Grass Valley looks to the future |

Grass Valley looks to the future

As a fourth-generation resident of Nevada County with roots going back to the Cornish miners, I am honored to serve Grass Valley as a council member and its current mayor. Grass Valley is a wonderful place, with its remarkable history, powerful sense of community, inherent natural beauty, exceptional quality of life and healthy economy.

As a city, we are working to retain those qualities that make Grass Valley so great while addressing the challenges that California brings, such as development and traffic. To do so, the city is planning for the future.

This is the first in a series of Other Voices columns about the city and its plans for the future to help the community better understand its efforts, opportunities and challenges. These columns will focus on the following:

1. Our city

2. Future goals

3. Downtown

4. Special Development Areas

5. Traffic

6. Water and wastewater

7. Housing and redevelopment

8. Public safety

9. Parks and recreation

10. Planning for the future

I hope that you will find each of these articles informative and worthwhile reading. Your feedback is welcome by phone (274-4310), e-mail ( or mail (125 East Main St., Grass Valley, CA 95945).

To know where you are going, you need to realize where you have been. A year after the 1849 Gold Rush began, a prospector discovered gold-bearing quartz here. The nearby grassy valley was an easy place to put up buildings. As the number of miners grew, what was originally called Centerville soon became a trading center named Grass Valley.

Hard-rock mining, with its miles of tunnels, shafts and abundant gold, drew miners from Cornwall and Ireland. The population grew, and the community stabilized with the proceeds generated by the mines and related trade. Three of the most productive gold mines in California were Grass Valley’s Empire, Northstar and the Idaho-Maryland.

After several fires decimated the town, the Grass Valley Volunteer Fire Department was organized in 1858 and the buildings along Mill and Main streets were reconstructed with brick. Though its first town election was held in 1850, efforts to successfully incorporate Grass Valley as a city finally succeeded in 1893.

Although Grass Valley sailed through the Depression, the mines were temporarily closed in World War II and were unable to successfully regain their footing afterwards, due to increased production costs and the fixed price of gold. Logging, and more recently, high tech, tourism and retirement, became the principal economic forces.

The city has grown to where it now provides a wide array of goods, services and housing. Grass Valley’s sense of place emanates from Mill Street and Main Street in the heart of its historic downtown. Though it contains only four square miles and has a population of 12,000, Grass Valley is the economic center of western Nevada County and has a much larger daily population. Its density and range of uses are possible due to the availability of domestic water and sewer services.

Grass Valley continues to grow, albeit slowly. The city has grown approximately 2 percent a year over the last 10 years, having a population of 9,048 in 1990 to 12,000 residents in 2004. Some of this growth is attributable to annexation of inhabited unincorporated county areas like Glenbrook.

Grass Valley is a charter city, while Nevada City is governed by general laws. With a charter, the voters approve a city’s structure.

Grass Valley is governed by a five-member council. Council members serve staggered four-year terms and are elected at the November general election. The terms of council members Steve Enos, DeVere Mautino and Linda Stevens expire this year, while Gerard Tassone and I will serve through 2006.

The council selects one of its members to serve a two-year term as mayor and another as vice mayor (currently DeVere Mautino). The council meets at 7 p.m. the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month in the City Hall Council Chambers.

The council appoints a five-member Planning Commission, which meets at 7 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month, as well as a Historical Commission, Parks and Recreation Commission and Personnel Commission. Council and Planning Commission meetings are broadcast “live” on Comcast Channel 14 and rebroadcast at 7 p.m. on the following Friday and Sunday.

Grass Valley is a full-service city with 110 employees organized into six departments (Police, Fire, Public Works, Community Development, Finance and Administration).

We have touched on “Our City.” The next column will focus on its future.

Patti Ingram is the mayor of Grass Valley.

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