The plan for preserving a piece of Santa Rosa's agricultural heritage at the former Bayer Farm in Roseland includes demolishing the 1930s-era farmhouse on the property.
That troubles some members of the community, who say the house appears to be in good shape and could easily be upgraded and put to other uses.
“This is the historical center of the Roseland community,” said Duane DeWitt, who has long urged the city to pay greater attention to unincorporated county islands within city limits. “There are people that want to save that piece of our community history.”
After the 2007 purchase of the property, city officials spoke of the possibility of preserving the farmhouse. But renovating the building would be expensive, said Jennifer Tuell, a program coordinator in the Recreation and Parks Department.
There is lead paint and asbestos in the house, she said. An elevator would be necessary if the second story is to be accessed by the public, she said.
In addition, the community made it clear at meetings that it wanted a community hall with a commercial kitchen, and the farmhouse couldn't reasonably be retrofitted for such a purpose, she said.
The city hasn't taken a closer look at saving the farmhouse now that it doesn't have money to build the community hall, offices for LandPaths or a caretakers' residence, Tuell said. The issue never came up at recent meetings to redesign the park, she said.
But DeWitt said it's the perfect time to revisit the issue. He called it scandalous for the city to buy a property like the Bayer Farm and destroy a building that could be repurposed inexpensively, especially if volunteer labor were used.
The Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation did this with great results at a city owned farmhouse at Stone Farm on Occidental Road, he said.
Craig Anderson, executive director of LandPaths, said he's a preservationist at heart and thinks the city should reconsider demolishing the farmhouse.
“If it was my building, I'd look twice or three times at it before I decided to scrape it,” Anderson said.
Magdalena Ridley, a community activist and former LandPaths volunteer, said the farmhouse has been characterized as needing to be stripped to the frame and rebuilt.
“We were told it was just too rotten,” Ridley said.
Most residents didn't see it as worth saving when for the same amount of money a community center could be constructed, she said. But now that there's no money to construct new buildings, Ridley said she, too, wonders whether razing the only habitable structure on the property makes sense.
“Maybe that was a missed opportunity,” she said.
(You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter@citybeater.)