Friday, March 27, 2009

Hollow Sidewalks Survey Workshop

Date: Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Time: 5:30-7:30
Location: Historic City Hall, 2nd Floor Hearing Room, 915 I Street

On Tuesday, March 31, the city of Sacramento invites downtown property owners and community members to a Public Workshop to find out about the Raised Streets-Hollow Sidewalks Historic Survey. Join the Public Workshop, learn about the survey and ask questions.
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.

In the 1860s and 1870s, Sacramento's Board of Trustees undertook a project to raise downtown Sacramento's streets above flood levels by building brick walls at the edges of every street and filling those walls with dirt. This resulted in streets as much as 12 feet higher than their original level. Building owners either used teams of screw jacks to elevate their building to the new street level or simply made their original second floor into the new ground floor. Because the building owners were responsible for the space between their building and the street, most built brick vaults over the sidewalk area, leaving the old sidewalk as a covered but accessible underground space. Most of the street raising was done between approximately I and L Street, from Front Street along the river to 12th Street to the east.

Over the intervening 130 years of development, new construction and road projects have destroyed or damaged much of the original underground sidewalk areas, to the point where only a handful remain. This survey will document surviving remnants 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. For those interested in learning more about the survey, the methods used, or those who hope to take a peek inside the history of Sacramento, this public workshop should be very instructive.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bacon Wrapped Tofu: in which I simulate a foodie blog

This weekend I made bacon wrapped tofu for the second time, a dish I invented for an EMRL party/noise show around eight years ago. I initially wanted to create a dish that would offend both meat eaters and vegetarians, although it turned out pretty tasty. The first time I made it I just wrapped the tofu cubes and baked it at 350 degrees for around 45 minutes, draining fat as necessary. This time I used a slightly higher-quality bacon, and drizzled a bit of dry mustard on it before baking. I forgot to take an after-baking photo because I was in a hurry to serve them. The bacon flavor was absorbed nicely into the tofu.

Preserve Me A Seat drew a pretty good crowd, due to other projects rattling around I didn't have much of a talk about Sacramento theater history so instead I talked about historic preservation in general. Thanks to anyone reading this who made it out.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Lowdown on Downtowns

I stumbled across this article about Redding's downtown today and was quite impressed with some of its points:

Paul Shigley is someone whose writing I already follow via the California Planning & Development Report website, at least his "Daily Shig" blog, and his work with planning guru Bill Fulton (whose Guide to California Planning is indispensable for planning professionals/planning geeks--Shigley co-wrote the latest edition.) Although the article focuses on Redding and Pasadena, there are lessons Sacramento could learn from the example of Pasadena, just as Redding should--and Redding could learn from us. The "Qualities of a Great Downtown" includes lots of examples Sacramento could use--such as, while downtowns should have bread and circuses, they shouldn't be all bread and circuses.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Preserve Me A Seat

Preserve Me A Seat
Category: Film
When: Friday, March 20, 2009, 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM, 9:30 PM - 11:00 PM
Where: Movies on a Big Screen/Shiny Object Cinema
600 4th St
West Sacramento, CA 95605
(916) 743-1088
Official Website:

Cost: $5.00

What/Why: A special screening in conjunction with The Sacramento Old City Association! I will give a brief talk on local theater history and some contemporary theater preservation issues at the 7 PM screening only. We will show it again at 9:30 for those who can't make it at 7, but there will be no speakers at the later screening.

We don't remember a lot about our distant past, but we do remember our favorite movie theatre. "Preserve Me a Seat" is a documentary about these theatres and the ongoing fight to protect and preserve them for future generations. Featuring preservation efforts in Boston (The Gaiety Theatre), Detroit (The former Michigan Theatre), Chicago (The DuPage Theatre), Omaha (The Indian Hills Cinerama Theatre), and Salt Lake City (The Villa Theatre), "Preserve Me a Seat" will appeal to anyone who has cherished memories of seeing their favorite movies in a grand theatre, and who appreciates the unique architecture of movie theatres. Even more than that, however, the documentary explores a number of urban development issues particularly relevant to Sacramento in a number of ways (not just theaters): adaptive reuse, a lack of response by city governments to their constituency, the destruction of historic spaces for the sake of what are essentially urban lofts (high-end residential units, at least), and much more.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A look inside 14th & R Street from the Preservation Roundtable

This past Saturday's "Preservation Roundtable," a quarterly gathering of those interested in historic preservation, infill, development, local history and urban forestry, met at the "Shady Lady" saloon, the corner unit at 14th and R. The building is a former bakery, located on Sacramento's R Street industrial corridor.

The top photo is from inside the "Shady Lady," a restaurant/bar with a definite old school feel: lots of dark wood, what I would describe as "bordello wallpaper," high-backed booths, and a wonderful metal & wood ceiling treatment. They plan to hang a lot of photos of bars from Sacramento's past: I pointed them at a couple of collections where I found a lot of great images of Sacramento taprooms at SAMCC.

The other two businesses that will go in the ground floor are Magpie Catering, who provided amazingly tasty baked goods for the Roundtable, and "Burgers & Brew," the same folks who own the business of the same name in Davis, as well as Crepeville.

Upstairs are twelve residential lofts, ranging between about 500 and 1100 feet. These are actual loft lofts, not apartment buildings or close-set single family homes billed as "lofts." All have polished concrete floors. Due to their proximity to Empire Events Center and light rail tracks, they all have very good soundproofing and dual-pane windows.

The Roundtable meeting was very lively, including a long and sometimes grumpy discussion of the proposed deregulation of the Planning Commission and Design Commission (that would combine them into one board, with more projects going to staff level.) Roundtables are interesting events for the information they provide, but often then opportunity to get inside of neat historic buildings, especially ones on the brink of a new life, is more fun than the meeting.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Public meetings: River District and Hollow Sidewalks

Got word about these meetings at last Saturday's "Preservation Roundtable" meeting. The first one apparently requires an RSVP, but the second is a public meeting to be held in the old City Hall building. That one looks interesting...they are surveying the surviving "underground sidewalk" spaces, to see how much is left. I know that some folks are trying to start a tour of those spaces, comparable to the Seattle tour, and at least a few folks are interested in taking that tour.
River District Specific Plan
Historic Properties Survey Meeting

Date: Monday, March 23, 2009
Time: 4:30-6:00 PM
Location: 300 Richards Blvd., 2nd Floor, Room 221

Learn more about the Historic Properties Survey being conducted as part of the River District Specific Plan project. The survey is a review of the history and development of the River District’s built environment. Find out about the preliminary findings, provide your insights into River District history, and learn about the city’s historic preservation program.

Please RSVP by Friday, March 20 to Jason Hone at (916)808-5749 or
Raised Streets/Hollow Sidewalks
Historic Survey Public Workshop

Date: Tuesday, March 31st, 2009
Time: 5:30-7:30 PM
Location: Historic City Hall 2nd Floor Hearing Room, 915 I Street

The City of Sacramento invites downtown property owners and community members to a Public Workshop to find out about the Raised Streets/Hollow Sidewalks Historic Survey. Join the Public Workshop, learn about the survey and ask questions.

Please contact Kathleen Forrest at (916)808-5986 or with any questions.