Window dressing on Truax House...meh

Critic unimpressed with Councilman Gloria's decision on historic house

The three-story Truax House at the entrance to Maple Canyon,  corner of Laurel and Union streets
  • The three-story Truax House at the entrance to Maple Canyon, corner of Laurel and Union streets

Despite numerous objections from Uptown residents, open-space advocates, and historic preservationists, a city-council committee on February 10 supported a proposal to sell two properties abutting Maple Canyon in Bankers Hill.

One of the houses, built in 1912, was once used as an AIDS hospice in the 1980s, when the disease was in its infancy. The proposed sale will now be decided by the full city council during an upcoming hearing.

In an effort to assuage residents’ concerns, Uptown's district representative, Todd Gloria, supports the sale only if the property is not deemed historic. If that is the case, he is asking that the city use the estimated $2.47 million from the proceeds of the sale to pay for a new park.

To sweeten the deal, Gloria requested that the city dedicate a new park in honor of Dr. Brad Truax, the doctor who treated many of the patients at the hospice until he, too, succumbed to the disease in 1988.

"I have heard my constituents’ concerns related to the potential sale of Truax House," Gloria said in a press release following the committee's vote.

"Stakeholders have asked for more public parks, improved access to Maple Canyon, preservation of any historic structures, and to ensure the memory of Dr. A. Brad Truax and those lost to HIV/AIDS is honored. I believe all of that is possible with the sale of these properties."

Gloria cited the current disrepair of the home (estimated to cost approximately $1.4 million to repair) as a reason he supported the sale, despite the numerous objections from his constituents.

Residents fighting the sale believe the compromise isn't good enough.

"It is with real regret that I understand that you have acted today to put the property up for sale in spite of strenuous objections from the community to not make hasty decisions that would have long-term adverse consequences for the Uptown Community's open space plans," wrote Bankers Hill resident Jim Frost, who has written numerous letters to Gloria urging him to oppose the sale for the purpose of using the property as an access point to Maple Canyon.

"It is mere window-dressing to pass some sale proceeds on to interested organizations who have objected to the sale in an attempt to minimize their objections," added Frost. "It is an exceedingly transparent move that brings you no credit."

Frost suggests that the city council save a portion of the property to ensure access to Maple Canyon is preserved.

"Why not give this a thought to at least salvage and rectify what at best is a questionable decision today and turn it into one that has some benefit to the neighborhood for the long term? It's not too late. I and others urge you to do so with haste."

Some residents believe the city could be running afoul of state laws that require municipalities to offer surplus properties to other local agencies so they can use such land as for parks or open space.

"The Legislature reaffirms its belief that there is an identifiable deficiency in the amount of land available for recreational purposes and that surplus land, prior to disposition, should be made available for park and recreation purposes or for open-space purposes," reads section 54220 of the state constitution.

State laws define "surplus property" as land that is "not contiguous to land owned by a state or local agency that is used for a park, recreational, open-space."

In supporting the decision to sell the property, city staff wrote that the city is able to sell properties that are not being used for city purposes (which the Truax House is not) and vacant (which the Truax House is).

It is undetermined when the council will discuss the item.

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Unfortunately, suing the city is the only way to get them to follow state law. This is not as easy to do as it might seem, but the frequency with which it occurs should be an indicator to our city government at the people's frustration level with city management. Thank you to the Reader for keeping the rest of us informed.

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