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Posted on: June 26, 2019

Caretaker’s Cabin at Howarth Park

Howarth Park Cabin

Background
In May of 2018, City Council approved removal of several city-owned facilities that were recommended for divestment by a consultant hired by the City to conduct a Facilities Condition Assessment and Maintenance Analysis of 114 City structures, including the caretaker’s cabin at Howarth Park. The purpose of the Facility Assessment was to determine how much funding would be needed each year to properly maintain the City’s facilities while meeting the City’s fiscal sustainability goals. Out of that study, recommendations on how to move forward with each facility were presented to Council for consideration. 

During the July 16, 2019 City Council meeting, Council decided to remove the Howarth Park Caretakers' Cabin from the City-Owned Buildings Demolition Project. Council made this decision to allow City staff time to research potential processes and procedures that may allow for the City to sell the cabin, not the land, for relocation as a possible alternative to demolition. Staff findings will be presented to Council for consideration and further direction at a future Council meeting.

The following FAQ's have been updated to reflect City Council's direction at the July 16, 2019 Council meeting.

Frequently Asked Questions & Answers

1. Can the City let someone else relocate the structure and/or make the necessary repairs?

City Council has requested staff to research potential processes and procedures that may allow for the City to sell the cabin, not the land, to a potential interested party for relocation as a possible alternative to demolition. Staff findings will be presented to Council for consideration and further direction at a future Council meeting. However, given the facility's current structural safety concerns, extensive hazardous materials remediation requirements, and code compliance issues, there is no guarantee the structure would remain intact during any relocation effort. Staff will also explore possible liability concerns related to relocation efforts.

2. Santa Rosa has a housing shortage; shouldn’t we keep the cabin to help a family or individual who needs a home?

Unfortunately, the 104-year-old cabin is in poor condition and is not suitable for habitation in its current state. A 2019 hazardous materials study found that 7 of 8 samples tested positive for lead, which would require extensive remediation work prior to any repair or renovation work. Additionally, the cabin needs a full roof replacement, ADA upgrades, modification to structural elements, and replacement of the communications, electrical, mechanical, and plumbing systems. 

The City is focused on a number of housing initiatives to help make an impact on the regional housing shortage. Read more about those efforts on the City’s Housing Action Plan webpage.

3. Can’t the cabin be used for something else at the park other than housing?

Occupancy of the cabin is currently not possible due to numerous safety hazards and building code compliance issues. All the work described in the answer to question #2 would need to be completed prior to any use of the cabin. The Recreation & Parks Department is considering this parkland area be re-purposed for additional picnicking space or added recreational/sports court activities following relocation/removal of the cabin.

4. Why can’t the City make the safety and code upgrades to make the facility habitable again?

The City’s Facility Assessment report indicates the structure is in poor condition and well past its service life. By industry standards, the cost for the City to restore the cabin far exceeds its future value. Based on this assessment, the facility was recommended for divestment. Additionally, the Recreation and Park Department has demonstrated that the area where the Caretaker’s house is situated could be better utilized for expanded park activities.

5. Doesn’t the cabin have historical significance?

An historical analysis concluded that the structure does not meet the criteria for historical significance since it was relocated to Howarth Park from its original spot on Ridley Avenue in 1983. The 1915-era structure would have been eligible had it been left in its original neighborhood. The relocation of the cabin to Howarth Park, however, placed it in a very different setting than the original modest, single-family neighborhood. This changed the original character of the building, resulting in the structure not being considered a historical resource.


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