The Napa City Council last week removed a century-old building from the city’s Historic Resources Inventory, overturning a decision made previously by the Cultural Heritage Commission to keep it on the list.
The owner of the property at 1512 Fourth Street, at the corner of School Street, had tried to have the property removed from the city’s inventory following a 2011 downtown survey that found the building, marked most notably by a witches hat-style roof, offered no historic value to the city.
The Cultural Heritage Commission, which has authority over such matters, denied the request for its removal from the list in November because three members thought otherwise.
Last week, owner Nestor Macaraig appealed to the council, which unanimously saw the matter in his favor.
“Due to the lack of integrity of this particular building and its lack of significance under any of the criteria and its lack of a potential district in the vicinity, it should come off the historic resources inventory,” Councilwoman Juliana Inman, known for her commitment to historic preservation, said following a report on the matter.
In the late 1990s, nearly 3,000 properties had been placed on the city’s historic index, many of them only on the chance they would be part of a future historic district, said Senior Planner Kevin Eberle. There was an understanding that there would be “further refinement” of the list in the future, which has happened in recent years with five city-initiated surveys of neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of resources.
In the survey of the downtown area, consultant Page and Turnbull recommended that the property in question, along with others, be removed from the inventory, Eberle said. The commission accepted the survey and since that time, removed about 400 properties in Napa from the inventory.
When the Fourth Street property, built in 1907 and marked by a pitched roof that resembles a witches hat and Greek columns at the entry, came before the Cultural Heritage Commission, three of the five members said they thought it should be kept on the local inventory. They believed its unique characteristics warranted the designation, the city said.
For a building to be listed as a local historic resource, it should be:
• associated with important historical events;
• associated with someone important to Napa’s history;
• bear a prominent or important architectural style of the era in which it was built;
• have the potential to yield historically important information.
The survey found the building was not involved in any historic events or home to any significant people, nor is its design historically valuable.
“Overall, the building lacks historic integrity,” the survey said.
In a letter of appeal to the city, Macaraig said the commission’s ruling was “arbitrary and contradictory to the Page and Turnbull report” and it “equates to taking away inherent property rights of property owners like us who would rather make improvements on the building.”
The council agreed, noting the city paid to have the surveys done by a qualified consultant and should follow through on its recommendations.
Eberle said there are no immediate plans to change the building, but its removal from the inventory would allow him to make changes or even demolish the structure. Macaraig has mentioned he would like to rehabilitate the structure, Eberle said.