Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sacramento History Bike Ride Sunday August 30

This summer, a group of Sacramento State graduate students and local history enthusiasts began gathering once a month to take a bike ride through Sacramento's historic neighborhoods and share their knowledge about local history, historic architecture and cultural heritage. Two rides have occurred so far. The next will take place on Sunday, August 30, at 9:00 AM, in the Southside Park neighborhood. Riders will meet at the site of the Robert E. Callahan Bandstand in Southside Park, near the corner of 7th and T Street, at 9:00 AM.

Built on a former slough, Southside was inhabited by generations of immigrants and working-class families. The neighborhood's many ethnic communities, including Portuguese, Italian, Mexican and Japanese, came together in Southside Park, the neighborhood's namesake. Whether for fireworks displays on the Fourth of July, for a trip back to Gold Rush days at Roaring Camp, or simply to paddle the lake in a rented boat, Southside Park provided a place of respite and recreation in this bustling city. The neighborhood surrounding the park faced many challenges as Sacramento grew, but its residents faced these challenges with a tradition of political activism, community participation, and a strong sense of civic pride that is still evident today.

The Sacramento Historic Bike Ride is a free-form event: riders will decide where the tour should go. There are several sites I hope to visit in order to tell the story of the Southside neighborhood's diverse history, culture and development, but there is plenty of room for everyone's participation. If you have a story about the neighborhood, a historic site, a significant person, or a good story, please feel free to share it! The tour will run until about 11:00 AM. There is no cost to participate in the tour.

For those that may be interested, I will bring copies of my books, Sacramento's Southside Park and Sacramento's Streetcars, for sale at $20 each, and will happily sign them for you.

Monday, August 24, 2009

800 K hotel/Bel-Vue demolition goes back to City Council

On Tuesday, August 25, the Sacramento City Council will hear a proposal by developers Bob Leach and Parkcrest Development to build a hotel at the corner of 8th and K Street and a parking structure at the corner of 8th and L Street, a project that would require demolition of city landmark the Bel-Vue Apartments and adjacent buildings. The meeting will be held at New City Hall, 915 I Street, at 6:00 PM in the main City Council chambers.

The item was originally to be heard at the August 11 meeting of the City Council (see ) but was taken off the agenda at the last minute. According to the staff report, the "Exclusive Right to Negotiate" between the city of Sacramento and the developers expired on Sunday, August 23, but city staff can still work with the development group while a new RFQ (Request for Qualifications) is being prepared, a process that should take about 90 days according to the staff report. If city staff and developers cannot reach an agreement, the new RFQ will request proposals from other developers and development groups for a different project on the 800 K Street site.

Also according to the staff report, city staff had not fully analyzed the new proposal as of its submittal date of Friday, August 21, and could not provide complete comment. One change from previous proposals is a change to requested exemption from the hotel's "Transient Occupancy Tax": instead of 100% exemption from TOT for 10 years, they are asking for 50% exemption for 14 years. According to the accompanying financial documents, this would add up to approximately the same total subsidy for the project, but over a different span of time.

Another change is that Mohammed "Mo" Mohanna is no longer listed as a member of the development team. The staff report does not specify whether another investor has joined the team in Mohanna's place, or whether one of the existing investors will contribute more funds to make up for Mohanna's financial contribution to the project, or why this change has taken place. Most of the financial commitment comes from the Korean firm Consus, but the city has not yet received a formal commitment with complete terms and conditions from Consus.

The staff report does mention that the original "Exclusive Right to Negotiate" for this project occurred as a condition of a lawsuit settlement between the city of Sacramento and Mohanna, in addition to the city's payment of about $18 million to Mohanna for the land.

The total subsidy for the project is estimated at $31.5 million in land and tax exemption (both transient occupancy tax and tax-increment fund exemption.) This amount does not include the money previously paid to Mohanna for the property as a result of the lawsuit settlement.

The staff report does not address the issue of a potentially competing hotel project planned for the corner of 10th and K Street, nor does it address the issue of the demolition of the Bel-Vue landmark.

The staff report for this item can be found here.

The agenda for this week's City Council meeting can be found here.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Bel-Vue on the chopping block, but hope for the Berry

My new Midtown Monthly article, on the Bel-Vue

On Tuesday, August 11, the Sacramento city council will decide whether to give away the half-block containing the Bel-Vue to a group of developers, who would raze the remaining quarter-block and the underground sidewalks on 8th & K to build a new hotel at 8th & K and a parking lot where the Bel-Vue stands. Full staff report is visible here:

In slightly brighter news, at the same meeting the City Council will hear (and hopefully approve) a plan to restore the Berry Hotel, just across the street from the Bel-Vue.

They will also hear an updated plan regarding development along Sacramento's alleys (focusing on architecturally interesting alleys like the one behind the Bel-Vue.)

On the consent calendar, the Council will add three buildings to the official list of Sacramento landmarks, including the Coloma School in Elmhurst, 1210 H Street in Mansion Flat, and "The Trap" (aka Pimentel's Ingleside Cafe) along Riverside near the Pocket.

So there's hope that these items might make the appeal of reusing the Bel-Vue, and not giving our treasures away, more immediately apparent.

Monday, August 3, 2009

This Wednesday, August 5, Sacramento's Preservation Commission will hear an update on the "Underground Sidewalks" survey project. This survey has explored much of Sacramento's surviving underground sidewalk structures, and is preparing a detailed report on their current condition and historic context. An earlier meeting, held in March, outlined what the survey would do(as discussed in this Sacramento Press article) and this meeting will present the initial findings of the survey team and report their progress. The final report on the underground sidewalks should be completed by September of this year.

The meeting will be held at Sacramento's City Hall, 915 I Street, in the City Council chambers on the first floor. The meeting starts at 5:30 PM and the Underground Sidewalks survey will be the first of several staff reports presented at the meeting.

A complete agenda of the Preservation Commission meeting can be found on the Preservation Commission's Web site.

Sacramento's underground sidewalks are a side effect of a massive street-raising project, executed from the 1850s to the 1870s and intended to keep downtown Sacramento above water during the region's frequent floods. Brick walls about 12 feet high were built at the street edge and filled with dirt, but the spaces between the buildings and the street were left open, and were the building owner's responsibility to cover and fill. Over the past 130 years, many of these spaces have been filled in or demolished by subsequent development, construction and sidewalk repair.

This survey, funded by a local nonprofit and a matching state grant, is intended to document all of the surviving "Underground Sidewalk" spaces in downtown Sacramento and research the methods used to build these structures. The survey will have many potential uses, possibly including the creation of a historic district, or facilitating an "Underground Sidewalks Tour" program similar to that found in Seattle and other cities. The public will have an opportunity to ask questions and provide comments to the Preservation Commission and the consultants conducting the survey.

The City Preservation Commission was created by the City Council. Its powers and duties include: to develop and recommend to the City Council preservation policies appropriate for inclusion in the General Plan and other regulatory plans and programs of the City and to provide oversight relative to the maintenance and integrity of the Sacramento Register of Historic and Cultural Resources; to review, nominate, and make recommendations to the City Council on properties eligible for listing in the Sacramento Register as Landmarks, Historic Districts and Contributing Resources as set forth in the Historic Preservation Chapter, Title 17, Chapter 17.134, of the City Code; to review and approve preservation development projects of major significance and appeals of Preservation Director decisions per the Historic Preservation Chapter, Title 17, Chapter 17.134, of the City Code.

Meeting location: New City Hall
915 I Street- 1st Floor, Council Chambers
August 5, 2009 - 5:30 P.M.