Facts About Foster City from a Foster

T. Jack Foster, Jr.'s book tells the story of how Foster City came to be.



T. Jack Foster, Jr. kept hearing things about the history of Foster City that were just plain wrong. So he wanted to set the record straight.

Who else to tell the real story but one of the founding fathers?

Foster, Jr. started writing "The Development of Foster City" (Xlibris) in 2001, put it away for a while bit kept coming back to it. He decided it was worth finishing.

"Every now and then I would read some tidbit that was all wring," Foster, Jr. said. "It was kind of irritating."

There are two other informative books on Foster City worth reading. The first, "A New Town Comes of Age," contains the best biography of T. Jack Foster, the man who created the vision that became Foster City with one simple sentence. The book was designed and printed by the Foster City Chamber of Commerce.

The second book, "Foster City," was created by the Foster City Historical Society. Foster, Jr. wrote the foreword to it.

Foster, Jr's book goes into greater detail on issues that shaped the city, behind-the-scene looks at a past that nearly proved fatal to Foster City's future.

The Foster's came west from Oklahoma, when the family business expanded. Foster, Jr. was in Hawaii, his dad in Pebble Beach, and two other brothers were overseeing other businesses.

"Our dad asked us to get together and work on a project together," Foster, Jr. said. "We looked at properties between Sacramento and Santa Cruz and this one caught our attention. We were intrigued with the possibility and hired some engineers and planners. My dad asked them what we could do with it."

History was made when Foster turned to his sons after getting an answer from the engineers and said simply, "let's build a town and call it Foster City."

The book becomes the best source of information, revealing several things for the first time. It explains that while the area, then known as Brewers Island, was a marshland at one time, it was a huge hay field when the Foster's first set foot there.

Levees had been built about 1900 to claim the land from the bay. It took years to dry out, and there was still 60 to 90 feet of mud underneath in the 1960s.

"We just didn't know it could not be done," Foster, Jr. said. "So we just went ahead and found a way to do it."

When I lived in Foster City, during the late 1980s, it was common knowledge that an earthquake would spell disaster for the city. When the Loma Prieta quake struck in October of 1989, my separate garage was a mess but nothing inside the condo had been disturbed.

The reason is in the book, along with revelations about many things involved in putting the city together.

Foster, Jr. still walks around the parks of the city, referring to Leo J. Ryan Park by its original name, Central Park.

"I think Foster City has the best parks and streets in San Mateo County," Foster, Jr. said. "We have a great Parks Department here."

The Foster family has had nothing to do with the city's progress since 1970, though they maintained business interests.

"We had high expectations," Foster, Jr. said. "I'm pleased the way it turned out. The city manager from 1977 on, Rick Wykoff, has done a first class job in keeping it going."

Wykoff spent 17 years as the city manager, retiring in 1994. He has since served on the city council, served as mayor and was twice the vice mayor.

Foster, Jr. will be signing copies of his book at the Foster City Recreation Center on Wednesday between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.

The book is available through Amazon or Xlibris Corporation.

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