A history of the debated Annex building
by Ron Swift | Patterson Irrigator
Jul 18, 2013 | 954 views | 0 0 comments | 217 217 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ron Swift
Ron Swift
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Some refer to it as buying the proverbial pig in a poke. Others point fingers, hoping the blame will fall damagingly on the appropriate party.

Yet, what is done is done, and it’s best to move ahead and make the best of the situation.

I’m referring to the city of Patterson’s purchase of the old bakery building and its add-ons in the middle of the downtown block of Del Puerto Avenue. The latest recommendation is for the building, for which the city paid $650,000, to come down because of structural deficiencies.

First, the building’s history.

The one-story, brick building was constructed in 1913 to serve the Patterson Home Bakery. Some six years later, immigrant Italian brothers Alfonso and Mario Ielmini acquired the business and purchased the building. Over the next 25 years, they built up a very successful business, the French-American Bakery.

Patterson’s Post Office first opened in the administration building of Patterson Irrigated Farms, which now serves as our museum. But it outgrew that space and in 1931 the Ielminis enlarged their building out to the alley to serve the community as a post office. A couple other additions may have been added on the rear of the building, those dates unknown.

After the post office moved to its present location in 1967, the bakery remained and the add-on space served as a barbershop on the street with retail space behind it. Interior remodeling was undertaken over the years, at which time it is assumed that no structural deficiencies were found.

In other words, the original building has stood for 100 years, having changed ownership several times. The city made the purchase late last summer from local developer John Ramos, paying the price set by an independent appraiser. The building currently accommodates four renters, whose leases are either up or about to expire.

CITY HAS A NEED

The location of the property in downtown Patterson is ideal for public ownership. Between it and City Hall, it is one small concrete block building, also owned by Ramos. And across the rear alley is the former City Hall, currently used as a fire station and department offices. The entire area is the hub of city government.

It was the announced intention of the City Council and City Manager Rod Butler to extensively renovate the former post office quarters into space to be used by the Patterson-Westley Chamber of Commerce, the Patterson Township Historical Society for its Research Center, and a tourist bureau. Its location, for that purpose, was ideal and would serve as a major start to the renovation of Patterson’s unique downtown.

The space was to include a large conference room to be made available to local organizations. An outside patio area in the present side alley was being considered. Local architect Martin Salmon was retained and floor plans had been approved by future occupants.

The current renters were to remain where they are.

The City Council directed Salmon to plan for fire suppression sprinklers. He also realized that aging electrical and plumbing systems would need to be replaced. And, after exposing walls and ceiling as a part of his exploratory work, Salmon asked the city for a structural study.

Not one, but two structural engineering firms subsequently confirmed that the building is unsafe according to California building codes.

But the future office space needs of the city have yet to be thoroughly discussed. Butler has pointed out that the site location of the property in question is ideal for future city needs. It is nearly adjacent to present city property and could eventually serve the overflow needs of the present City Hall. This plan has been expressed since Day 1 of the purchase idea, but has received little or no public discussion.

THE BOTTOM LINE

What it comes down to is this:

We could point fingers and make accusations from this point forward about why the error was made. We did the same thing when $8 million in un-cashed checks were found in a building department drawer a few years back.

Or we could make the best of an admitted error. Yes, it’s unfortunate the building is structurally unsound. Who should have caught its deficiencies prior to its purchase is open to debate.

But making heads roll over the mistake isn’t going to solve the problem. The city currently rents out four spaces in a building that has been deemed unsafe, and thus has the liability on its shoulders. And being a public entity, that’s heavy liability.

The City Council has yet to make a final decision on the fate of the building. That is expected to be done this fall. Hopefully the public will encourage our elected officials to make the best of a situation that is unfortunate, and yes, expensive.

STREET SEEN

The latest acquisition for the Patterson Township Historical Society’s museum is a school bell used by the late, longtime Northmead teacher Edna Stewart. It is over six inches in diameter and is in excellent condition. The donation was made by Fran Roberts, herself a retired teacher.

Nine Patterson Boy Scouts left Saturday on a two-week trip to the National Jamboree. They will congregate along with over 40,000 other scouts and adult leaders at a new permanent jamboree site in West Virginia. Interestingly, the nine Scouts from Patterson make up a fourth of the 36-member jamboree troop being sent by the Greater Yosemite Council, which includes six counties. That says something for the local program.

And aren’t those crepe myrtle street trees gorgeous in Patterson’s downtown district and elsewhere! So pretty, we ran out and bought one for our yard.

If Parade magazine in the Sunday newspapers gets any slimmer, it will be down to a single sheet.

It was exciting to see a large party being held last weekend at Laird Park just off Grayson Road. The county-owned park is in excellent shape, thanks to Jon Maring and a group of farmer friends. In fact, since the park was developed by the county in 1964, it has never looked better.

Sorry if you missed it. But many didn’t and very much enjoyed the show last Saturday at the Patterson library. I’m referring to Python Ron’s fascination presentation of insects, tortoises and snakes, including pythons. A packed house, standing room only of kids and adults, and thanks should go to our County Library and its volunteer support groups.

By the way, don’t confuse Python Ron with this scribe. Snakes really aren’t my thing. Really, really.

LET’S NOT RUSH THINGS

Believe it or not, my first 2014 calendar has arrived in the mail.

Jeepers, creepers, isn’t it a bit early to think of 2014? I’m just settling in to 2013. But there it was, a “gift” from the Save the Bay people. They’ve been in business over 50 years and the bay undoubtedly needs saving now more than ever before.

A return envelope was enclosed so that I might donate to the cause.

By the way, the calendar is beautiful with gorgeous color photos of Bay Area wildlife, a full moon over the city, and both internationally known bridges. Yes, including the one with the faulty rods.

By the way, those locals who are indignant about our city’s purchase of a downtown Patterson building for $650,000 that now needs to be demolished, are undoubtedly troubled by mention of the Bay Bridge. Some $6.4 billion has been spent on that project, some of those funds going to China, and they still didn’t get it right. As for me, I’m going to take the San Mateo Bridge.

FOR THE SPORTS FAN

An amazing statistic: The Giants are eight games under .500 and yet only six-and-a-half out of first place in their division.

AND FINALLY ...

Don’t look now, but in less than four weeks, local schools will be back in session.

Ron Swift is editor/publisher emeritus of the Patterson Irrigator. He can be reached at ronkay@gvni.com.
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