City Blows it on K Street – AGAIN

Posted on July 1, 2010 – 6:24 PM | by OldManFoster
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We’ve been following this story for about a year now.

When local boutique Artifacts opened up in the old Toy Room space on K Street, we cheered. Artifacts offers art supplies, clothing, art books and assorted hipster/skateboarder knicknacks. They have also mounted some of the best art shows in the city over the past couple of years.

When the store moved into the space next door to the old Toy Room, they did a great job of remodeling that store- the best part was the sleek wood slat facade that replaced the store’s cheap and crappy ’80s storefront.  While the upgrade wasn’t quite as nice as the Cosmopolitan building at 10th and K, it is the next-best upgrade K Street has seen.

So what does the city do?  Makes them tear it out, of course.  Turns out that the building dates to 1870, and the new facade isn’t within preservation standards.  That would be fine (and in fact we’d be cheering the decision)  IF any part of the original facade was left.  Anyone familiar with K Street knows that the storefront that Artifacts replaced was not even from the 197os, let alone the 1870s.  The damage was done LONG ago.

Did the building owners file the correct permits?  No.   Does that mean that  a blighted strip in the most intensely screwed up region of Downtown should lose one of the most appealing storefronts?   Why is it that the city could not have worked with them to make the best of a bad situation?  When the city is throwing tens of millions of dollars at rehabbing K Street, why is it that they didn’t do what was clearly the best for everyone?

Money.  If we were talking about a multi-million dollar business created by a large developer, the city would not only have worked with them on the permits, they’d have thrown five or ten million city dollars their way to grease the wheels. 

What about the history, you say?  Remember, this is the same city that happily tore down the historic Merriam at 13th and J for a poorly thought out expansion of the convention center, tore down the historic Francesca Building so that the Hyatt would have a view of the Capitol and, best of all, tore down the Gold Rush-era Ebner Building in Old Sac so that a REPLICA could be built in its place.  Why a replica rather than restoring the building?  Because building a replica is cheaper than restoring the real building.  So much for history.

Way to go.

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  1. 27 Responses to “City Blows it on K Street – AGAIN”

  2. avatar

    By eileen on Jul 1, 2010 | Reply

    Yes, that is silly…but the reason the historic preservation department does that is so they can get $fees for permits, and then also $fees for non-compliance. It is the way they fund their existance. Perhaps we should get rid of them. It’s stupid and dictatorial that they require ANY building within the historic districts (and there are lots of them) to first get approval from their department before begining ANY work on the exterior of the building including what color azalias to plant!

  3. avatar

    By Dustin Littrell on Jul 1, 2010 | Reply

    This is a damn shame and makes my blood boil… what a ridiculous demand, I’m sorry but this is why we are so backwards thinking in Sacramento!

  4. avatar

    By jayson carpenter on Jul 1, 2010 | Reply

    Sacramento doesn’t get it… Who made the decision. I want to write them or get them fired! Its time for Sacramento to have progressive thinkers, not back handed greasers.

  5. avatar

    By TJ Downes on Jul 1, 2010 | Reply

    It’s all about how much money you have or who you know. The greed factor Sac city government has pissed me off for quite a few years. I’ve seen the city tearing down historical buildings to make way for new buildings. If I recall, some of these were even on K street a few years ago.

  6. avatar

    By Ian Merker on Jul 1, 2010 | Reply

    Kudos to the City for upholding a set of standards! Artifacts is great, but it is grossly outnumbered by other inconsiderate facade ‘improvements’. The rules are there to attempt to save K Street from the nasty 1970s facade that the clean wood slats replaced. If the building owner was responsible, they would have filed the correct permits and prevented this mistake. I would also blame the builder for not paying attention to the rules. The City was willing to work with the owner to make this right- this is another case of a non-responsive building owner that would rather throw a fit than compromise.

  7. avatar

    By Mari on Jul 1, 2010 | Reply

    What you neglected to mention was that the city DID compromise with Artifacts in allowing them to match their new paint scheme with the neighbors ’tile job’, rather than restore the building to its original state, and the storefront can now be painted black. What an amazing compromise. Pat yourselves on the back, city leader jerk-offs.
    How do they manage to get things like this so wrong?

