Petaluma’s Founding Documents…Decomposing in the Basement

In this busy era we tend not to reflect upon our history and the documents from our past. In many instances government documents–records from the “pre-digital days”– sit decaying in boxes stored in backrooms, basements, or attics. (1)

And so it is with the City of Petaluma’s Archives in the basement of City Hall.  The preservation of some of these original documents and records must be given high priority.

Two original documents should be attended to now

Articles of Incorporation from 1858, signed by the California Secretary of State, Ferris Forman…*


  City Charter of 1876, signed by Secretary of State, Thomas Beck…*

If action is not taken, the above photos may be your first–if not the only–opportunity to view what I call the Founding Documents of our fair city.

These documents need to be properly treated and preserved in safe storage so that they do not continue to deteriorate. A documents archivist suggested…

“Digital replicas can–or should–be made to display in the Council Chambers or the Petaluma Museum…perhaps even in time for Petaluma’s 160th anniversary in 2018.”

  • If we take action now, we can ensure that they will still be here for the celebration.
  • If we don’t do anything………..Well, time is not on our side.


  • The City of Petaluma should immediately consult with a documents expert as to the best means to preserve the City’s founding documents and make them available to all of us in the future. (2)
  • The consultant should also be asked to advise as to the preservation of the rest of the important historical files in the City Archives.
  • If for some reason the City is not able to proceed, then it should immediately look to other agencies or institutions that are capable of preserving this history.

I have conducted some preliminary research in this area with the assistance of a few “sources” and have secured recommendations as to possible area candidates for this task.


*Photos from a January 2011 visit to City Hall  gathering information for Petaluma’s Charter–A Little Civics Lesson

(1) Care, Handling, and Storage of Works on Paper

(2) On the Preservation of Books and Documents in Original Form

Petaluma Pothole Ice Cream? But of course :-)

Petaluma Pothole Clo Sign

Potholes are Not Peculiar to Petaluma!

Our infrastructure is not unique in its decay.

Potholes are, however, a “hot” topic in local politics.

Several weeks ago I noticed a new Clover Stornetta sign on 101 promoting (in the free spirit of Clo the Cow) Petaluma Pothole Ice Cream.  I got a quick snap of the sign but vowed to get a more professional image…and to buy a carton of the ice cream.

Getting the photo was a challenge but I managed to pull it off (No, I wasn’t driving) and I present it in all its glory for your visual consumption…

Petaluma Pothole Clo Sign

Petaluma Pothole Clo Sign

Finding the Pothole Ice Cream took a little more time than expected as the shelves at G & G were always empty but I did find it a few days ago…the last carton on the shelf.  So I bought it before it disappeared…

Petaluma Pothole Ice Cream

Petaluma Pothole Ice Cream

So as you prepare for the upcoming Labor Day weekend, pick up a carton for your holiday spread.

As Clo reports 0n the back of container…

“It’s a pothole you’ll want to hit.”

And if you hit it just right…




Where have all the benches gone…long time passing…?

Public Benches

It is a common practice for cities to remove benches if they attract homeless or other “undesirable” people who tend to hang out too long in public places. A quick search on Google or Bing confirms the widespread use of this urban management technique.

And, of course, this technique has been applied from time to time in Petaluma. For example, consider the permanent removal of the benches on the Concourse walkway to the City Parking Garage. In the composite photo below you can see the area in 2012 on the left and today on the right…

April 2012 (Left)   July 2015   (Right)

April 2012 (Left–Benches)
July 2015 (Right–No Benches)

In addition, it is my understanding that in recent years some of the public benches on the Water Street Promenade have been removed or relocated to discourage negative activities in the area.

Now It Is The Putnam Plaza Benches

I recently noticed that the two public benches in Putnam Plaza were removed as part of a City landscaping project next to Starbucks.  All that remains are the donor plaques…

Bench Donation Plaques Putnam Plaza

Bench Donation Plaques Putnam Plaza

I made an inquiry about the benches to City Hall and received this e-mail response today…

“The benches were removed as part of a cleanup for the plaza related to negative activities (emphasis added) and discussed with the business owners and the Police Department.  People were sleeping on and behind them in the bushes (now also removed) against the Starbucks wall.  The benches at some point will be refurbished and replaced in the plaza but in a different spot.  A date has not yet been identified.  The negative activities have been reduced largely to the cleanup efforts, fixing of lights, power washing, and signage.”

