Sep 092008

A Short History of the Diamond A on Sonoma Mountain

Diamond A sonoma Mountain

The largest subdivision on Sonoma Mountain is known as “Diamond A,” a rural residential community accessed via Grove Street on the SE slope of the mountain. How did this 1,200 acres transition from Miwok hunting grounds to a subdivision of 240 parcels during the past two centuries? Who were the central characters in this history? Was there any public oversight of the subdivision process? Or, was it driven purely by private financial interests? Could it happen again in the 21st century?

In 1769, when the Miwok Indians of the Sonoma Coast first came in contact with Europeans, they numbered about 1500 and their hunting grounds included all of Sonoma Mountain. By 1930, the Miwok numbered about 500, and the mountain had been divided into parcels, and passed through various owners. The coyotes that the Miwok believed to be their ancestor and creator god still prowl the mountain and howl near the ridgeline at night, ignoring the artificial boundaries that have been placed on the land.

From 1834 to 1857 the southern portion of Sonoma Mountain from the Petaluma River to Sonoma Creek was part of “Rancho Petaluma,” a land grant to General Mariano Vallejo. By 1866, when the “Rowe” survey was recorded, the 66,000 acres had been split into many parcels – some sold by General Vallejo, others taken by Anglo squatters.

The 1897 Illustrated Atlas show the unmistakable shape of what was to become Diamond A Ranch, labeled “Henry A. Hardin 1240 acres.” Henry Andrew Hardin was born in Kentucky in 1833, joined an ox team train setting out from Missouri in 1852, and came to Sonoma County. He bought and sold various parcels before buying the 1,240-acre ranch in 1877 from Edward Halloran, which he owned until his death in 1920. After his death, three of his daughters sold the ranch to the Felder family in 1934.

The Felder family owned the ranch briefly and then sold it to the Berrien Anderson family in 1938. In 1961 Anderson sold the ranch for $400,000 to developers Thomas Burke and Jack Fisher.

~Helen Bates

Oct 092007

The Galvin Triangle G Ranch

triangle g ranch petaluma sonoma mountain

The Ranch

The Triangle G (Galvin) Ranch consisted of six parcels which stretched about six miles along the southern ridge of Sonoma Mountain from south of the Route 116 at an elevation of less than 400ft to the northern highest point of 1946 feet about one mile south of the top of Sonoma Mountain. John Galvin bought the Circle W Ranch from George and Mildred Webb in 1954. That Ranch, plus additional parcels later purchased, was known as the Triangle G Ranch. John Galvin, an Australian, worked in Asia for many years as a newspaper reporter. After World War II he got involved in commercial ventures in Asia and ended up making an estimated $375 million. Galvin brought his wife and five children to Woodside, California in 1952 according to San Francisco Chronicle articles. John Galvin is deceased and his five children now own the ranch.

Proposed Subdivision

In December, 1996, Redwood California LTD, a Galvin property managed by Bill Brittain, applied to Sonoma County to subdivide five parcels and place 34 building lots in the northern area clustered along the ridge line from 1200 feet of elevation to 1900 feet of elevation where they would be visible from both sides of the mountain. The applicant requested: amendment of the County General Plan, change in zoning, exemption from the regulations governing clustering, and transferring housing destiny into a scenic landscape area. These were among the many problems with the proposed subdivision, which they called the White Oak Estates.


In 1997 a committee of volunteer residents of Sonoma Mountain was formed with Ray Barron, Chairman, Stephen Pavy, Treasurer, and John Barinaga, Secretary, to lead opposition to the ridge-top development. There was widespread opposition to the subdivision. The committee met periodically with Supervisor Mike Cale who was clear in his opinion that the proposed projects should not be allowed because it would set a very bad precedent. On February 2, 1997, the Petaluma City Council voted unanimously to ask the County Board of Supervisors not to approve the project as proposed. On February 19, 1997 the Sonoma City Council voted unanimously to go on record with the County Board of Supervisors not to amend the General Plan or zoning to allow such a development.

On April 29, 1997, the Sonoma County Planning Commission held a public hearing on the Galvin application. About a dozen people from the public spoke on the issue. All speakers, except Mr. Morrison, the developer, spoke in opposition to the project for specific reasons. The committee, the George Ranch representative and Sonoma Mountain Preservation, all presented written analysis of the non-compliance aspects of the application

Revision with Park Proposal

A revision to the White Oak Estates project was submitted to Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department in March 2000. The revised proposal offered to dedicate 394 acres of the Galvin Ranch for a park and offered to sell an additional 266 acres at a price to be negotiated on exchange for the County’s granting of permission for the 34 home subdivision on the ridge of Sonoma Mountain (in violation of the County General Plan) and the County’s provision of the access road by extending Manor Lane. The Environmental Impact Report revision was never completed because the applicant failed to provide funding.

The OSD Offer to Purchase

With the spring of 2001 came the good news that the Galvin family would consider selling the bulk of Triangle G Ranch rather than developing it. The Sonoma County Open Space District and the California Coastal Conservancy confirmed in April that they were in negotiations to acquire most of the 1746-acre ranch. Since the original application for subdivision was submitted to the county, the parcel south of State Gulch Road was sold and another 96 acres were leased to the UCC Vineyards Group and planted in grapes.

In January 2002 the Open Space District offer to buy 1626 acres to the Galvin family with the right to build two homes. This ended our hopes, and the hopes of the county supervisors, that the threat of ridge top development would end with the purchase. We do not know what the Galvin family will do with the ranch in the future. Presently the ranch is used for cattle grazing and for grape growing.

~John Barinaga, Sonoma Mountain Preservation