City government

Council to decide fate of WPA restroom building in Central Park

By From page A1 | December 10, 2013

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What: Davis City Council meeting

When: 6:30 p.m. today

Where: Community Chambers at City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd.

Watch it live: Comcast Channel 16; AT&T U-Verse Channel 99; the city’s website at www.cityofdavis.org/media.

Notable agenda items: WPA restroom building decision; update on pavement maintenance strategy; resale of Leland Ranch property (Mace 391) with conservation easement.

Much ado about a loo: the final act.

The Davis City Council will be asked to make a decision on whether to rip down the old Works Progress Administration restrooms in Central Park once and for all Tuesday, potentially ending years of controversy swirling around the building.

As part of a comprehensive project to renovate Central Park, the host of many staple community events such as the weekly Farmers Market and Picnic in the Park, plans always have called for razing the restrooms.

But volunteers with the Hattie Weber Museum oppose demolition, in part, because of the building’s historical value.

The restroom facility is the only WPA building in Davis. WPA was a New Deal agency, a program initiated by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 that called on the unemployed to spearhead public works projects. The local building was constructed in 1937.

Museum officials instead have carved out plans to turn the restrooms, located just south of the museum on the north end of the park, into a storage facility that would house museum materials.

The city’s plans, on the other hand, call for the bathrooms to be removed and replaced with a History Plaza — a walkway commemorating a timeline of historic events in Davis.

“On many Saturdays the vendors stretch out around the edge of the playground and down to the restrooms,” the city’s staff report said. “The plaza would provide overflow space for vendors without adding congestion at the playground and carousel.”

Of course, there’s plenty of history to the debate over what to do with the building as well.

In 2011, the council, on a split vote, directed staff to continue forward with demolition and to construct the history plaza, with Mayor Joe Krovoza and then-Councilwoman Sue Greenwald dissenting.

But in May 2012, the group back-pedaled from that decision and asked staff look into what resources it would take to hold on to the building. Then-Mayor Pro Tem Rochelle Swanson and Councilman Dan Wolk dissented on that vote.

Now, with the second phase of construction of the overall park master plan project looming, staff has returned with options and associated costs, and the current council must make the final decision.

The second phase of construction, with a new universal-access playground as the centerpiece, will cost about $585,000. The money to pay for the work will come from Community Development Block Grant funds, Quimby fees and park impact fees.

There has been no controversy surrounding the playground.

“(The new playground is) designed to accommodate and encourage play for children with special needs,” the city says in its staff report to the council. “The play pieces are ADA-accessible, allowing children in wheelchairs to experience playground activities. The sensory playground pieces provide recreational opportunities for children stimulated by sensory touch and listening activities.”

There are only two such playgrounds in the Sacramento area.

Meanwhile, to demolish the bathroom and build the plaza as part of Phase 2, staff estimates it would cost the city an additional $72,000. Based on contractors’ estimates, the city believes it would cost $49,000 to turn the facility into storage.

Hattie Weber representatives say, however, that they’ve received an estimate of only $3,841 to re-work the building, a substantial decrease in cost because much of the work could be done by volunteers. Staff counters that the estimate the museum has offered doesn’t account for work that must completed to keep the building in operation.

“The bid does not reflect all the work that needs to be done to the building to make it fully usable for storage,” the staff report said.

Staff adds that the building has begun to deteriorate, with a “major crack” ribboning up to the roof of the facility in one area, and that the city would need to hire a structural engineer to evaluate all the necessary work in order to retain the building.

Whatever the council decides Tuesday, the second phase of the Central Park Master Plan will begin next month.

Completed in June, the first phase of renovations included construction of an ADA-accessible ramp into the sycamore grove, the installation of LED lights and an improvement in electrical service to the park.

The city also built a new set of restrooms on the east side of the park, which have been adorned with the Davis Song Mural, created by Davis artist Heidi Bekebrede.

— Reach Tom Sakash at [email protected] or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash

Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected], (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.
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