I certainly empathize with the businesses and others who object to “negative activities” in our public areas. However, the bench removal tactic is not effective.

Removing Benches…

  • Does not discourage the very people against whom it is directed from sitting on the sidewalk or otherwise occupying the area where the benches were located. Granted there be some temporary change in behaviors, but inevitably there is a reversion to the previous state. As proof of this, go to my earlier post which contains photos of people in the various areas previously targeted for bench removal.
  • Does deny others (what some would call “regular” people) the opportunity to use the benches when they are downtown.

I did a little more digging and found that the subject of “negative activities” downtown in the Water Street area has been with us for some time.  Take a few minutes to read these two articles from 2007…

Aside from some of the specific complaints that generated the circumstances discussed in the above two articles not much has changed since 2007 in terms of constructive responses. As one person put it to me– “Focus on the situation that created the problems instead of the benches.” In that regard, this recent article may be of some value: Taking It to the Street

 In Closing

Turning back to the present situation in Putnam Plaza, I hope that the benches are returned sooner rather than later. In the meantime the donor plaques still mark their location…awaiting their return.

If the benches are not returned, I wonder if the donors could claim the plaques or at least a refund of their donation.


Street Life…Life On Our Streets

Every six months or so I archive my photos to make room on my computer.  The inventory is now well past 190,000 images residing on archive disks that will most likely disappear in the dustbin of history. Before archiving I selected a few photos documenting scenes from my daily walks around what I call the Petaluma Photo Grid…scenes that reflect an aspect of street life here and elsewhere in the country that we should not…dare not…ignore.


Some may call them Travelers, Transients, People Living Rough, or Homeless. However, they are people and part of our communities.

As a friend recently commented: “It’s important for all of us to not ignore what we find disturbing but instead really include it in our consciousness, accept it as a part of our reality. Then we may decide we want to change it and actually be able to do that.”


(Individual photos may be enlarged by clicking on them)

Street Life Gallery I

P1030748 Love Where You Live

Weary Traveler (Petaluma Blvd)  P1010211RAWa


3 DSCF5326

2 DSCF5106RAWWEB DSCF6158 Golden Concourse Walkway DSCF5328RAW P1030746 Water Street  DSCF4926RAW Weller St P1030327 Western Avenue  DSCF5757

Street Life Gallery II

Water Street Loading Dock

Ralph Lauren Loading Dock on Water St P1030495RAW

5 P1030282WEB 4 Ralph Lauren Loading Dock on Water St P1030284

Street Life Gallery III

Water Street P1030235RAW2WEB

Foggy Morning Pedestrian P1020662RAW1

P1020182RAW B&WWEB

1 Book Reader  P1010992RAW B&WWebcropped

Street Life Gallery IV

American Alley Stroll




In closing, I offer this passage from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol…

They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread. Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude. ‘Spirit. are they yours.’ Scrooge could say no more. ‘They are Man’s,’ said the Spirit, looking down upon them. ‘And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers.  This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it.’ cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. ‘Slander those who tell it ye.  Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.’ ‘Have they no refuge or resource.’ cried Scrooge. ‘Are there no prisons.’ said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. ‘Are there no workhouses.’ The bell struck twelve.

READER NOTE–Some of my past posts on this topic are listed below

UPDATE July 10, 2015: See recent article from the Bohemian newspaper:  Taking It to the Street

COTS Family Center…opens June 27th

Petaluma’s COTS (Committee on the Shelterless) will open the renovated COTS Family Center on June 27th…


Preparing the facility has required quite an effort by volunteers and others to make the buildings ready for use.

Today, volunteers worked on finishing touches…painting, cleaning, assembling furniture, etc.  I had the opportunity to make a few photos of today’s efforts.

8:30 am the volunteers assembled…


Then they went to work…

COTS VOlunteers

COTS Volunteers