’70s: Sketches to reality

The Yellow Bridge wasn't yet yellow – it was a rusty brown.
The Yellow Bridge (then a rusty brown) was awaiting further help in January 1971.

May 1970: An Operating Engineers official is quoted saying the commute distance for the Rancho Murieta development will be reduced by a planned freeway from Sacramento to Jackson, clipping the southern edge of the Murieta land. He says it’s expected the freeway will be ready by 1980.

August 1970: A geologic map for the new development hints at what the community will look like. The first phase of residential development, being called Unit 1, includes a number of cul-de-sac streets with names like Mora, Uva, Ardilla and Puerto. The map indicates there will be 27 holes of golf on the north side of the river.

September 1970: The Pension Trust Fund of the Operating Engineers applies to the state for 6,368 acre-feet of water annually from the Cosumnes River.

The property was a training center for Operating Engineers Local 3. This signs shows the first efforts at a logo for the development.

May 1971: Work starts on the Chesbro Dam and reservoir. For the most part, the materials for the dam are taken from the reservoir area.

August 1971: The State Water Resources Control Board grants the Murieta development 6,368 acre-feet of water annually and orders controls to provide for public access to a 50-foot strip on both sides of the river and the community’s reservoirs and lakes.

October 1971: The dedication and an open house are held for the new 18-hole golf course, which gets its first play.

You can imagine, back in November of ’71, there was nothing out here. I mean, nothing. From Sunrise Boulevard out to here, there was nothing. So we’re driving along, and he’d look out the window and say, “Turn this thing around!” … We passed Sloughhouse and he said, “Is this it?” And I said, “No, it’s farther down the road.” We finally got here. And in those days I had a key to the front gate out there, and it was a big iron gate and a mud road, which is now Murieta Parkway. … We shut the gate, drove in and saw what is now Number 11 and he said, “You got one pretty good looking hole here.” And I said, “Wait till you see the other 17.”

Claude Luke, on bringing a friend to play golf in 1971, in an interview with Marion Cravens and Dixie Eudey in May 1998.
(Claude Luke died in 2010.)

December 1971: The course’s golf shop, in a temporary metal shed, gets telephone service – and just in time. Word of the course’s quality is spreading quickly among Northern California golfers.

August 1972: Construction begins on a 40,000-square-foot clubhouse. The facilities include a dining area that can handle 400 persons at one sitting, locker rooms facilities for men and women, a man’s lounge, a modern pro shop, a therapy pool, an outdoor patio and a second dining facility for 150. In addition to the public golf course, already completed are the airport strip, lakes and reservoirs for the community. A mobile home complex is under construction.

Rancho Murieta Village was the first residential development in the community. Here's an aerial shot of the 209 pads.
The Village was the first residential development in Murieta. Here it is in February 1975.

November 1972: The Murieta Mobile Home Village – the first residential development in Rancho Murieta – opens. In addition to 209 pads, the Village includes a 4,000-square foot social center, heated pool, laundry complex and TV master antenna system.

The main thoroughfare of the Village.
This is at Murieta Drive and Poncho Conde Drive, the main thoroughfare of the Village, in the early ’70s.

November 1972: The developers submit an environmental impact report for the overall development to the county. The history portion of the report lists a number of habitation sites that had been on the property. With 18 holes of golf open for a year now, the accounting of many habitation sites reads like this – “under 7th green,” “under 6th fairway,” “under 10th fairway,” “under 18th fairway.”

February 1973: County Planning Commission members and other county officials tour what’s called “one of the county’s best known swimming holes” – where Highway 16 crosses the Cosumnes River. Ray D. Henderson, Rancho Murieta general manager, says the developers are considering creating a park on the downstream side of Highway 16 and allowing limited public access by fencing off land near the edge of the river for a mile and a half upstream of Highway 16. Henderson says the long-used swimming hole has been plagued with “thousands of beer cans” and “pot parties.”

February 1973: In hearings on plans for a river parkway along the Cosumnes, two members of the county Planning Commission refer to the Rancho Murieta development as an example of urban sprawl. Additionally, although the project plans for all streets and facilities to be privately owned and managed by a homeowners’ association, the county planners insist that there be a “back-up” system for providing service if the association should fail. A community services district is suggested.

April 1973: In an address to about 300 contractors and union officials at Rancho Murieta, Gov. Ronald Reagan calls the development “the wave of the future.” Reagan says the development has exhibited “proper conservation” of nature in its building.

April 1973: With Country Club clubhouse construction about half complete, The Bee reports development officials are speaking with pride of plans for closed-circuit TV cameras on the clubhouse roof, aimed at tees and greens in the immediate area, broadcasting to TV sets in every room of the clubhouse. The clubhouse will boast an intercom system, linking every room in the building, they say.

