City to demolish Big Gun Quarry shed?

Historical Society asks for time as council decides if century-old building comes down
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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It has stood the test of time. And yet, if the Rocklin City Council does not save it from demolition next week, the iconic Big Gun Monument shed will be history.
The Rocklin Historical Society considers the buildings on Pacific Street to be the only remaining work buildings left that represent 150 years of granite mining at the 61 quarrying sites around Rocklin.
The city, however, is poised to pull it down.
“We’ve had an engineer review the structure and they are the ones that have deemed it to be unsafe,” Rick Forstall Rocklin’s director of Public Services told the City Council at last week’s meeting.
“It’s a $50,000 repair job just to get it shored up so you can tear it down,” Forstall said.
Since March members of the Historical Society have mobilized — using hundreds of volunteer hours to clean up the quarry property and even gathering signatures on a petition from residents who want to save the work sheds.
Skip Gebel, president of the Rocklin Historical Society, said the site could be turned into a mining interpretive center.
“We identified 250 artifacts that will aid in telling the story of Rocklin’s granite mine industry,” Gebel told council members on Sept 13.
The historical community is asking the council to reconsider the demolition order for the Big Gun Monument and Cutting Sheds to allow more time to gather community input on the fate of the structures.
Historians have identified the buildings as the place where materials were fashioned to build the State Capitol building and the unique Transamerica Pyramid building in San Francisco.
The focal point of their concern has been the main shed, which stands about 45-feet-high.
“Where did the people of this city historically do that fashioning? It is right there in that shed at its current location,” Rocklin resident Kent Dasy told the council. “It is truly a piece of history despite the fact that it looks terrible.”
The city, through the Rocklin Redevelopment Agency, purchased the site in November 2010 from Sonco LLC, managed by Darron Epperson, for $1 million.
Most council members last week expressed concern about the safety of the building.
“Now taxpayers are on the hook for any injuries,” Council member Scott Yuill said. “If it’s abandoned, kids will get in there and get hurt.”
Dan Gayaldo, who represents Rediscover Rocklin, an association of Rocklin businesses promoting the development of the downtown corridor, said the site has potential.
“Anytime we do something important, there is a risk,” Gayaldo said. “What a reward this could be.”
City Manager Rick Horst expressed concern that if crews don’t knock it down the situation could open the city up for potential lawsuits.
Concerned Rocklin resident Hans Shaffer asked the council to put it into perspective.
“I would just like to know how many people have been hurt over there in the last 50 to 100 years,” he said.
Even though Council member Peter Hill said he supported shoring up Finnish Temperance Hall, moving St. Mary’s church to Front Street and the city’s purchase of the building the Historical Society uses as a museum, he couldn’t support preserving the quarry shed.
“I think the building needs to come down,” Hill said. “Everything that can be saved should be salvaged. I’m not convinced it can be developed the way it is described.”
Rocklin resident Roger Lokey said creativity is the key to building a lasting legacy at the site.
“That quarry hole is money in the bank for Rocklin. I’ll give you an example. There are people that would pay to ride on a zip line,” Lokey said.
Vice Mayor Brett Storey said he’s talked to three developers and they’ve passed on the site.
“No developer is going to shore those up. They are going to take them down and reconstruct it because that’s what is required to have the public out there for anything they want to develop,” Storey said.
Resident Nick Kirk said Rocklin needs to create a destination for tourists.
“What does Rocklin have to offer? This could be it,” Kirk said. “Really think about it because if we demolition it, that’s history. You can’t put a price on history.”
Complicating matters is the passage AB 26 and 27 and with them a court challenge which has put the property in limbo.
AB 26 deems October 1 as the drop dead point for cities that are no longer allowed to have redevelopment agencies, giving the money instead to the state.
AB 27 allows a city to keep its redevelopment agency if it pays the state a certain percentage of the money it received in a continuation fee, both as an up-front one-time payment, then a smaller amount on an annual basis.
The city council has not publicly decided if they can afford to pay the fee to maintain its redevelopment agency.
The court challenge from the California League of Cities alleges AB 26 and AB 27 are unconstitutional.
“If we fool around with this too long, we don’t know where the Supreme Court is going to go, but we could end up with it completely out of our hands,” Council member Peter Hill said. “Frankly, the thought of the state owning that makes my blood run cold.”
The State Supreme Court is expected to announce its ruling by Jan. 15.
The Rocklin Historical Society has asked to meet with the city this week to discuss their position.
The council is expected to make a final decision on the demolition at Tuesday’s meeting, which will start at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at Rocklin City Hall on Rocklin Road.
Big Gun Quarry Clean-up
* City paid $1 million for quarry property in November 2010
* Rocklin Historical Society spent $7,000 in volunteer man hours at the site
* 250 historical artifacts identified
* $50,000 estimated cost for preparing the shed for demolition
* Redevelopment Agency officially ends Oct. 1
* California Supreme Court ruling on AB26 & AB27 due by Jan. 15