  8. avatar

    By OldManFoster on Jul 1, 2010 | Reply

    The owner tried to work this out with the city for about a year.

    I’m all for ‘standards’ but have to question their application when we have a well-designed, well-built facade (that replaced a terrible 25 year-old remodel) being ripped out so that it can be replaced with black painted stucco while intact historic buildings are torn down all around it.

    Please note that the Bel Vue building, a beautiful, intact, functioning, century-old building that is two blocks from Artifacts, is being considered for demolition even as we write this. Not sure where the ‘standards’ are there…

  9. avatar

    By OldManFoster on Jul 1, 2010 | Reply

    And just to clarify on Mari’s note: the original facade of the Artifacts space had been destroyed decades before Artifacts got the space.

  10. avatar

    By RJC on Jul 2, 2010 | Reply

    OMF: Wowzers on this article! As you know, some of our mutual acquaintances work for the State Office of Historic Preservation. I also have several close friends who have toiled as interns at the City’s version of the same office. Admittedly, I don’t understand all the rules, regulations, or politics (or seemingly bureaucratic floundering/hypocrisy) behind the demo, rehab, or façade-updating of buildings within our historic districts, but I believe that generally, the rules that we’re discussing here are set in place to prevent more disasters, like the loss of the majestic Alhambra Theater, from occurring. I also believe that our friends and my colleagues in the field of History, particularly Historic Preservation are passionate about their profession and equally passionate about honoring this city. Here on the Midmo link, some blanket comments are made about money and a lack of progressive thinking. I don’t think that’s what this is about at all. I mean, sure, we’re dealing with governmental agencies here- there’s going to be red tape- but I suspect that overall, our local Preservation Offices are doing more good than harm. Personally, I found the wood slat façade of Artifacts to be sleek and inviting (and ‘inviting’ equals revenue, right?). It does seem shameful that it had to go. In the end, though, I suspect this is a case of “Well, if we let you break the rules, we’ll have to let everyone break the rules.” But again, I don’t understand exactly what all those rules are…I’m sorta thinking it’s best to let the professionals clarify, which I’ll suspect they’ll be doing shortly…

  11. avatar

    By William Burg on Jul 2, 2010 | Reply

    I first heard about this issue last year, when I got a call from Sactown Magazine. They said the owner of Artifacts was claiming that the Sacramento County Historical Society told them they had to change their building facade, and did I have any comment? As the president of SCHS at the time, I explained that SCHS is an educational nonprofit with no connection to city government, and has no power to tell anyone to do anything to their building.

    There are some obvious misunderstandings and inaccuracies at work here. First of all, the City of Sacramento’s “preservation department” consists of one person. Sometimes, during the Sac State schoolyear, she has an unpaid intern. That’s for the whole city. This means she is very, very busy. She probably knew about this, but certainly doesn’t have time to hassle a particular business owner.

    But I wanted to find out what was up, so I used the city’s “Acella” permit database, accessible by the general public, here. I entered Artifact’s address. This shows any active permits, via Planning, Preservation, Zoning or other part of the Community Development Department. There was a sign permit from 2008, but no active case file, under Planning or Preservation.

    Just to be on the safe side, I looked at the Preservation Department’s current list of active case files, viewable here. Nothing under Artifact’s address. Please note that there are several active permits by people who were dinged for non-compliance and are applying to make their changes legal retroactively by going through the permit process. Apparently the owner of Artifacts has not done this, or it would appear here and in Acella.