April 1973: The sale of 5,000 residential lots will begin in September, development officials say, and each lot will include a membership in the Country Club. Any memberships not desired by lot owners will be sold to the general public for $1,500, with monthly dues of $50, officials say.

July 1973: The development of Rancho Murieta becomes a political issue within Local 3 of the Operating Engineers, which has spent millions so far on the project. An insurgent candidate pledges to get the union out of the real estate business.

July 1973: The battle for control of the union leads to the revelation in The Bee that the local’s business manager, who’s co-chairman of the union’s pension trust fund, is one of the owners of 226 acres of land at the northwest corner of Stonehouse and Jackson roads. The Bee says the land is held by an ownership group that includes Ray D. Henderson, the Rancho Murieta development general manager, and a local pension official. Records say the land was purchased by the group for $124,500 in December 1969 – months after plans for the adjoining Rancho Murieta development were revealed. A sign on the 226 acres says it’s for sale.

October 1973: Building has begun for Rancho Murieta’s first homes, in the San Miguel Village, next to Laguna Joaquin. Recreation facilities at Laguna Joaquin include a small boat dock and a gazebo. Construction activity has stepped up since the filling of Lake Chesbro. The equestrian complex is in operation.

November 1973: The Pension Trust Fund and Country Club sign a lease for the golf course and a new one, the Michigan Bar Golf Course, to be built starting next year. The lease runs through October 2028.

November 1973: No homes are open yet in the community, but the Country Club Clubhouse is nearly complete. It’s unveiled in a two-page, full-color spread in the Bee. The first function at the new clubhouse is Thanksgiving dinner.

December 1973: The El Dorado Irrigation District annexes the Rancho Murieta development to provide water and sewage services to the community. El Dorado County officials oppose the move, saying it may not be in the best interests of residents of that county.

May 1974: Real estate sales begin. The sales office shares space with the Pro Shop. The first lot sold, 314C, just off Murieta Parkway, sells for $17,500 to businessman Fred Anderson.

The North Gate and a new sign on Jackson Road in May 1974.

July 1974: County supervisors decide to study the request by Rancho Murieta’s developers to acquire the old Highway 16 bridge. In any event, two county officials say, they would want the public to have access to the bridge.

August 1974: 24-hour security begins at the front gate, and a chief has been named to the protective force.

September 1974: An appeals court strikes down a 1971 order by the state Water Resources Control Board that required the community to allow public access to the community’s lakes.

October 1974: Developers unveil further plans for the community, including a second golf course. Among the possibilities detailed for the new course is a first hole with a tee shot across the Cosumnes from the championship tees.

Aerial photo of the North Gate.
The North Gate, with the RMA Building and townhouses on the 11th fairway, in November 1974.

October 1974: A community building – administration building and property sales office – is nearing completion on Murieta Parkway. It’s scheduled for occupancy next year.

October 1974: Construction begins on townhouses along the 11th fairway of the course.

April 1975: Construction of Clementia Dam’s 1,000-foot span is on schedule and slated for completion later this year. An estimated 200,000 cubic yards of material will be required to complete the 33-foot-high structure.

May 1975: The Country Club is adding tennis – six courts are presently under construction.

June 1975: County officials approve a 100-foot strip of open space along the Cosumnes through Rancho Murieta. Environmentalists had fought for up to 400 feet. Says a supervisor who voted against the narrower strip: “This is a complete and total sell-out. You’re selling the Cosumnes River for 40 pieces of silver.”

October 1975: A barbecue buffet for property owners and guests marks the opening of Rancho Murieta’s new $155,000 tennis facility – six lighted courts.

June 1976: The Country Store opens, with a general store, gas pumps and a post office substation. A publicity photo shows two women on horses being handed their bags of groceries. At about the same time, mail-delivery service begins to the community’s homes. Deliveries are handled by the community’s security force.

The first water-treatment plant, on Lake Chesbro, under construction in the mid-1970s.

August 1976: The community’s ultramodern $900,000 water-treatment plant is dedicated and turned over to the El Dorado Irrigation District.

September 1976: The first Concours d’Elegance brings more than 175 classic automobiles and 3,000 people to the driving range.

November 1976: In a project of landscape design on a large scale, tons of soil, multi-ton boulders and eight 20-foot oaks are arranged artfully around the townhouses at Laguna Joaquin.

April 1977: Dedication ceremonies are held for the community’s second golf course, to be built on gold-dredged land on the south side of the Cosumnes. It will be named the River Golf Course – not the Michigan Bar Golf Course, as once planned – and it’s expected to be open for play late next year.

June 1977: There were more home sites and homes sold in the first three months of this year than were sold in the last 2 1/2 years since the development opened, the developers report. The community’s project manager, Ray D. Henderson, attributes the increase to an influx of builders, contractors and home buyers from the Bay Area.

