When I read that Senator Mark DeSaulnier was holding individual meetings at the Dougherty Valley Library this Saturday morning, I thought this might be a good opportunity to speak to him about saving the Mudd's Restaurant building from being sold by the State Department of Finance.
Like Alice Waters, Virginia Mudd was a pioneer in the organic gardening and locavore movements of the 1970s and '80s. Virginia Mudd was active in the planning and design of the restaurant bearing her name on Crow Canyon Place next to Crow Canyon Gardens.
The City's Redevelopment Agency bought the Mudd's property in 2008 and budgeted $215K for repairs to the buildings, but a year later the RDA sought to lease the property to another restaurateur to replace the building with his own. Fortunately for Mudd's that deal fell through.
Governor Jerry Brown passed a law to dissolve all Redevelopment Agencies in 2012. Brown's new law required the former RDA form a Successor Agency to take over disposition of RDA property. San Ramon's Successor Agency is the City Council. An Oversight Board was appointed to represent the taxing agencies that would split up the proceeds from the sale of RDA properties to replace a portion of their Property Tax revenue.
Mudd's is the only saleable property asset owned by the RDA. The Oversight Board is still waiting for approval by the State Dept. of Finance of the Long Range Property Management Plan (LRPMP) before the property can be sold. Below is the paragraph on the sale of Mudd's in the LRPMP.
"The LRPMP seeks to sell the property and distribute the net proceed s from the sale, as property tax revenue distributed to the taxing entities. Net proceeds are the revenue generated by the sale, minus any legal, consultant, commission, or other costs associated with the sale."
Senator DeSaulnier was scheduled to be at the Dougherty Valley Library between 10 am and 1 pm. I got to the Library at 10:30 am and meetings were already underway. I filled out a form with my purpose for speaking to Senator DeSaulnier and included a brief history of Mudd's written by Jim Gibbon.
Donna Kerger was waiting with a friend to speak to Senator DeSaulnier. I asked Donna why she was there. It was to accompany her friend to ask the Senator to keep necessary services for the poor and disabled in the State's budget.
The interviews seemed to be moving slowly. Donna said she was the second one to hand in a form for the appointment but her meeting was not until almost 11 am. After Donna and her friend went into the interview room, Dorothy Hann came into the Library and sat near me. Dorothy fosters cats for Safe-Cat. When I was still fostering cats, Dorothy and I represented the Safe Cat Foundation at the Blessing of the Animals at Peace Lutheran Church.
I asked Dorothy what she wanted to speak to Senator DeSaulnier about. She said it was to "be kind to animals." I'm not sure what he could do about that, but I'm for being kind to animals and getting more people to be kind to animals too.
I wanted to ask Senator DeSaulnier to support Jim Gibbon's nomination of Mudd's as a "California Historical Landmark." I hoped this designation would prevent any buyer from tearing the building down or making changes that would reduce its historical and architectural significance.
The application requires permission from the building's owner. Right now we don't know who the owner is. I thought it is the RDA Successor Agency, which is the City Council. Gibbon and I have both asked the Successor Agency to sign the application, but so far they have not responded to this request.
City Attorney Bob Saxe said the State might be the owner, since all RDA properties are to be sold by the State Department of Finance now that RDAs have been dissolved. I didn't want that to happen to Mudd's. So I was gearing up to give Senator DeSaulnier my most persuasive pitch on why Mudd's should be rescued from RDA limbo.
It turned out I didn't have to persuade Senator DeSaulnier at all. He not only knew about the restaurant and the building, he had been in the restaurant business many years ago and almost took over Mudd's in the 90s but decided to go into politics instead. He kept saying "It's a beautiful building."
It is a beautiful building but it is in sore need of maintenance and repairs, since it has been sitting vacant and unattended for five years now. Matthew Larson of The Growing Room has presented offers to buy the property to the RDA Successor Agency and the Oversight Board.
The Growing Room appears to be an ideal buyer. They are willing to restore and maintain the building in its original form and use it as a Nature Center and day care. The Oversight Board has said they cannot consider Larson's offer until the State Dept. of Finance approves the LRPMP.
Hopefully Senator DeSaulnier can get this process moving along or even remove Mudd's from the list of properties to be sold. Then the City can work out an arrangement with The Growing Room or find a way to restore the building and keep it as the valuable part of San Ramon it is.