmark trees to be preserved under resolution NO. 3027 adopted by the council in May 1972. Several locations of the original 124 trees were inaccessible or hidden from view so the list was reduced to 60.

The first publication of the 60 landmark trees was printed in 1973. Each tree had hand-drawn sketches. This publication has been a living encyclopedia of FremontÕs natural tree heritage. New trees were given landmark statues by the City Council over the years.

The CityÕs landmark trees were surveyed in August 2010. A few trees had not survived, but most still existed along with a few additions. The City Council approved the de-listing of 42 missing or dead landmark trees and added 23 new qualifying ones for an updated book in June 2012.

Trees marked as no longer existing included 21 from Niles (seven from the California Nursery), eight from Irvington, eight from Centerville, three from Mission San Jose and two from Warm Springs.

A major update of the Tree Preservation Ordinance was adopted in 2002 that provided criteria and procedures for listing and designation of landmark trees. The criteria included historical significance, size, nativity, condition, accessibility and probability of permanence of location with respect to land development.

Committee members recalled that the policy was to preserve trees; City policy required a permit to remove a tree.

The committee also helped approve street names. Members also recalled that they worked with Ted Harpainter and, at times, reviewed plans for development of enterprises such as quarries. Surviving minutes, beginning in 1961, note that the committee was discussing the CityÕs street naming program.

The last members of the City Beautiful Committee were appointed in 1977; the Committee was disbanded by the City Council in January 1983. We are not sure why. Did that mean that the City was already beautiful or just that the Committee was no longer needed? It is more likely that the City could no longer afford to staff the Committee.

As Ted Harpainter once said: ÒNo place is complete without trees, a home without trees is charmless, a street without trees is shapeless, a park without trees is purposeless, a country without trees is hopeless.Ó

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