October 1977: The first Murieta Music Festival takes place over a weekend, with a mix of music and dance performances. About 10,000 people attend.

March 1978: County officials express frustration over negotiations with Rancho Murieta developers on the issue of public access to the Cosumnes River, according to The Bee. One disagreement is said to be over control of the old Highway 16 bridge, which the county acquired from the state. The developers want to use the bridge to get golfers across the river. The county wants to retain at least a public right of way.

March 1978: The community’s developers announce that first-run movies – shown in their entirety and without interruptions – are being offered on Channel 4. They say Murieta is “the first planned development in Northern California to offer its homeowners complimentary premier movies, special sporting events and musical performances via satellite.” The arrangement is by contract with a company called Home Box Office. The company’s signals originate in New York, are sent to a satellite 23,000 miles in space, and then sent down to a receiver on this end.

The Country Club added an overnight Lodge and Executive Conference Center, which along the way became the Villas. This, taken from an early brochure, is the Villas Clubhouse in its first incarnation.

September 1978: The Country Club Lodge and Executive Conference Center opens, offering 76 guest rooms and a lodge on five acres at Alameda Drive and Murieta Parkway. Some of the units face the course’s 18th fairway. Companies like AT&T, IBM, Del Monte, Xerox and Standard Oil of California schedule conferences in the opening months of operation.

October 1978: After a petition effort by community residents, the U.S. Postal Service says it will recognize “Rancho Murieta, CA” as a postal destination.

The second Murieta Music Festival, which was headlined by Mason Williams, occured in October 1978.

October 1978: More than 17,000 people attend the second Murieta Music Festival, which takes place over a weekend. Performances are offered on three stages — on the driving range, the 18th fairway and the Country Club Terrace. The headline act is Grammy winner Mason Williams.

The South Course is under construction in August 1978.

November 1978: The community’s second 18-hole golf course is seeded in advance of winter rain. It will open next year.

November 1978: The Niners hold their first handicap tournament, followed by brunch and a cocktail party at a member’s waterfront townhouse.

November 1978: Club dues: $60 for golf members, $12 for social members. Outsider greens fees: $12 weekdays, $14 weekends. Cart fees are $14.

December 1978: The County Board of Supervisors approves an agreement with Rancho Murieta’s developers in which the subdivision will turn over some land for public use in exchange for possession of the old Highway 16 bridge. The Bee reports public access to river areas around Jackson Road has been debated for years and the debate included the bridge. The developers want the bridge for private use and to join the subdivision across the river. The agreement gives the bridge to the developers, but they will be required to build a cantilevered projection for a public walkway.

December 1978: With Unit 1 homesites sold out for nearly a year now, a five-hour auction is held for the 352 lots of Unit 2, which covers 130 acres near the golf course and through heavily wooded terrain. About 250 homesites are sold, some of them by lottery. Among the site-lottery winners is Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays. He picks a lot next to the golf course. Several days later, development officials say they have discovered Mays failed to do some necessary paperwork and has been disqualified from the lottery.

December 1978: As 1978 draws to a close, Rancho Murieta Properties Inc. reports the community has 275 residents, including 60 children. The average adult resident is 45 years old. RMPI says Rancho Murieta was designed to have 5,000 homes and 15,000 residents.

February 1979: All 351 lots in Unit 2 have sold, officials say, at prices ranging from $16,500 to $55,000.

April 1979: With Unit 2 adding more than 300 members, the Country Club announces plans to expand the 19th Hole lounge and to build a 2,000-square-foot Parasol Room. The plans call for the outdoor patio to be enclosed in glass. The old highway bridge across the Cosumnes will be refurbished, painted and lighted by summer to handle traffic to the new course, which is nearing completion across the river.

May 1979: Nine holes of the South Course are opened for a news-media preview. It’s expected the full 18 holes will open in the fall.

July 1979: Sacramento County’s supervisors end months of squabbling by voting to accept a deed from Rancho Murieta’s developers for 136 acres of land along the Cosumnes River. The land is intended to be a park. The developers offered the land in exchange for certain rights, including ownership of the old Highway 16 bridge. The bridge, which has been black, is being born again a distinct shade of yellow.

September 1979: The South Course celebrates its grand opening with a day of golf as well as food and music on the Yellow Bridge, which is outfitted with tables and chairs for the event.

September 1979: The third Murieta Music Festival is offered over a weekend. The headliner is guitarist/singer Jose Feliciano. Tickets are $7 for adults and $3 for children.

October 1979: The Sacramento County Project Planning Commission rejects a request to rezone and subdivide Murieta Village. If the change had been approved, residents would have been forced to buy their lots or move.