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By Roz Rogoff

About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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A request for Assemblywoman Baker

Uploaded: Nov 30, 2014

I received a Media Advisory today from newly elected Assemblywoman Catharine Baker stating that Mrs. Baker would be taking the Oath of Office tomorrow, December 1st, at Noon. I don't plan to be there or to cover her swearing in or take any photos for the Express, but I have a request for an action that I hope Assemblywoman Baker will take on because it is important and needs to be done right away.


Some of my readers may remember this has been an ongoing issue for me since 2008 when the property was put up for sale by John Ebert. I asked the City Council to purchase the property and restore the building. The property, about 2.5 acres, is adjacent to Crow Canyon Gardens, which is a City Park.

The City purchased the property for $2.1M as part of the Redevelopment Agency, with $215K added for repairs to the building. So the property with the architecturally significant restaurant building were saved – or so I thought.

About a year later, Oakland Restaurateur Michael LeBlanc made a presentation to the City Council to buy the Mudd's property, or actually lease it, to tear down the historically important building and replace it with a New Orleans style design.

I couldn't believe it. Frankly I was outraged. I had no animosity towards Mr. LeBlanc, but I was very upset that our City Councilmembers, Vice Mayor, Dave Hudson, Councilmembers Carol Rowley, Jim Livingstone, and Scott Perkins would even consider such a thing. Mayor Abram Wilson was absent from that meeting, but supported the agreement with LeBlanc to tear down this unique and environmentally innovative building.

Mudd's was designed to incorporate many of the energy saving design features promoted by Governor Jerry Brown in 1979 during his first term in office. Mr. LeBlanc had until the end of 2009 to come up with a financial plan for the property, including building a new restaurant. He was not able to meet the deadline, and the agreement was voided.

So while the Mudd's building is still standing, it has not been maintained in over five years. The Council in 2008 claimed the building was rat infested and full of dry rot. An inspection by me and the original architect, found most of the repairs needed were cosmetic. However, the building has been standing vacant and unmaintained for another three years. It is currently in Redevelopment Agency limbo.

When Governor Brown was reelected in 2008, he passed a law dissolving Redevelopment Agencies and all funds and properties still held by RDAs were to be taken over by the State. The City Council was named the Successor to the Redevelopment Agency. Council members were also the RDA before the RDAs were dissolved.

An Oversight Board was named to review dissolution of the RDA and its properties. The last meetings of the Successor Agency and the Oversight Board were in February 2014. The last item of business was to adopt "a Recognized Obligation Payment Schedule for the Period July 1, 2014 through December 31, 2014". As far as I know there has been no response back from the State Department of Finance about San Ramon's obligations.

San Ramon did not have a very large investment in the Redevelopment Agency. Other cities had greater need for these funds to improve distressed properties. Mudd's needs improvements NOW, and with the economy improving it should no longer be necessary for the State to tap into RDAs. I am hoping that the new Assembly and Senate will address this issue with Governor Brown.

I also brought up the plight of Mudd's with State Senator Mark DeSaulnier in January. Jim Gibbon was helping me file an application for Landmark status with the State Office of Historic Preservation. The application must be signed by the property owner. The problem is we don't know who owns the property now. It was the Redevelopment Agency, but that was dissolved by Governor Brown. So is it the Successor Agency or the Oversight Board, or the State Dept. of Finance?

DeSaulnier was previously in the restaurant business and knew a lot about Mudd's already. He was even asked to take over running it at one time. I received a phone call from one of his aids a few months ago asking who owns the property, but that's what we are trying to find out.

We still need someone to stand up for Mudd's. I hope Assemblywoman Baker and State Senator DeSaulnier will work together to get the historic designation Mudd's deserves. Someone please tell Jerry Brown this building is part of his legacy. PLEASE FREE MUDD'S from RDA Limbo NOW.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Bob P, a resident of another community,
on Dec 1, 2014 at 11:15 am

Bob P is a registered user.

Roz, I agree 100% and support you on this. It's a real shame that you have to rely on State legislators to take the responsible path and save this historical building. San Ramon City Council, let's do the right thing here, please.

Posted by Paul Mitchell, a resident of another community,
on Dec 1, 2014 at 1:41 pm

I don't know, Roz ... I wonder if there is enough support in the community to care about a building like the one that used to house Mudd's restaurant. Would San Ramon suffer if the building disappeared? I grew up in Pleasanton and lived in San Ramon for more than a decade, yet I do not have any historical or emotional attachment to the place. So my answer to the question is, "not really." I wish you good luck in your efforts to preserve the place. It seems like a consensus is required before you can create much support.

Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Dec 1, 2014 at 4:32 pm

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.

It's the two expats weighing in. Paul, you are probably right about resident apathy or even ignorance of Mudd's as an important landmark. It's not just important because of Virginia Mudd and the early locavore movement.

Alice Waters' Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley almost burned down a year ago. Everyone in Northern California gasped "Oh No." Well maybe not everyone in the Tri-Valley. But Waters rebuilt it and it is back in operation.

It's sad to say but even Virginia Mudd doesn't care what happens to the Mudds' building now. John Ebert is in denial and refuses to believe anyone would tear it down.

It is an important building not only in the history of the sustainability movement, but because the architecture is unique. Unique means there is nothing else like it.

I wrote a blog on the uniqueness of the building in February 2012, which might help you and other readers understand why I'm so passionate about saving this building. Web Link


Posted by Paul Mitchell, a resident of another community,
on Dec 2, 2014 at 12:19 am

Thanks, Roz, I recall reading your February 2012 blog post when it was first published, and I have to say I was as ambivalent then about saving the building as I am now. My fond memories of living in San Ramon do make me hope there are enough citizens who care as much as you do about restoration. I am not against restoration of a truly historical landmark, I just do not see the value in the project like you do. And, apparently from what you wrote, neither does Virginia Mudd.

Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Dec 2, 2014 at 7:17 pm

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.


I consider the building important to preserve because of the energy saving innovations and quality of the construction, not because it is a San Ramon landmark. Virginia Mudd has moved on in her life and doesn't want to go backwards.

The value isn't in the history of the property or its original use as a restaurant. It is in the design and innovative use of building techniques that make it unique and important.

I believe that if the building is torn down and replaced or allowed to deteriorate so much that it cannot be restored, future generations will have lost out on the architectural importance of this building. We all know that a lot of past accomplishments have been lost to history, I just hope Mudd's isn't one of them.


Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Dec 4, 2014 at 6:57 pm

Wow, sounds like everybody from dogcatcher to Governor has been involved for quite a few years. I cannot imagine why you expect her to untangle, much less solve that hornet's nest.
How about contrats to her with a welcome to the Democrat enclave for starters. Actually, individuals from the Redevelopment Agency would be the ones with information. Because those bottomless moneypits were the usual I think that's why RD agencies no longer exist in CA.
Track down those individuals for information...it's ancient history now.
There are bigger and more current issues facing CA at the moment that have been neglected and need her attention. Sbranti probably knows those people involved and has the time to untangle the problem. Haven't you been discussing it with him along the way.

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