I. An old and distinguished San Francisco family name is
Haas, associated with the clothing firm begun by Levi Strauss,
who patented denim jeans reinforced with copper rivets. I mention
this family in passing and only because of another San Franciscan
named Haas, who may or may not have been related. In 1934 Milton
Haas was vice-president of the San Francisco firm of Consolidated
Chemicals, 405 Montgomery Street. It was the Great Depression,
but Consolidated must have managed not just to survive but to
do well, as that year Milton Haas bought 35 acres just off Moody
Road in what is now Los Altos Hills.
Wanting to develop the property as a luxurious country retreat,
Haas engaged prominent San Francisco architects Albert Farr and
J. Francis Ward to design a 17-room English-style manor. It would
cost $250,000, an immense sum then. (A Tudor-style house by Farr
and Ward stands in San Francisco today, 2940 Lake Street. They
also remodeled and added to Aetna Springs Resort in St. Helena,
California.) Haas had the grounds landscaped with Norwegian blue
spruce, Italian cypress, magnolias, and other rare and famous
trees and flowers. Besides the mansion, Haas built outbuildings
and accommodations for servants, 27 of them, and for maintenance
and gardening personnel. The resulting property was one of the
most finest on the San Francisco Peninsula, where such estates
sprouted after the Gold Rush as huge fortunes were made; and lost.
II. Milton Haas had his estate just ten years. In 1945
he sold it to another San Franciscan, Henry Waxman, who owned
bakeries on Chestnut Street in Cow Hollow and Geary Boulevard
in the outer Richmond District. Waxman expanded Adobe Creek Lodge,
purchasing 28 surrounding acres. More critically, he developed
its commercial usage. He opened the grounds as a swimming club,
which was so popular that he added a second swimming pool, and
added a supper club accommodating 500 patrons.
A neighboring enterprise, picnic grounds called Shangri-la, was
purchased by one Mario Gemello, who leased it to Waxman with an
option to buy. Adobe Creek Lodge grew to 100 acres. It had parking
space for two thousand cars, barbecue facilities, an 80-foot bar,
and two outdoor dance pavilions. Some of most famous names of
the Big Band era played at Adobe Creek: Ray Anthony, Harry James,
Jimmy Dorsey, and Anson Weeks, among others. Another recreation
was gambling: roulette wheels, blackjack, and dice.
III. Like Haas's, Waxman's Adobe Creek tenure was just
10 years. In 1955, suffering health problems exacerbated by overwork,
Waxman sold Adobe Creek Lodge to still another San Francisco businessman,
restaurateur Frank Martinelli Sr. Martinelli, being Italian, was
naturally from North Beach, and was co-owner of the Bal Tabarin
Restaurant on Columbus Avenue.
Adobe Creek Lodge's outdoor setting was a challenge for Martinelli,
who had to learn the names of trees. Martinelli and son Frank
Jr. expanded Adobe Creek Lodge to include picnicking with restaurant
ambience. Patrons enjoyed fine outdoor dining without the bother
of packing food, driving, and finding parking. Menus included
things difficult or impossible for individual picnickers: charcoal
broiled sirloin, chef's salads, garlic bread, and Irish coffee.
Utensils and napkins were provided.
Under Martinelli, Adobe Creek Lodge included 5 swimming pools,
hiking trails, horseshoe pits, sunbathing lawns, basketball courts,
and baseball diamonds. Businesses, fraternal, and other organizations
patronizing Adobe Creek Lodge included Hewlett Packard, C &
H Sugar, Japan Airlines, Knights of Columbus, B'nai B'rith, and
the Shriners. A membership card offering reduced admission was
available to individuals who came with an organization. Kids frolicked
in kiddie pools and on an old fire engine and playgrounds. Martinelli
lived on the premises himself.
Its success notwithstanding, Adobe Creek Lodge's days were numbered
as an ongoing commercial operation. By the early 1950's the post-World
War II development of Santa Clara County was well underway. The
unincorporated area known as Los Altos then being administered
from San Jose, concerned citizens voted to incorporate the City
of Los Altos in December, 1952. A key feature of the city was
restriction of residential zoning to one-quarter acre parcels.
In the mid-1950's citizens in the foothills above Los Altos proposed
to incorporate what would be the city of Los Altos Hills.
To preserve a rural character, a one-acre minimum would be enforced
(author Wallace Stegner, a resident, called it saving "God's
Little Acre"). Town government would be limited to a five-member
city council and small administrative staff. There would be no
commercial zoning. Pro-incorporation citizens printed a six-page
proposal on green paper, called the "green sheets."
A special election was set for January 10, 1956. On December 30,
1955 an article in the Los Altos News about the proposed incorporation
The sole commercial operation inside Town territory, Adobe
Creek Lodge, won't get to expand, and may be harassed in more
The population of the proposed town was about 2,500, with about
1,200 were registered voters, of whom 767 went to the polls on
January 10th. The vote was closer than expected, 424 "yes"
in favor of incorporation to 339 "no."
