15 Things You Never Knew About Sea Ranch…
- Everyone loves the Sea Ranch Sheep and how they keep the grassy meadows trimmed. Did you know The Sea Ranch first began employing the sheep in July 1977? The sheep first grazed at Unit 1 and Sea Ranchers were reminded to control their dogs so as not to frighten them. The Sea Ranch Sheep are still at it today. You can find their whereabouts at www.thesearanchsheep.com.
- Out here on the Sonoma Coast, one can’t take medical care for granted. Thankfully, in 1977 the Redwood Coast Medical Services (RCMS)was established. The first physician to practice at RCMS was Dr. Donovan O. Cooke. Prior to coming to RCMS, Dr.Cooke was the Marin County Coroner and caught up in the controversy surrounding the shooting of a San Quentin inmate, George Jackson, a Black Panther member and one of the so-called Soledad Brothers.
- What unit are you in at The Sea Ranch? It’s a common question. The unit numbers were initially established by the developer of The Sea Ranch, Oceanic Properties. By January 1978, there was a movement afoot to rename the units with neighborhood style names. Suggestions were solicited but for unknown reasons, the neighborhood names never caught on. Today, we still use the Unit/Block/Lot system formulated by Oceanic.
- The Walk-in Cabins, if you’re not familiar, are a charming if quirky group of Sea Ranch homes. They were designed by a young and then unknown architect, Obie Bowman. At approximately 600 square feet each, the Cabins are sided with redwood and feature large skylights over their sleeping lofts. Built in 1973 at a cost of $11,000 each, they sold for $18,000. Obie Bowman still practices architecture, lives in the Dry Creek area near Healdsburg, and visits The Sea Ranch from time to time.
- The Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) is integral to the safety of The Sea Ranch. Every Memorial Day weekend beginning in 1974, the VFD hosts a hotdog and hamburger barbecue to raise funds. The highlight of the afternoon is always the boys versus girls tug of war and after 40 odd years, the girls apparently have the lead in the annual competition.
- Sea Ranchers were saddened by the recent vandalism at The Sea Ranch Chapel, but there has been prior criminal activity at the spiritual center. In 1985, a purported bomb was found in the Chapel. The Sonoma County bomb squad removed the device and the Sheriff’s Department conducted an investigation. As of 2017, the investigation has apparently yielded no results.
- The security of Sea Ranchers has long been a priority. In December 1988, the existence of an “aggressive pheasant” was reported in Unit 24. Said pheasant was reportedly attacking residents. The pheasant was humanely caught and removed from The Sea Ranch. No forwarding address for the bird was available.
- Building on the ten miles of coast was controversial from the inception of The Sea Ranch. By 1976 the California legislature passed the Coastal Act which created the California Coastal Commission. A long moratorium on new homes was punctuated with negotiations between the Commission, The Sea Ranch developer, and The Sea
Ranch Association. It was only in 1980 that the Legislature passed the Bane Bill which broke the stalemate and allowed construction to resume.
- Can we imagine our lives without computers? The Sea Ranch Association was an early adopter when it purchased its first computer in 1980. Cost of that first computer? $15,065. By 1989, the Association needed to upgrade the computer system and spent $64,090 to do so. Fast forward to 2017 and The Sea Ranch owns its own state of the art fiber optic system, Sea Ranch Connect, at a cost of approximately $5 million. You can still pass a written note to your neighbor at TSRA meetings for free.
- Always at the cutting edge, The Sea Ranch, with the help of Levi Strauss, put on a fashion show at the Knipp-Stengel barn in 1968. The show was followed by a prime rib dinner and a barn dance. Attendees were charged a whopping $5 per person (that would be $35.61 today). Still a pretty good deal.
- Sea Ranchers have always been generous folk and few as generous as Dr. Robert and Mrs. Betty Buffum. The Buffums donated funds and land for The Sea Ranch Chapel which the TSRA Board accepted in 1983. The Chapel was designed by James Hubbell and dedicated on December 8, 1985. Seems like it’s always been a
part of the Ranch, doesn’t it?
- The need for cell phone service at The Sea Ranch had become a painful necessity by the mid-90s. The Board realized that the desire of Sea Ranchers for reliable cell service was “overwhelming”. In 1995, the Board unanimously agreed that a cell service provider should be “actively pursued”.
- There are heroes at The Sea Ranch too. Dr. J.S. Woodruff, the first resident physician at The Sea Ranch, was an expert roper and cliff climber. In the early days of The Sea Ranch, he responded to emergency “cliff” calls for coast rescues on a 24/7 basis! For his brave service, he was recognized with the annual Sea Ranch Award (now called Sea Rancher of the Year) in 1975.
- One year after the Summer of Love, the first wedding took place at The Sea Ranch in 1968. Jane Whiteside, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Whiteside, married William Hemberger at the Whiteside’s Sea Ranch home. Another Sea Ranch resident, Reverend Donald Baldwin, officiated. We don’t have any information on when the first divorce happened.
- Every Sea Rancher’s favorite number is 95497. Although the ZIP code system began in 1963, it wasn’t until June 1972 that The Sea Ranch was assigned its own number.