Los Altos City Hall, looking across the apricot orchard to the Youth Center and the Police Station.
At late as the 1970s, the Santa Clara Valley was still economically dependent upon agriculture. According to the Santa Clara Valley Historical Society most of the County's orchards of apricot, prune, cherry and almond were small and family owned. Cooperatives helped the region's families sell and distribute their products.
California still produces 95% of America's apricots. Most, however, come from the San Joaquin Valley, inland from Los Altos, Mountain View, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale--little towns where the lovely climate and proximity to San Francisco and Stanford University transformed orchards into suburbs.
Looking from the Los Altos City Hall toward the Los Altos Library. With the advent of electronic books, libraries will need hardscape less and less.
The Los Altos Civic Center includes City Hall, the Police Station, the Library, a Youth Center, and, more recently the Los Altos History Museum. All are surrounded by an old apricot orchard that city fathers decided retain, when the Civic Center was built in the 1960s, as a reminder of the city's origins and as a means of softening the look of the civic buildings. In a 1988 remodel and update, the trees stayed.
Here's the opening paragraph on the web site of the Los Altos History Museum:
"Located in one of the few remaining apricot orchards of Santa Clara Valley, the Los Altos History Museum explores the rich history of local people and how the use of the land over time has transformed the agricultural paradise once known as the "Valley of Heart’s Delight" into the high technology hub of today’s Silicon Valley."
When one thinks how valuable a treasure an old orchard can be--as a teaching tool for history, as an open space for all God's creatures--it is difficult to imagine that anyone in the government of a small town that has such an asset, could look at those trees and imagine large buildings, asphalt, and "streetscape" as an improvement.
But there are people like that. Maybe that didn't live here when kids made summer money "cutting cots" and apricot orchards bloomed in the spring over acreage covered by seas of yellow mustard and orange California poppies.
Perhaps the missing sensory memory explains it. Perhaps there is another reason for their goals to bulldoze the orchard. It is odd though: Los Altos hasn't grown in population since I was a child. Still, it is possible that ambitions have grown.
Perhaps some of the people in government just need to get out of their cars and walk around a little more than they do. They might be amazed at the treasure that is right before their eyes.
I wonder how many of our council members ride a bicycle? To meetings?