In 1853 the area now occupied by Alameda County was a part of the County of Contra Costa, with the county seat at Martinez. A lawsuit was commenced before a Justice of the Peace of Contra Costa County involving questions arising from a lease made by Antonia Maria Peralta of a tract of land containing 3,000 acres and known a the Encinal San Antonio (This is the land now occupied by the city of Alameda). This entire area was leased at the rate of $80 per month. Who would not now be willing to rent the entire city of Alameda for the sum of $80 per month?
In the action, the plaintiff claimed damages in the sum of $8,000 for the cutting down by the tenant of 500 oak trees on the premises. The tenant admitted cutting down the trees but contended that when he leased the property it was understood that he was to have the right so to do for the purpose of making charcoal. While it was not so specified in the lease, the Court found that the landlord had acquiesced in the use by the tenant of the trees to make charcoal, and that that was the tenant's right. At the trial it developed that for over five years before the making of the lease the chief use of the property was by tenants cutting wood and making charcoal. As one visits the city of Alameda today who would suspect that eighty years ago the island upon which it is located was mostly valuable for the oak trees thereon, as material for the making of charcoal?
Another interesting legal point was also made in this case. The landlord among other points, claimed the right to a forfeiture of the lease for nonpayment of the rent. The Court held that a lease could only be terminated or forfeited on this ground, provided that the landlord had demanded the rent on the day it became due, and at a late hour of the day. In other words, if the landlord did not on a late hour of the day the rent became due, demand it of the tenant, the landlord could not put the tenant out for nonpayment of rent. His only remedy then was to sue for the money, but he could not have his property back. What a curious rule. Needless to say, it is no longer the law.
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