Lessons For Martinez From A Historical Preservation Conference In Oakland

Is newer really better?

(Ed. note: Martinez resident Kristin Henderson attended the California Preservation Foundation 2012 Conference, and returned with the following information):

Old Roots, New Growth -- Cultivating Communities
May 3rd - 6th  Conference Headquarters: Oakland Marriott City Center

“The 2012 California Preservation Conference was held in Oakland - a city with great beauty, vibrant culture, new industries and innovation. Educational sessions covered a range of topics such as preservation basics, economic development, new technologies for historic buildings, planning for change, industrial reuse and preservation in the 21st Century. We hope you enjoyed Oakland, a New York Times listed top 45 places (#5) to visit in 2012.”  

Workshops attended by me:

  • Is New Better? Using Substitute Materials in Historic Preservation Projects.
  • Cultural and Ethnic Significance
  • Tool Shed: Virtual Building Blocks for Historic Preservation
  • Pruning Public Parks: Landscapes Under Pressure to Perform
  • Tools in the Shed: Form Based Codes and Community Character
  • Economic Development Toolkit
  • Learning from Viagra: Affecting the Supply and Demand Cycle in Favor of Reuse

All the 100+ conference presentations are now linked on http://www.californiapreservation.org/conference-presentations.html
Please note the professionality and provenance of the speakers. Open their presentations by clicking on their names. I did take harried notes, and would love to talk about all this with people--not as an expert, but as a learner. The CPF as well as the speakers themselves would undoubtedly take questions directly, and their information is provided in the links.

What sticks out to me in just a precursory scan of my unrehearsed memory is: Form Based codes are exemplified on Pasadena’s City Web Site. 2. New Market Tax Credits. 3. And, as usual, especially after sitting next to Tom Butt, former (Point) Richmond City Councilman who was responsible for Pt. Richmond’s historic district replete with train tracks and 3 story brick building, just how many towns and cities and Council people and Mayors and developers and business people and property owners and historic societies honor their environments’ 3-D past. Historic Preservation is NOT the enemy, it is “Historic Martinez’s” friend and a friend to place making and economic activity. We have opportunity sites, as defined by the Downtown Specific Plan, that can be developed with high density residential. Not all buildings can be saved, but to treat historic downtown like an anathema is a completely fraudulent approach to urban planning.

In 2005, the Catholic Church was going to take a corner of Susana Park, listed on the 1982 historic inventory. The Historic Society, when asked for help, said “we do not get involved in that”. Tonight we will see the Sharkey Building, a difficult building, sold to a preservation developer. That building was kept off the Martinez Historical Society Register because its former owners demanded it as such. Our downtown specific plan was adopted with a 1982 unacademic, unresearched historic resources inventory because certain property owner(s) demanded the same, and the historic society and City was acquiescent to those demands. In 2006, all but Wainwright on the City Council wanted to sell the Sharkey Building to Hirahawa whose plan was to demolish it. The Historic Society lined up in favor of the Sharkey Building being demolished. 630 Court was put on the State Historic Register and some legal help sought. The Historic Society & Main Street President was directly participatory in the City’s fight against the building being saved, via distortions in history. The Library has been put on the National Register of Historic Places. Neither of these buildings’ historic stati are acknowledged by the Historic Society. I asked to see the Sharkey nomination folder that the Historic Society was keeping, the one I shared with them because I have shared mountains of high-end research as an example of integrity, but the Director told me the President had the folder removed from the museum. In 2008, we as tax payers paid $50,000 for a professional historic resources inventory. The City attempted to bury it.

In 2009, the RCD HUD project required a Federal 106 history survey undertaken in the Shoreline. The survey was undertaken in a fraudulent way and the Historic Society again participated directly in an anti-history fashion counter to academic soundness so the result was that the Shoreline found unhistoric and Dunvian Trust got its 1.4million for the RCD lot. A small community group paid $20,000 of personal funds, and about 10% of that many hours collectively resisting this. We undertook a law suit in which we subpoenaed the professional historic survey. The City refuses to acknowledge it and states it will no longer consider this academic document. Now, the General Plan update has thrown out all mention of Historic Resources and the City is inventing a ministerial way (vs. discretionary. CEQA only applies to discretionary municipal actions) to void historic resource protections. And, they are using enormous amounts of staff time to undertake this secret battle that benefits mostly one property owner at the cost of all these broader and valid planning precepts, as presented by the California Preservation Foundation and undertaken by so many other locales: Europe, India, Iran, Benecia, Peteluma, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, etc. etc.

Please read the presentations in the link above, and learn what the rest of the world knows; and what you probably sense somewhere in your being, but just do not have the language to express because the institutions in this town that other places have to rely on for such understanding, are working and relying on you not to understand. You must take “Historic Martinez” upon yourself if you care. This will require learning. See link above.

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Barbara Glenn May 17, 2012 at 01:38 PM
I have said for a long time that the Historic Preservation of Martinez is just a myth. The new buildings that have been put up are not in character with the town and are a blight in my opinion. What ever Historical preservation committee there is in Martinez firmly has their heads under the sand. Many many building have been demolished that contributed to the character of one of the oldest towns in California. No one stopped their going and now we live with the ugly result. If the towns people have any hope of retaining the character, the ones that care must continue to ask question, make some noise and refuse to accept anything less than preservation.
Kristin Henderson May 17, 2012 at 10:49 PM
News Flash: Post Office just placed on National Historic Register...official word by email just now! Yay! Barbara....Well, there is no historic preservation committee. Having been in this game 7 years (and soon to exit), everyone will tell you that just a few underfunded voices come bearing sun size fire balls and screaming like sonic booms. Thanks for the support though, and do please read the part about how Main Street nor Historic Society will help with historic preservation and hence, my dear, you have to pursue it yourself. If you were looking for something to do, I assure you that it could be a lifetime job! And rewarding, and fun, and interesting. Especially enrichening mentally. ...
Kristin Henderson May 18, 2012 at 04:24 AM
Link to Downtown Post Office nomination: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0Bx8WaJU_iZOGSDRpaHpKdjV3Tnc
Anne Mobley May 19, 2012 at 04:36 AM
Historic Society not protecting our historical resources? Wanting to destroy historical buildings? Really? News for the 11th year Main Street Martinez has been designated as an accredited National Main Street Program for meeting the commercial district revitalization performance standards set by the National Trust Main Street Center® -- yet not protecting Main Street businesses (i.e., coming out against a lice removal business; in favor of low income housing when its board member owned the property and put huge ads in the kiosk promoting it; coming out in favor of destroying a successful block on Main Street by a vicious letter to the City Council. What? Not here in Martinez!!! Really? Really? We must not be seeing the truth here in Martinez. These organizations are supposed to protect our historical buildings. One touts revitalization yet did not even recognize that the 500 block of Main did that 12 years ago. I think these people are asleep at the wheel. Time for new blood and people with no special interests. Were it not for Ms. Henderson, some of our historical buildings would be a passing memory. We owe her a debt of gratitude.


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