Cotati – bohemian, eclectic, community-minded, hotspot for students and musicians. Still in keeping with its reputation of a scrappy free-thinking sort of place.
This farming community, once home to the Coast Miwok Indians, has a hexagonal plaza, established by Pennsylvania doctor Thomas Stokes Page who purchased Cotati in 1849 which was originally part of the Rancho Cotate Mexican land grant.
More than a decade later in 1961, fearing that Cotati would lose its character and be annexed by the neighboring community of Rohnert Park, Cotati filed a notice of intention to incorporate just one day before Rohnert Park was officially declared a city. As such, Cotati introduced itself as the scrappy, free-thinking little hub of Sonoma County.
An influx of counterculture in the late 1960s further cemented Cotati’s feisty, free-thinking reputation. There was The Freestone, a large shed filled with second-hand clothing that Cotati residents outfitted themselves with free of charge. Cotati Company No. 2, a precursor to current business incubators, offered 12 foot spaces to young entrepreneurs selling all kinds of wares from candles and jewelry to clothing for as little as $10 a month. Picnic tables, benches, swings, sandboxes were built and installed by citizens without permission from the city.
And then there was the music…The bandstand located in La Plaza Park in the center of town was built illegally and without permission from the city. It attracted large crowds who came to hear bands perform with amplified music. Nationally and internationally recognized musicians began to flock to Cotati. Legend has it that Van Morrison, Jerry Garcia and even Janis Joplin played at The Inn of the Beginning in downtown Cotati. Cotati found itself divided into two factions: those who wanted more music, resources and less rules and those who wanted user fees, permits and no amplified music.
Today, Cotati still offers one of the county’s most vibrant nightlife scenes. Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights downtown are lively as music fills the streets and the cafes and restaurants are filled with both long-time locals and students from nearby Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park. Since neighboring Rohnert Park, does not have a downtown, Cotati has been adopted as the “college town” associated with Sonoma State University.
The City is also home to the Cotati Jazz Festival each June, the Cotati Philharmonic, the annual Kid’s Day Parade and the internationally renowned Cotati Accordion Festival in late August.
Today you’ll still see Cotati’s free-thinking, counterculture flavor in FrogSong, a downtown co-housing community, Oliver’s Market which buys locally from growers, farmers and winemakers whenever possible, funky Redwood Café which hosts live music, poetry slams or an evening with the mayor or at Loud and Clear Music, an amazing music store actually run by musicians. After that head over to Sift (two–time winner of Cupcake Wars) for the best cupcake you will ever eat.