We have all heard variations on the joke describing developers destroying authentic, historic places in order to replace them with ticky-tacky housing and strip malls.
The joke part is that developers sometime--in an ironic perversion--name a development for the place they have just destroyed. A demolished real thing is exploited to legitimize a shoddy new thing.
Thus, a housing development might be named “Spring Lake” because it is built where a spring-fed lake was drained and filled in order to build “Spring Lake.”
Or, a town might be dubbed “Elk Grove” because it is built on land cleared of both Elks and groves in order to construct “Elk Grove.”
I call attention to these developer exercises in sham in order to provide a framework for appreciating the new level of ironic inauthenticity to which the City of Davis aspires.
This week, the Davis City Council voted to demolish the 1937 WPA building in Central Park and to install a “History Plaza” on the site where that building now stands.
In his dissent from the Council majority, Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza too politely captured the hypocritical contradiction of these two actions:
The idea of tearing down a structure of WPA heritage to create a history plaza just doesn’t quite jibe with me. I tend to leave the history that’s there before tearing it down to create a plaza for that . . . . We don’t have a lot of history in this town . . . and while it may not qualify as a historic resource, I think it is a real touch point for the community.
Said differently, the plan is to destroy an authentic Davis history structure in order to replace it with an ersatz and contrived “history” space that, in fact, has nothing to do with history.
Twisting the knife after insertion: there is even talk of commemorating the demolished WPA building itself in the “History Plaza.” The idea seems to be to revere the building without the inconvenience of showing it any regard by allowing it to exist.
Should this plan be carried out, the City of Davis is surely a contender for the hypocritical sham and inauthenticity prize. It will have taken the perversion of the authentic to a new level.
But, there might still be an odd form of poetic justice in this. The “History Plaza” might itself become renowned for its inauthenticity. It might well become famous as a shining encapsulation of the hypocrisy of which Davis is so often accused. In good folk-name cynicism, ordinary people might call it “Hypocrisy Plaza.”