Preserving a Piece of Pleasanton’s Heritage | New

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The hazy future of a historic home in Pleasanton is now a little clearer, with neighbors and city officials recently pledging to preserve both some of their community’s heritage and growing green space. limits.

Hidden behind towering trees at the end of a long dirt road lined with rose bushes, the Century House on Santa Rita Road has been around longer than its name suggests. At 150 years old, the house has had many lives: originally built as a weekend duck hunting lodge by George Atkinson in the 1870s, the Spring Valley Water Co. owned it at one point and several families have also made their home there.

Time had taken its toll on Century House when the Town of Pleasanton took ownership and remodeled the building in the 1970s. Over the years, people got married, held birthday parties and followed suit. courses on site.

When the Century House was first renovated, it wasn’t because a particular historical event took place there. Instead, the old wooden farmhouse exemplified the typical house from an era even before the city’s founding.

Almost 50 years later, the city is once again seeking to preserve and use the former residence, which served as a venue for classes and public events until it was deemed unsafe in 2012. In an interview, Mayor Karla Brown told The Weekly the reasons the Century House got a facelift are largely the same as before.

“It’s a pretty special place,” said Brown. “It’s so easy to miss it, and the trees are so mature.”

“Right now, most of the events are taking place at the Senior Center or in downtown buildings, and this side of Pleasanton could use some community centers here,” Brown said. “If we want to restore it, then let’s use it.”

Century House is also dear to the heart of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Joanie Fields, who called it “one of the few structures in our community with such a long history.”

“Since I grew up here and got to know some of the people who lived in this house, it’s very special to me,” Fields said.

The parks commission spent more than a year and a half studying the possible use of the house, according to Fields, and “with a few small changes in the floor plan we will be able to have larger classes for all groups. of age ”, in addition to birthdays, weddings and business meetings.

“This is something we badly need… It will make it more usable for our community,” said Fields.

Although the Century House has “a great history,” Brown said it also had issues such as rotting wood inside and compliance with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which are expected to present challenges. renovation and “be expensive to do it right”.

“ADA compliance requires access to the floor, and it’s an elevator – and it’s a challenge,” Brown said. “At the moment there are male and female toilets, neither are big enough for a wheelchair. We asked to make a bigger one, but (the staff) assume they probably need two additional bathrooms just for a group of 100 people. “

Another option is a separate building structure with an outdoor kitchen and bathroom.

“Old beautiful houses are not government buildings, but they have to be if they are owned by the city. You have to be ADA compliant,” Brown said. “It is difficult to make it comply with all government regulations, and it will be a big challenge.”

Century House’s long life means it needs “a complete upgrade of all electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling, new foundation as well as ADA compliance issues,” according to Fields.

The Century House’s first renovation decades earlier was “done on a limited budget,” and former Pleasanton mayors John McWilliams and Ken Mercer contributed to the effort, she said.

“Mr. McWilliams replaced all the pins, matching them to the original ones on the staircase. Ken Mercer helped lay the bricks in the patio and also helped paint the house,” Fields said, adding. these two are just examples of what was going on during this time when we were all working together. “

Since then, however, “the codes have all changed,” Fields said. “I call it a snap. When a building has been empty for eight years, a lot of problems emerge that maybe weren’t so obvious at the time.”

The question of paying everything also weighs on the city and its budget. Depending on the type and amount of work required, city staff estimated at a June 21 public workshop for the Century House master plan that renovations and repairs could cost between $ 500,000 and $ 3.5 million. .

“It all depends financially on capital improvement budgets and it’s expensive,” Brown said. “The city should put some money aside because all the old houses need maintenance. Owning an old house is expensive, but it’s part of our town, and the old houses in Pleasanton are what make us unique.

Regular maintenance shouldn’t be as much of a problem, as it “would be like any other property owned by the city,” Fields said.

“All buildings are assigned major and minor repairs as needed, such as interior / exterior paint, new carpet,” Fields said. “Our municipal staff have done an outstanding job keeping all of our buildings in working order over the years. “

When it comes to having enough money up front to do the renovations, Brown said: “We’re not confident because we’ve had a few years down, especially with COVID and the funds we’ve donated. to our small businesses to keep them afloat, renovating the Century House will be a challenge. “

One hurdle the city appears to have overcome recently, however, is making peace with surrounding neighbors who have been thwarted by a proposal to pave about 25% of the adjacent Bicentennial Park to add more parking. The Century House parking lot currently has less than a dozen parking spaces, but could potentially accommodate around 20 in total, according to city staff.

“We have quite a few apartments in this neighborhood… which makes an area like Bicentennial Park more valuable,” Brown said. Now the city’s ultimate goal is to add more parking while preserving “all the meaning, the look, the historic front yard layout with the roses”.

At first glance, Bicentennial Park appears to be an unassuming strip of land, devoid of any play equipment, but her neighbor Jean Hazell, who lives about a block away, said it was a essential facility for his family and neighbors. Walking less than a mile to Ken Mercer Sports Park might not seem like a big deal, but she said “it’s not good if you have mobility issues or have very small children.”

“The green space was part of what made the plot special and we were hoping to make it a middle ground,” Hazell said.

Hazell and her neighbors recently successfully circulated a petition, which was signed by more than 900 residents demanding that the city find parking alternatives for Century House in addition to removing their green space.

At the town workshop, officials said they wanted to explore the possibility of opening the gate between the park and Century House during larger events, which would allow limited access for cars along the route. Tanager walk.

Ultimately, the council asked staff to ditch the additional parking options at Bicentennial Park and instead add a drop-off area on Santa Rita, as well as explore adding more parking. along the outside perimeter of the existing driveway, which would leave the front lawn and rose bushes intact.

The owner of the Tri-Valley Medical Center building at the corner of Santa Rita Road and Mohr Avenue was also receptive to a shared-use parking deal on their property. Hazell called it “a great offsite option to finish what they’re doing onsite” which is also conveniently located near the crosswalk.

“This process has yielded a result where we can both honor history and restore a special place that is dear to many members of the community, and also honor the commitment that was made long ago to the green space of this park, “Hazell said, also adding that” many neighbors were encouraged and reassured that the process was working when city officials listened. “

Even before the draft master plan was completed this fall, Hazell said the process had already “united the neighborhood.” Now, more and more neighbors recognize each other during a walk in the precious local green space where it all began.

“I walked out of the process feeling really happy,” Hazell said.

The Century House is not only a portal to the past, but also a place where residents envision their future, whether they are attending a wedding or an on-site art class. Brown said that “the romantic side of me” would “love to” see it used for weddings, birthdays, and life events, as well as classes the neighborhood could use, “while Hazell is considering live music concerts. bedroom.

With its secluded location and ability to hide in plain sight, the Century House has been overlooked at times, but Brown said the building reminds locals that “not everything old and precious in Pleasanton is on Main Rue. “


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