    So, what department is giving Artifact such a hard time? Since the Preservation Department (all one of her) does not have an enforcement division, I checked to see if it was done by a part of the city that does go out and check things–code enforcement. That’s viewable here. Sure enough, it turns up as a code enforcement case, with the following information:

    Case Details
    Case #:09-006072
    Address: 905 K ST
    Open Date:04/01/2009
    Close Date:07/01/2010
    Categories: Complaint
    Disposition: Work Completed
    View Violation Listing

    Case History
    Activity Date
    Hearing letter sent. 10/28/2009
    Hearing letter sent. 09/14/2009
    Hearing letter sent. 08/31/2009
    Administrative Penalty letter sent. 08/12/2009
    Administrative Penalty letter sent. 08/12/2009
    Administrative Penalty letter sent. 08/12/2009
    Online Title Report request. 07/16/2009
    Notice and Order letter sent. 06/17/2009
    Preliminary letter sent. 04/13/2009
    Initial Complaint assigned to Officer or Inspector. 04/01/2009

    It’s a code enforcement case, and has nothing to do with the Preservation Department. Someone made a complaint, probably about Artifact’s completion of work without a permit. As you can see, the issue has been resolved, as of today, and any remedial work is completed. I went by Artifact today–they were not removing the wood from their facade. For more details, I’d recommend calling the Code Enforcement Department, 808-5404, and asking for more information.

    As to why…let’s think about it. Do I think Artifact’s front looks good? Yes. Do I know if the work behind that front meets city code for fire safety, life safety, electrical, etcetera? I have no idea whatsoever–and, because the owner of Artifacts didn’t bother to get permits, the city doesn’t know either. And yes, cities do have the right to issue building permits, zone, and exercise design review. (Incidentally, the entire central city is within a design review district–not just within historic districts. They needed to go to City Hall for a permit even if the building was built in 2009.)

    This has nothing to do with preservation. This has nothing to do with creativity, or its suppression. It does have something to do with money. Because the previous head of Development Services (the one who is no longer the head of Development Services) was so generous with waiver of city fees and letting his buddies slide for various projects, with the full support of his old pal the City Manager (the one who is no longer Sacramento’s City Manager) the Development Services department bled money horribly, resulting in massive layoffs, ongoing scandals, and other ridiculousness like the Natomas permit-switch scandal. As a result, the department is under audit, and desperately understaffed. The new department head, and the new city manager, are of the somewhat radical opinion that Code Enforcement should enforce codes, and that business and property owners should follow the city’s regulations regarding things like building permits and paying permit fees. There’s a new sheriff in town, and that’s a good thing, unless you consider yourself above the law.

  12. avatar

    By William Burg on Jul 2, 2010 | Reply

    I think things got mangled a bit when this was moved…here are the links:

    ACELLA permit database:

    Preservation project list:

  13. avatar

    By William Burg on Jul 2, 2010 | Reply

    City code enforcement database:

  14. avatar

    By Amanda on Jul 2, 2010 | Reply

    I just wanted to say the State Historic Preservation Office is not involved in this issue. This is a City issue.

  15. avatar

    By Lisa Ouellette on Jul 2, 2010 | Reply

    Well clarified Bill.

  16. avatar

    By OldManFoster on Jul 2, 2010 | Reply

    Bill- Interesting points.. but I don’t think you read or watched the KCRA story linked at the beginning of the article- Ron O’Connor of the city specifically says that the problems arise because it’s a historic building. He says something along the lines of, “you wouldn’t want to see this facade on Sutter’s Fort, would you?” If there is confusion about whether this is a historic preservation issue it’s because the city claims that it is.

  17. avatar

    By Martha on Jul 2, 2010 | Reply

    I happen to know the owners and have first hand knowledge of the headache that transpired here and can tell you that the historic preservation was in fact working hand in hand with code enforcement and indeed was the driving force behind the removal of the facade.

    This all started because they applied for a sign permit. The application was reviewed by the historic preservation (Roberta Deering Senior Planner for Historic Preservation Community Development Department City of Sacramento) and code enforcement (Ron O’connor). The consensus was that the facade did not meet the standards of historical preservation and thus the sign was never approved. Not only that, but now they wanted the façade taken down!

    The owners tried to work with the historic preservation and in fact went through litigation and a discovery process to prove that the core issue–which was that the façade was covering historical tile on the building front–was not true. This was proven. Yet, the historic preservation and building code enforcement stuck to their guns and demanded that the façade be removed immediately.

