The historical review board strikes again

Did you know that the root word in “hysterical” means woman? Because, you know, women are all flighty and shit. I’ve been thinking we should change it to “androsterical”. But then people can’t use it to make a pun on the Mendocino Historical Review Board, known as the “Hysterical Review Board” among the oh so witty jokers ’round these parts.

So anyway. Behind Mendosas market is this old decaying warehouse. It kind of reminds me of my old house. It’s built of tin, at least on the outside, so it looks relatively stable and safe until you see the inside, and you think “my God, this thing is going to kill someone!” Apparently Mendosas thought the same, because they finally decided to raze it and build another one.

Only, welcome to Mendocino.

First, Mendosas had to agree that they would maintain the same general barnish look of the warehouse. All well and good. The new one should be built on the same footprint, with a similar roof line. I understand the desire to want to maintain “historical” buildings, I do. So Mendosas drew up the plans for a nice historical looking barn that would make an updated warehouse space.

The owners said about 40% of the current space was usable. And that they were concerned for the safety of employees who worked in the warehouse. The fire department said they would not send firefighters into the building in an emergency situation, and that they were concerned it posed a fire danger.

I have to give the owners credit–the building hasn’t been condemned, they just realized it was unsafe and should be replaced. There are rumours that the business will be sold, so maybe they are trying to increase the property value, but I prefer to think for the moment that the improvements are altruistic. It’s time to have a modernized warehouse space, for food safety. For healthy employees. For the safety of firefighting personnel.


Well, the Historical Review Board doesn’t want to play ball. They wanted to vote it down, to leave the old structure up, because of “public outcry.” They decided that the “historical” nature of the town should be preserved at the cost of doing business. I suppose when there’s another earthquake, it will be highly historically accurate to have the thing come tumbling down. At last the board conceded, but it has demanded that they roof the new structure with the old, rusting, dangerous materials. Initially, the board wanted the building remodeled, and it was pointed out that this would be impractical and unsafe. And then the board wanted faux rust paint used on the outside of the building, to make it look old. But no, it settled for a totally useless leaking roof instead. Mendosas said “hell no,” to their credit. So now they have to put a fake old roof over the real new roof, to maintain the “character.”

I’m sorry, but this is ridiculous. It’s absurd that rich yuppies and narrowminded preservationists demanded that the building be remodeled. It’s ludicrous that people who know nothing about building, construction, and worker safety get to dictate things like this. I understand the ideals behind preserving Mendocino in a frozen form–it makes a lot of money for the city. Being anti-development, I also understand the obstructionist nature of what the board does. However, business owners should be able to make modifications to their properties, especially when they are concerned about worker safety. A new structure could be built along old lines with safe, reliable materials and blend in with the town. Owning property in Mendocino is fine, as long as you never need to make modifications to it. But as soon as you try to fix a sagging roofline, repair a falling outbuilding, or paint your home, you will be subjected to no end of grief in pursuit of “history.”

Mendocino is not historical. For one thing, most of it fell down in 1906. For another, there are parts of the town that were built up as late as the 1960s, and they don’t “match” the rest of town. There’s an airstream trailer hiding somewhere–can you find it? Also, the board doesn’t seem to follow its own rules, in particular as regards to paint colours. As anyone who has seen the garish painted ladies of San Francisco knows, the Victorians and Edwardians were not fans of mute pastel colours. The board has some sort of idea in its head of what “historical” is, and it’s enforced at random. Fort Bragg has more historical buildings than Mendocino does. Most of them are beautifully preserved and handsome to look at (unlike much of the rest of the town). I dislike this attitude that everything must be archaic, to preserve the “character” of the town. I suppose since Mendocino is an uptight little rich town, the board actually preserves the character rather well. Yet by behaving this way, the board maintains the status quo–the locals will have crappy service jobs so that the tourists can maintain their illusions. We are not encourage to live, work, and do business in Mendocino. Luckily, Fort Bragg is supportive of local entrepreneurs and business people, and welcomes novel ideas and hard workers. Art in this county is dead. We aren’t like Carmel, except in that we’re just as expensive. But this is not a haven of artists and bohemians anymore, it’s a yuppie paradise. Before long we’ll be like Colonial Williamsburg, a giant theme park, only set in the Edwardian era. And where will the character be then?