Sausalito Is Sinking

For anyone who is Spanish-impaired, I give you the word: sauzalito. Lovely, isn’t it? Say it a few times, slowly and revel in the Ricardo Montalban impersonation that is slowly taking you over. Once youve cycled through the soft Corinthian leather phase of Montalbans career, Id like to make clear sauzalito means the small willow grove.” So what, you say? Fair enough. But, if you ever find yourself at the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, you will thank me for the ten minutes of small talk this piece has bought you.

Once known as “Rancho del Sausalito” (hurry and get the Montalban out of your system), the city of Sausalito enjoys a distinction few cities can boast of: its partially submerged. Hows that? Well, in 1868 the city had plans to follow San Franciscos example and expand the citys perimeters with landfills (see, also, Manhattan). Well, that landfill never got filled and several streets have since ended up under the Richardson Bay.

A watery fate the Spanish could never have imagined a hundred years earlier. Though the Spanish, specifically Don Jose de Canizares, had settled the Bay Area in 1775, their emphasis was fortifying Mission Dolores and the Presidio in San Francisco. Sausalito would not enjoy ” if thats the right word ” development until the late 1800s, when its plentiful timber would make its way to the shipyards of the boom-time Bay.

William Richardson, an Englishman by way of Mexico, managed to marry into Don Ignacio Martnez’s family and was awarded the tract of land that is present-day Sausalito. Nice work if you can get it, and not a bad wedding present to be sure. During and after the Gold Rush, Sausalito managed to attract a number of artists and celebrities who appreciated the towns picturesque qualities. A few names of note are Alan Watts, the purveyor of Zen Buddhism, Shel Silverstein, the poet, Otis Redding (who composed Sitting on the Dock of the Bay whilst doing just that), and the newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst.

With the hills of Marin County on one side and the San Francisco Bay on the other, Sausalito remains a popular tourist attraction. Barring the submerged parts of the city, it is easy to see how someone could scour the Sausalito hotels, bunk down, and never decide to leave. It is a perfect counterpoint to the bustle and congestion of San Francisco and though the cost of living may be too rich for some, it is always available to vacationers and tourists eager to sit on the dock of the bay and waste the time away. Indeed, Mr. Redding. Indeed.

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