Woodland’s origins as an agricultural community date back to the early 1850s and today there’s still a focus on that field.
In addition, Woodland is experiencing growth and development due to an influx of new residents who are attracted by its uniqueness and quality of life, said city manager Paul Navazio.
“It’s very neighborly, very friendly and low key. Folks really love it. People care about their community and care about their neighbors and many have deep roots in Woodland going back several generations,
Kristy Wright, Woodland Chamber of Commerce CEO, said Woodland is going through a major growth spurt.
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“Housing is underway, companies are expanding and it seems like a new restaurant and a unique retail shop is opening every day.”
Don Sharp, owner of RE/MAX Woodland, said that while originally most people located in Woodland because of the agriculture, today, people choose Woodland because it’s close to their jobs in Davis, the University of California or downtown Sacramento. It’s also within 90 minutes of many locations — San Francisco, the coast and mountains.
“Woodland still has a small-town atmosphere,” Sharp said. “Now we’re seeing an agricultural revival.”
“Woodland is ground zero for agriculture,” Navazio said. “And we’re experiencing success in new jobs and employment.”
Food operations include a tomato processing plant, San Francisco Spice and an Australian olive oil producer.
The new Woodland Research and Technology Park in the southern part of town — “A stone’s throw from UCD” — will be mixed use with research and technology.
“We’re working on beefing up the long-term economic development strategy with a focus on food and agriculture,” Navazio said.
Fifty businesses that make up a core cluster are helping companies expand and grow.
Yolo County has the best agricultural lands anywhere, Navazio said. The community has an AgStart incubator program to help agricultural start-ups get off the ground.
Woodland has many attractions and an interesting history that’s reflected in a popular event — the Sept. 9 Stroll Through History.
Navazio said, “People walk through Woodland’s downtown and tour historic homes.”
Other events include the first California Honey Festival which attracted 10,000 people, the Tomato Festival, First Friday Art Walks and First Sunday Food Truck Mania.
“The events have taken hold and people look forward to them,” Navazio said.
The renovated State Theater celebrated a grand opening in June in the historic downtown. It has 10 screens in a state-of-the-art multiplex main auditorium that has been restored with artwork on the ceiling, historic-style sconces and other art deco features.
“It has the largest movie screens in the region,” Navazio said. “Beer, wine and food will be served in the theater.”
Plans are in the works for a light music and performing arts venue in one of Woodland’s historic buildings, a place dubbed “The Tree House.” Woodland is the city of trees, Navazio said.
On the horizon is a new extended stay Hilton Hotel across from the Yolo County Courthouse. Newer restaurants downtown include Morgan’s on Main Street, Father Paddy’s and ethnic eateries, Navazio said.
Also new is Dignity Health Medical near Costco.
For recreation, Sharp said Woodland’s many programs include soccer and football which are drawing regional tournaments. There are golf courses, an aquatics center and activities for all ages from youth to seniors.
Several performances are scheduled for Woodland’s Opera House which is a California State Historical Landmark.
The annual Yolo County Fair will be held Aug. 16-20 at the fairgrounds in Woodland.
Elementary, middle and high schools are within the Woodland Joint Unified School District. Upper level schools include Woodland and Pioneer high schools, Woodland Community College, nearby UC Davis and Carrington College, said Sharp, who grew up in the school system in Woodland.
“There’s pretty robust housing construction activity, mostly in Spring Lake on the southeast corner of town,” Navazio said. “Home pricing compared to other communities is affordable.”
Developments were approved prior to the recent real estate recession when construction slowed. Now it has picked up again.
In Spring Lake, 1,000 units are constructed; 1,500 remain to be built. Builders include Lennar, Meritage Homes, and, in Spring Lake Central, D.R. Horton, Richmond American and Taylor Morrison.
The new general plan calls for a strong emphasis on infill development and affordability, Navazio said.
“We pride ourselves on the level of diversity, both social and economic, all facets,” Navazio said.
About 80 homes currently are on the resale market. That tends to be on the low side, Sharp said.
Prices start at $200,000 for an entry-level condominium and up to and surpassing about $1 million for acreage. The highest sale this year was $2.3 million for country property.
The median price is $360,000.
“The demand for homes now is pretty strong,” Sharp said. “Since the downturn in 2007-2011, it’s been in the recovery mode and it’s in a fairly strong recovery. Woodland is a great market.”
Tinka Davi is a freelance writer and editor based in Folsom.
Where: 20 miles west of Sacramento
Size: 14.5 square miles
Government: City Council/City Manager
County: Yolo County Seat
A Look Back
Woodlands origins as an agricultural community can be traced to the early 1850s when Henry Wyckoff settled in a dense grove of oak trees and opened a small store. Other businesses located in the area, including a store owned by Major F.S. Freeman who offered free lots to those who would clear land and build homes.
The Yolo City settlement was established and became an important agricultural center.
It also grew as a community. In 1861, Freeman gained permission to build a federal post office in the town and Yolo City was renamed Woodland. In 1862, the Yolo County seat was transferred from Washington (now the city of West Sacramento) to Woodland.
The city incorporated in 1871.
Money from California’s gold fields financed the purchase and cultivation of much of the farmland around Woodland and a variety or crops were grown: tobacco, peanuts, grapes, rice, sugar beets, various grains and row crops. Wineries and livestock were also important agricultural operations.
The city’s history is reflected in several destinations on the National Register of Historic Places. Among those are the Downtown Woodland Historic District, the Woodland Opera House, also a California Historical Landmark, Dead Cat Alley where Woodland began as Yolo City, the Yolo County Courthouse, Gibson House, the historic mansion that’s now a museum, and the Woodland Public Library, California’s oldest-working Carnegie library.