City of Riverside California City of Riverside California Human Resources
:: City History

The Beginnings

The City of Riverside's rich heritage begins with the original residents of the area, the Cahuilla and Serrano Indian tribes, and continues with a Spanish expedition in 1774 led by Captain Juan Bautista de Anza, who sought to chart a colonization route. Mexican and Spanish settlers poured into the area to establish ranchos, presidios, and missions.

In 1844, Juan Bandini sold 6,700 acres, a considerable portion of what is today downtown Riverside, to Louis Rubidoux, a former fur trapper, who then started a cattle and grain ranch. In 1870, John W. North solicited investors to found the Southern California Colony Association and laid out a mile-square town site, originally called Jurupa. In 1871, the name was changed to Riverside.

Riverside's climate and landscape were found to be perfect for citrus crops. The success of these crops prompted a steady flow of agriculturalists and investors into the area who hoped to profit from the new citrus industry. The citrus industry also attracted numerous communities of immigrants; Chinese, Japanese, and Mexican workers flooded into the area hoping to acquire their own fortunes. At the turn of the century, Riverside contained the most successful agricultural cooperative in the world, the California Fruit Growers Exchange (Sunkist), which was the home of a superior research institution, the Citrus Experimentation Station, positioning Riverside to become the world’s center for citrus machinery production.

A Charter City

By the turn of the century, Riverside had become an incorporated city of 8,000. In 1907, by a vote of the people, it became a charter city instituting a Mayor-Council form of government. This charter was modified in 1929 and further amended in 1934 and 1949.

In 1950, prompted by growth in population and operating problems, a community-wide effort developed to establish a new City Charter. A City Board of Freeholders was elected in August 1951 to address the problems. A new Charter implementing the Council-Manager form of government was adopted in 1952 and ratified by the State Legislature in 1953.

In 1981, 1986, 1996 and 2007, the Charter was clarified and updated, but still maintains the 1952 governmental framework. The Mayor and 7-member elected City Council formulate City policy and the City Manager executes the policy.

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