Demolition by neglect is a concept the Sonoma Design Review and Historic Preservation Commission became familiar with Feb. 18, when it reluctantly approved the removal of buildings on West Spain Street.
The Hansen Hatchery buildings, deemed worthy of the National Register as early as 1993, had deteriorated to the point the owner faced a notice to abate hazardous conditions from the city’s Building Official.
“How does it get to this point?” asked Commissioner Kelso Barnett. “It was determined to be historic 20 years ago.”
The buildings, located at 800 W. Spain St., were hidden from view by vegetation and over the years accumulated garbage, termites, and vermin. Now under new ownership, the site will be prepared for a housing development.
“We uncovered garbage four feet thick in the main house,” said Doug Hilberman of Axia Architects. “We realized there’s nothing there to keep.” Buildings to be removed include a house, a water tower, a garage and an old hatchery building.
Patricia Cullinan, who is active in historic preservation, said she did not oppose demolition, but wanted to use this as an example to show the difference between site condition and site integrity. “You can still see the site has integrity because you can visualize it as a hatchery.” She added that this is an important point as the commission moves forward in its new role and has other buildings to evaluate in the future.
Disagreeing with her view was City Historian George McKale, who was paid to evaluate the site for the owner. “The site has two strikes against it. It is a rural property in an urban setting and the buildings have lost integrity.” He said a third strike is that they can no longer be saved.
Karla Noyes asked the commission to develop guidelines to address this type of situation in the future, noting that there are other buildings being allowed to deteriorate. Robert Demler, vice president of the League for Historic Preservation, suggested that one of those buildings might be the Blue Wing Adobe, owned by the state.
Planning Director David Goodison said he would prepare general recommendations for the commission to review. The commission voted 4-1 to approve the demolition. Barnett voted no because he thought there should be a second opinion about whether or not the buildings could be rehabilitated, given the original report.
In other business, the commission:
• Approved signage for Patt’s Copy World at a new location.
• Added Baseline Consulting (Arthur Dawson) and McKale Consulting (George McKale) to the list of paid consultants who prepare historic evaluations. Neither are architectural historians, but have extensive backgrounds in related fields.
• Approved new paint colors for The General’s Daughter.
• Continued design consideration of a three-unit development at 830 Broadway and a coffee cart at 195 W. Napa.