Incorporation of Los Altos Hills with the restrictions on residential
lots and no commercial zoning did not immediately end Adobe Creek
Lodge's commercial existence. It did mean that the property would
be allowed to continue in business as a day resort under a conditional
use permit only for 20 more years. In 1976 its use would have
to conform to Los Altos Hills residential standards. When Martinelli
put the property up for sale, the use restriction was public knowledge,
but nonetheless there was a buyer.
In 1961 David Belluci and his brother Alfred, hoteliers in Marin
County, originally from Southern California, paid $1 million in
1961 for Adobe Creek Lodge. Little appears about Alfred's role
in ownership and management. David's ownership, however, lasted
almost 30 years, the longest tenure by far of any owner, and much
the most tumultuous. I venture to say that Bellucci himself was
the most controversial figure in Los Altos Hills' history.
1976 deadline notwithstanding, Belluci seemed to want to operate
the lodge indefinitely. He even expanded the operation, and was
not above playing hardball with the town of Los Altos Hills to
get his way. In 1965 he asked the town council for permission
to add a $57,000 swimming pool. Adobe Creek Lodge, now Adobe Creek
Lodge and Country Club, was supported by 250 family memberships.
These, he said, were "more desirable" than people who
come to public picnic grounds. If the lodge did not thrive, Los
Altos Hills would "have every resident from East San Jose
jamming its roads;" a not-so-subtle appeal to racial prejudice.
At some point he gave an option to purchase part of his land to
the Confederacion de la Raza Unida, a coalition of Mexican-Americans,
which was then trying to overturn the one-acre restriction on
housing (the group had already lost in federal court, but was
appealing). The specter of East San Jose residents or others moving
in on Los Altos Hills' open space, was a tactic Bellucci would
use again. Bellucci also filed suit in Santa Clara County Superior
Court challenging the town's right to end his business in 1976.
He lost, and appealed to the California State Supreme Court, which
declined to hear his case. He regularly said that if he could
not continue in business he would have no alternative but to subdivide.
Sounding like an environmentalist, he said that would be the end
of deer and quail, other wildlife, and trees.
Meanwhile the lodge acquired livery stables, carnival equipment,
tennis courts, trailers, a trap and target shooting range, the
Tally Ho Restaurant, new swimming pools, and trailer houses for
By 1970, according to one source, 8,000 people came to Adobe Creek
Lodge each Saturday and Sunday for 15 weeks out of the year. Naturally
there was resistance. One neighbor said that narrow, windy Moody
Road was so clogged with traffic during a lodge party that a normal
10-minute drive from Foothill College to her home on Moody Road
took 45 minutes. In 1969 a citizens committee had recommended
to planning commissioners that the original end date of 1976 be
adhered to. Bellucci said he was "dismayed."
In 1973, with the expiration of the use permit less than three
years away, Belluci proposed converting the Country Club into
a major tennis establishment. After speaking with Harry Likas,
president of the Tennis Patrons of Northern California (the TPNC),
Belluci said the lodge would become a nonprofit, private membership
operation that conformed to Los Altos Hills zoning. Under the
plan he would build up to 12 tennis courts, plus an amphitheater
for 3,000 spectators, a pro shop, locker rooms, and dining facilities.
Major state, regional, and national tournaments would be staged
in Los Altos Hills, like Forest Hills, New York. In May, 1973
the planning commission approved a conditional use permit for
the project by a 3-2 vote. The town council would have to give
final approval. I have not found an account of what happened next,
but it seems the tennis center failed to get the necessary approval.
1973 a Los Altos Hills group called Citizens United for a Rural
Environment (CURE), sponsored a recall campaign against town council
members Mary Davey and Lee Kubby. The two were allegedly unsupportive
of the one-acre zoning minimum, and had voted to dismiss a former
town manager. Davey and Kubby having been recalled in June, a
special election to replace them was set for September 18, 1973.
The candidates for Kubby's seat were planning commissioner Thomas
McReynolds, a former planning commissioner, a Lockheed engineer,
and David Bellucci. Bellucci appears to have spent some considerable
amount on his campaign, not to mention time and effort, but on
September 18th he ran a very poor third. McReynolds polled 1,114
votes, the runner-up 300, and Bellucci 265.
On the last day of September he got another kind of notoriety.
At a wedding party at Adobe Creek Lodge, a band named The Squeeze
was playing what Bellucci considered too loudly, and he told them
to turn down the volume. When they refused, Bellucci turned off
their power and ordered them to leave.
In the lodge parking lot there was some kind of an argument, which
ended with Bellucci firing two blasts from a shotgun. No one was
hurt, but Bellucci was arrested, charged with assault with a deadly
weapon, and booked at North Santa Clara County Jail, Palo Alto.
He was released on his own recognizance, and the case was dropped
as no formal complaint was filed.