    Whether a code issue or not, the city historic preservation drove this removal home insisting on heavy fines if the façade was not removed. The sad part is that a great looking storefront had to be taken down for really no reason. Since what is left now really has no historical value. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to come to some happy medium? I sadly see no value in this decision, but commend ARTIFACTS for sticking to their beliefs and knowing when to let go.

    We should put this behind us and more than ever support our local merchants by shopping downtown. It would be nice to see our community, including the mayor, shopping at ARTIFACTS. Let’s foster something positive out of this nonsense.

  18. avatar

    By Chris on Jul 2, 2010 | Reply

    I would like to say that William (above) stated in his text, “I went by Artifact today–they were not removing the wood from their facade.” If he had actually come by the shop, he would have known that the entire facade was torn down by the shop-owners on June 30th, and then prepped and painted to match the historic front of Danielle’s Creperie, next door. The front of Artifacts is now comprised of crumbly stucco and rock painted gloss black in imitation of the historic black tile with a top section painted a terrible gray to match the rooftop. It is truly a sad affair and every person I have talked to who frequents this section of K Street is upset that the beautiful wooden facade has been removed. The facade was set up to replace a terrible remodel done years back to the building and was put in place to bring a look of beauty and newness to the otherwise drab and unexciting section of Downtown Sacramento.

  19. avatar

    By William Burg on Jul 3, 2010 | Reply

    Chris: It was there yesterday morning when I went by–the pull-down happened after I visited.

    Martha: Did the owners appeal to the Preservation Director, or the Preservation Commission?

  20. avatar

    By Dane Henas on Jul 6, 2010 | Reply

    Too bad they didn’t go through proper channels. I liked the facade–it reminded me of some of the wood slat walls that Samuel Mockbee and his students did at Rural Studio, which specializes in rehabs to dilapidated buildings in the rural South–which this town is getting to be more and more like… Too bad everyone at city hall is so hung up on rules and couldn’t have given them a break for doing something new–as far as I can see the facade didn’t do any harm to the building and the shop is one of the few if only interesting shop on the mall… they gave a break to Old Soul even though they broke the rules–why not Artefacts?

    What a lame-ass town!

  21. avatar

    By William Burg on Jul 7, 2010 | Reply

    Part of the problem with having a one-person preservation department (along with when that one person is out of the office for a while, which she is) is that it means that Sacramento can’t really take advantage of a lot of the incentives for historic preservation (like implementing the Mills Act) and there aren’t enough staff to work through things like this in a more timely manner. Preservation gets a bad name if it’s all “stick” and no “carrot.” They’re out there, but if there is no staff to implement them, it just doesn’t happen.

    One thing about that building–it may be an 1870s building, but it was seriously remodeled in the 1930s to its current Art Deco tile appearance. Now that the wood is down, are the shop owners going to apply to the city for a new facade and try to put up something else with the city’s blessing?

  22. avatar

    By OldManFoster on Jul 7, 2010 | Reply

    the word from the owners of Artifacts:

  23. avatar

    By josh chapstick on Jul 8, 2010 | Reply

    just want to say that this thread is awesome and shows how MidMo and blogs in general can add some real accountability, or at least citizen awareness, into the system. sunlight is the greatest disinfectant.

  24. avatar

    By William Burg on Jul 9, 2010 | Reply

    Hopefully it can also put a human face on things that seem very cold and impersonal. Because I know the city staff involved, I’m inclined to sympathize with them–they aren’t just faceless bureaucrats, but friends. For Tim and others, the shop owners are their friends. Somewhere along the line, hopefully we can get these friends of friends in a room together to work these things out.

  25. avatar

    By Mari on Jul 9, 2010 | Reply

    And hopefully someday people will look at the bigger picture and realize that this company is one of the only worthwhile stops on K Street and should be given more than the middle finger when they ask to put signage up on their building.

  26. avatar

    By Marnie on Jul 10, 2010 | Reply

    On a street with so many dilapidated buildings, why not allow store owners to improve the shops as long as the improvements are removable? Those slats came right off. It’s not like there was something wonderful under there that they found in the discovery process. Now that building looks hideous. Not everyone can open a mermaid bar.

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