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Friday, May 11, 2007

A heated Campaign Battle Underway Over the Issue of the Anderson Bank Building's Windows

On Tuesday Night at Stacy Mitchell's Presentation on the dangers of Big-Box Retail, it was announced that Jim Kidd, who is the current owner of the Anderson Bank Building, had a petition he was circulating to demonstrate support for the lowering of the windows in this building.

The petition supported by a large number of the downtown businesses reads:
"As downtown shoppers, we need more retail stores, not more restaurants and banks. We support the effort to lower the Anderson Bank Building windows to make this retail space more oriented to shoppers. We believe that this change is a step toward improving the vitality of our downtown. The downtown is the economic heart of Davis."
In the meantime, lawn signs have sprung up all over Davis, particularly in front of the property of key developers and property management companies. At times, to the complaint of some, these signs were placed in the public right of way rather than on public property.

The signs read:
"Better Windows, Better Shopping, Better Downtown... Lower the Anderson Building Windows... Keep our downtown vital... Citizens and merchants who care about Davis."
As the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) suggests,
"the purpose of the proposed project is to provide opportunity for visibility and display spaces within the building in anticipation of attracting viable retailers."
Meanwhile, the Davis Historical Resources Management Commission has been strongly in favor of historic preservation of the windows arguing that lowering the windows would severely impact the historic nature of the site.

The city’s 2003 Historical Resources Survey report reads:
“The City’s commercial history is represented by several buildings on G Street, already enumerated above. Of these the Anderson Bank Building, Masonic Lodge, Yolo Bank and the retail shops known as the Brinley Block, on the corner of 2d and G, have all been previously surveyed. The Anderson Bank Building has been designated as a Landmark. The Yolo Bank, the Brinley Block and the Masonic Lodge are recognized as Resources of Merit. All of these four buildings appear to be individually eligible for listing on the California Register of Historical Resources. In addition, there are two buildings not previously identified, that are associated with the city’s early commercial development, the Louie Young Restaurant (217 G Street; c.1915) and 238 G Street, originally part of the Davis Lumber Company (c.1935) and one of the city’s two examples of Streamline Moderne architecture.”

“Because the Downtown/Commercial area of the Conservation District has undergone such extensive change in the past fifty years, there is no single block or group of blocks that retain a cohesive and coherent group of buildings that clearly represent a specific period, a concentration of related architectural styles or are related by virtue of a development plan or design. The commercial corridor along G and 2nd Streets includes many fine individual examples of commercial buildings and presents a range of commercial styles common in small pre-World War II rural town business districts. With further analysis and more intensive research on the individual buildings it is possible that there might be a locally eligible or California Register eligible commercial district. The commercial area, as indicated in the discussion above, is certainly an area for special planning consideration. Further loss of historic commercial buildings or inappropriate remodels would render a district ineligible.”
According to the EIR, if the windows are altered, the site would no longer be eligible for the National Register of Landmarks--the alteration would be that substantial.

The basic summary of the finding is that under option A

According to the EIR:
"With application of the recommended mitigation measures, the Anderson Bank Building would appear to maintain its eligibility as a City Landmark, and retain its inclusion/eligibility for inclusion on the California Register of Historical Resources. Implementation of Design Option A with or without Mitigation would likely preclude the building from future listing on or a future determination of eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places."
However Option B does not even have that possiblity.
"Even with application of the recommended mitigation measures, the Anderson Bank Building would no longer appear eligible as a City Landmark, or for inclusion/ eligibility on the California Register of Historical Resources, or the National Register of Historic Places."
The mitigations necessitated in Option A to preserve the Anderson Bank Building as an historic site are extensive and quite costly.
"Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) documentation shall be undertaken by a qualified professional at the expense of the project applicant as recommended in the Urbana Preservation & Planning report. The purpose of the HABS documentation is to create a permanent record of the Anderson Bank Building."
The requires a development of site-specific history and contextual information regard the particular resource, a comprehensive description of the resource, preparation of measured drawings for the resource, and photographic documentation of the resource in still and video format.

"Preparation of a Historic Structures Report (HSR) for the Anderson Bank Building that would serve as a preservation planning document for the building, documenting both the building’s history, existing material conditions, and providing treatment recommendations for future projects."
"Restore or rehabilitate the Anderson Bank Building to the extent feasible relative to retaining the high integrity of the building."
This includes a minimum of the following: remove all existing awnings on the southern and eastern elevations of the building "in order to expose the historic and character-defining arched windows original to the building." Repair and restore building's cornice along the street-facing elevations. Removal and replacement of existing second floor windows to match the original second floor windows of the building. Restore and replace all existing exterior lighting fixtures to match in-kind the original lighting fixtures. And finally repair and restore "the Grate for the Bank Bell."

"The property owner shall retain all removed brick to allow the project in a safe environment for future use to restore the building to its original integrity, should there be no use or reason to continue with the lower windows."
As one can see, the measures undertaken to preserve the project under option A are extensive.

As we reported on Monday of this week, on March 17, 2007, the Commission voted against both options and took an ultimate recommendation of no action. That article also contains some key background on this issue including the fact that Mr. Kidd has brought this proposal up on previous occasions. It also suggests based on some research by Professor John Lofland, that there is little evidence to suggest that windows have an impact on the viability and profitability of businesses.

The Final EIR hearings are slated to begin next week. The City Council will hear the EIR and will certify it. A heated battle remains whereby those who support historic preservation of Davis' rich history must defend it against a well-organized lobby including the downtown businesses that see historic preservation of a key landmark as standing in the way of economic gain.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting