By Mike Kinney
A 4.64-acre former San Pablo City Hall property at San Pablo Avenue and Church Lane is set to become a mixed-use development with up to 100 affordable multi-family units and 17,500 square feet of commercial space, after the plans received unanimous council approval Monday.
The 5-0 decision was made despite ongoing concerns by a group of citizens over proposed commercial uses for the historic Alvarado Adobe Museum at the site.
San Pablo City Hall relocated its new complex at 1000 Gateway Avenue in summer 2020, but the plan to turn the previous site into a mixed-use development with affordable housing has been several years in the works. Last year, the city entered into an exclusive negotiations agreement with Danco Communities and the Muholland Drive Company to redevelop the site. The proposal will bring housing that is affordable to low and moderate income individuals and families, helping the city to meet its Regional Housing Needs Allocation, Interim Assistant City Manager Charles Ching said.
As part of the agreement, Danco Communities must retain the historical educational value of the Alvarado Adobe building, a replica of an historic building. Ching said the development agreement stipulates the developer must consult with the San Pablo Historical and Museum Society (SPHMS) for repurposing the Alvarado Adobe, which has been envisioned as a restaurant or café with various historical exhibits.
Other historical structures on the site – the Blume, Bunk and Teixeria homes – will remain under city ownership.
A group of concerned citizens that includes members of the SPHMS and other local historians are opposed to selling the historic property to a private developer for a commercial enterprise, wishing it would remain a museum. Well over a dozen people, including descendants of Alvarado and members of other Bay Area historical societies and museums, spoke out at against the plans at Monday’s council meeting.
Opponents expressed added opposition to any suggestion the Alvarado Adobe could become a taproom or other type of drinking establishment. While other cities are opening museums, San Pablo is “turning the museum most associated with its history into a ‘hip’ bar or upscale restaurant,” Janet Pottier, president of SPHMS, said.
“The home of Governor Alvarado, who struggled all his life with serious alcohol problems, will now become just another San Pablo bar,” Pottier said.
City Manager Matt Rodriguez insisted the Alvarado Adobe would not be turned into a drinking establishment, saying such a proposal is prohibited under the city’s zoning ordinances. The vision was and remains to turn the historic structure into a commercial space such as a restaurant or café, he said.