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History of San Luis Obispo 7History of San Luis Obispo 7 Joseph A. Carotenuti City Historian/Archivist The County Seat’s administrative center was in the “building adjoining the Church” and today is known as the convento wing facing Mission Plaza and included a jail. County affairs would soon move to Captain William G. Dana’s Casa Grande (built along today’s Court Street) until the first courthouse was built in 1873 on the site of the current judicial center. There was no Town Hall – and would not be one – until a few years later. In the meanwhile, officials met in a home, business, and - once built - in the County building. Ranchos still occupied great expanses of the county but functioned with a minimal number of families and vaqueros. Towns, on the other hand, thrive through businesses that require patrons. A great theme in these pioneer municipal years is increasing the population who would them require more goods and services. They also enlarged the tax base and revenue. Thus, civic governance required more revenue that required more population. For a county located south of the economic center of the State…San Francisco…luring residents was not an easy task. Surrounding the economic imperatives – then and now – was an orderly and stable municipal government. With the State prescribing many of the statutes for municipalities, minimal attention was given to the evolution of the community. In this writer’s History of San Luis Obispo 1850 to 1876, the major incorporations of the town are more fully detailed, but suffice to write here, there were several major pieces of legislation before we became a city in 1876. While the State provided legislation for towns to become incorporated in March 1850, it was the responsibility of the local residents to comply with the law’s requirements. As the County seat had its own governance, there were few interested or able to comply with the state requisites. Various re-incorporations until cityhood changed the community’s administration and taxing authority. In a future installment, we’ll explore some of the ramifications of the first federal survey requiring the small town to purchase itself from Washington, D. C! Since the Federal Land Commission rejected the local claim that we had been a pueblo under Mexican rule and no local petitions were made for the settlement to become incorporated, it was not until February 19, 1856 (six years after statehood) that the rural crossroad was declared a “town” in a very brief legislative act. The major requirement in this legislation was the annual election of three men as a Board of Trustees (one chosen as president) who served without compensation. Additionally, without voter approval (2/3 majority), the Board could not contract for debt in excess of $500. Any other decisions were to comply with the original 1850 act. This legislation was repealed two years later. Since no new legislative act was substituted, the “Town of San Luis Obispo” ceased to exist until the citizenry decided to return to the 1850 legislation and form their own official community. In yet another chapter in the ongoing saga of municipal identity, it required another legislative act to change the complexion and intensity of governance while the Nation was involved in a punishing Civil War. Contact: jacarotenuti@gmail.com