Museum officials concerned about planned sale of former San Pablo City Hall property

Alvarado Adobe Museum to explore love letters and more on Valentine’s Day
Photo courtesy of the City of San Pablo

By Mike Kinney

Future development plans for the 4.64-acre former San Pablo City Hall property at San Pablo Avenue and Church Lane have drawn concern from the San Pablo Historical and Museum Society, which manages the Alvarado Adobe Museum that is included within the property.

This past summer, City Hall relocated from its former home at San Pablo Avenue and Church Lane, to a brand new building at 1000 Gateway Avenue. For several years, the city has pursued the idea of turning the “old City Hall” location into a mixed-use development, without removing historic buildings such as Alvarado Adobe Museum or the Blume House or public access to them.

In October, the city entered into an exclusive negotiations agreement for the property with Danco Communities and the Muholland Drive Company. The current redevelopment proposal is for 100 affordable multi-family units, 17,500 square feet of commercial space and continued use of existing historic cultural properties, according to city documents.

On Tuesday, city staff will ask the Planning Commission to find whether the city’s goals for the property conform to the city’s general plan. The commission will not, however, be asked to weigh in on the the developer’s specific project proposals, which face public review at a later date.

Officials with the San Pablo Historical and Museum Society say they are very concerned about the plans, including what will happen to the Alvarado Adobe and the many historical items housed within it.

“Although there is supposedly language in the agreement with the developer that the building cannot be torn down, it can be used as a commercial space such as a quick stop grocery store, a coffee shop or perhaps even a laundromat,” Janet Pottier, the museum society’s president, said in a statement. “There is currently no water connection to the Adobe so construction will need to be done to make it a viable commercial space. One of our fears is that during that construction there will be damage to the Adobe making it unsafe and the developer will get permission to tear it down.”

In a statement, San Pablo City Manager Matt Rodriguez said “there are no plans to displace, modify or tear down” the historic museum sites “at this time.”

“With regard to the City-owned Alvarado Adobe, it is a historical replica and a State registered historical landmark; and has specific protections regarding its preservation in perpetuity,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez added, “Currently, a focal point of the City is to preserve the Alvarado Adobe and other City owned historical facilities and consider the potential development of much needed critical affordable housing for the remainder of the property site.” 

The original Alvarado Adobe was torn down in 1954 after it fell into disrepair and citizens could not raise the money to purchase it, according to Pottier. In 1978, a replica was built as the new Civic Center was being constructed “as a reminder of San Pablo’s pace as an important center in the early history of California and home of the Governor,” she said.

“The Museum contains relics from when only the indigenous people lived in the area,” Pottier said. “Two of the rooms are furnished in the period of the mid 1800s when the Castro/Alvarado families occupied the Adobe and the rest of the museum dedicated to the history of San Pablo as it rose from a Rancho to a City called San Pablo.”

The San Pablo Historical and Museum Society, an all-volunteer nonprofit that also manages the nearby Blume House and Bunk House, said it has a limited budget and would struggle to find another location to display them.

“The decision to sell the museum was done without any consultation with either the Historical Society or the people of San Pablo,” Pottier said. “The Historical feels this unique and valuable resource should remain a part of our City so our citizens can continue to be aware of the role San Pablo played in California History.”

To view the agenda for Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting, which begins at 6 p.m., click here.