The 20th Century History of Sequoyah Hills
Of Country Clubs, Psychiatric Hospitals, and Real Estate Developers
by John Herrero
Sequoyah Hills was once part of the 43,000-acre Rancho San Antonio granted to Luis Peralta by the last Spanish governor of California in 1820. The original rancho, sweeping from San Leandro Creek in the south to Albany Hill in the north, was later divided by Don Luis among his three sons. The southernmost division passed to Ygnacio Peralta and encompassed the area generally known as the San Leandro hills.
Following the Gold Rush of 1849 and subsequent U.S. takeover of California, the old Spanish land grants were either sold off or simply lost to squatters. The San Leandro hills remained a quiet wilderness until the establishment of the rival Sequoyah Hills and Oak Knoll country clubs in the early years of the twentieth century. The name Sequoyah Hills was adopted by an adjacent housing tract, envisioned as a haven for wealthy club patrons. Despite its early grandeur, the Oak Knoll Country Club finally went bankrupt during the Depression and sat unused until the onset of World War II.
The Hospital Era
The United States Navy, seeking to build a large hospital within easy reach of its Alameda station, acquired Oak Knoll and several surrounding properties in 1942. The first cluster of six ward buildings, plus existing facilities of the former country club, opened as the Oakland Naval Hospital on July 1. Though its complement of redwood buildings was steadily increased, the influx of patients requiring specialized psychiatric care mandated construction of a sister medical complex.
The San Leandro Naval Hospital opened in 1944 on a gently sloped plateau overlooking its sibling—in the precise spot occupied by our homes today! Consisting of 26 wards, its unpainted redwood structures housed 1,500 wounded plus medical staff. San Leandro Hospital served the needs of neuropsychiatric patients throughout World War II and was recommissioned in 1951 to receive casualties of the Korean War.
The First Decommissioning
To help finance a modern, multi-story hospital at Oak Knoll, the Navy eventually sold San Leandro Hospital to developers Eichler and Brown & Kauffmann in 1964. The naval buildings were cleared, the land was extensively re-graded and filled and home construction commenced. The only access to the new development was Sequoyah Road, a winding drive up through the older residential area hugging the country club.
In 1970, Keller Avenue was extended up into the hills, creating a direct route between our community and the MacArthur Freeway. With the sale of the last of 264 lots in 1971, control of the Sequoyah Hills Homeowners Association passed from the developers to us, the residents. We plan to take good care of our beautiful plateau in the hills for many years to come!