Danville's Heritage Resource Commission voted to maintain two historic barns at Hap Magee Ranch Park on Monday night, following almost a year of consideration, testing and structural analysis.
The park, which is run by Alamo and Danville residents that comprise the Joint Planning and Operations Committee, was formerly an orphanage and later became a ranch with buildings dating between the 1920s and 1950s. At its meeting, the commission vetoed part of the JPOC's proposal for park enhancements, which included the addition of a community garden and demolition of the larger barn.
"The commission approved the resolution, modifying it so approved rehabilitation of one barn but did not approve demolition of second barn," said Principal Planner and Commission Liaison David Crompton. "They asked that we look at other options, possible ways that (the barn) could be preserved in place or preserved and restored."
In July, reports stated that both barns showed signs of fungal decay, water and termite damage that left each structure unsafe for public access. Upon further research, town officials found that the barn closest to the creek trail on the western portion of the park was in far worse condition and would require cost-prohibitive demolition and reconstruction. While a partial historical analysis of the buildings determined significance, the JPOC determined that a significant portion of history would be lost if the larger barn were to be torn down and rebuilt.
This decision angered several local historians, including East Bay Regional Parks Director and Museum of the San Ramon Valley Curator, Beverly Lane.
"Both of these barns are probably quite old and they provide what historic preservationists call a 'historic landscape,'" Lane said. "The information staff provided was insufficient. They did not provide for the Magee committee any historic information on those buildings, they treated them as if they were just buildings in the way of something. For them to act like it's no big deal is extraordinary."
While Crompton maintains that the town did not conduct a full historical analysis because it was already aware of the importance of the barns, historically sound reconstruction efforts have already been planned for the barn near the Swain House. According to reports, the rehabilitation would primarily consist of replacing roof beams, installing a new metal roof, replacing wallboards and repainting at a cost of $21,697.
Although the cost to rehabilitate the other, larger barn would be nearly double that of the smaller barn, officials are now considering alternatives to demolition. In the meantime, the town will erect a fence around the barn to prevent entry. The community garden, run by Alamo-based non-profit The Bounty Garden, will work around the new proposal.
"It's not going to be a typical community garden where people grow things then take a portion for themselves, but all will be donated," said Assistant Town Manager Marcia Somers. "They want to really do it as a community service project and get school groups involved."
The Bounty Garden, spearheaded by mother and daughter team Heidi and Amelia Abramson, plans to build 42 four-by-ten foot garden beds and a small greenhouse near the larger barn. The team chose the site -- which will produce organic fruit and vegetables for local food banks -- for its shade and sun orientation as well as good dirt.
"We feel it has its best chance of being a self sustainable garden if it's in this location. Before we presented a 125-page binder on why we chose this location, we spent about nine months researching different locations," Heidi said.
Bounty Garden plans have been in the works for nearly two years and should not be affected by this latest development in barn rehabilitation.
"We'll work with them moving forward to make sure that their plan goes smoothly but also accommodates the structures," Somers said.
No date has been set for further discussion on Hap Magee's two barns. Officials speculate that the community garden may begin installation in one month.