Thursday, October 15, 2015

Only in Davis, From Historic Potholes to Historic Shacks: The Imperious Treatment of Two Homeowners In the Recent Historic Preservation Survey (243)

In the previous post, I described the current curious situation in which City of Davis decisions in classifying homes as historic “contributors” (or not) are not reviewable by neutral third parties in the way we are accustomed to government decisions being appealable. Instead, one can only appeal to the people who denied one’s appeal. It is of course no surprise when these same people turn down one’s appeal.

This is not a theoretical exercise. Such a case is being played out here in Davis at this time. Here are specifics that I can relate within the constraints of somewhat protecting the homeowners who are being subjected to this injustice.

A year or so ago a new-to-Davis couple bought a home -- a shack, really, or at least a “contractor’s special” -- in an “historic” area of our city. One of them is a carpenter and they planned to rebuild the place it into something more than the awkward assembly they bought.

They read the historical preservation write-up of the house, which was at that time the one written in 2003.

1. 2003 Primary Record Heading
They noticed that the description was factually inaccurate in several substantial ways (images 1 and 2).

2. Extract, 2003 Primary Record
They also discovered several oddities in the house per se. Rather than being a cohesive “minimalist traditional” structure as the 2003 survey asserted, it was a hodge-podge of boxes built and rebuilt and patched together over decades.  

Believing that this structure needed a fundamental remodeling, they thought it would be a routine matter to get its erroneous “contributor” classification changed to “non-contributor” (6Z in preservationist jargon), which would give them a freer hand in the reconstruction.

They made a list of inaccuracies and other problems in the 2003 write-up and presented it to the Historical Resources Management Commission with a request for reclassification.

At its meeting in July of this year, the Commission declined to act on the request, saying only that the 26 pages of documentation the couple submitted would be taken into account in the new survey, then underway (image 3).  

3. Extract, July, 2015, HRMC Minutes
And that is last they heard from any City official regarding this matter, even up to this publication date (October 15), despite the fact that the 2015 report existed and was available although not public as early as October l.

I acquired a copy of it on October 1 and I find that the “update sheet” takes, to me, the strange position that this patched together shack is historic and remains a contributor as a shack (aka a contractor’s special) despite the documentation supplied by the couple (image 4).

This is so laugh-out-loud silly that I can only throw up my hands and exclaim:

“Only in Davis: From Historic Potholes to Historic Shacks!”

The worst part of this is that this couple has already done what Ms. Blosser of the OPH suggests, that is, taken it up with the HRMC (DHT, post 242).

And as I document in DHT, post 242, there is no provision for presenting their case for reassessment to competent, neutral third party professionals.

Instead, if they want change, they are forced into the naked, showdown politics of a City Council hearing.

Welcome to Davis.

4. Extract, 2015 Update Sheet