Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Clemente Inn

2007 photo from Sonoma Index-Tribune

2009 photo from Sonoma Index-Tribue

Clemente being razed
Highway 12 eyesore
June 2, 2009

The Clemente Inn is coming down.

A team from Dave Deming Demolition in Sonoma started tearing the Highway 12 historic eyesore down Saturday, and continued on Sunday. After tearing down most of the building on the Keaton Avenue side, and taking about four feet of bricks off near the top, the crew will put the demolition on hold until next weekend when there is less traffic along Highway 12. Also, Flowery Elementary School will be getting out of school for the summer on Friday, so there won't be any school traffic to deal with. Marty Edwards, the owner of the Clemente Inn since 2000, said she doesn't know what will happen after the building is razed since all of her money is going into the demolition.

"I didn't get any redevelopment funds, loans or grants," she said Monday morning. "I didn't even get a written answer from the redevelopment agency." Edwards has been dealing with the Sonoma County Redevelopment Agency for months seeking money for demolition or seismic upgrades or whatever it could do for her. "The reality of getting redevelopment money is probably about zero," she said.

"They told me they couldn't fund demolition, then they said they could but only if they owned it," she said.

Edwards offered to sell the property to the redevelopment agency more than 2-1/2 months ago, but was told it would need an appraisal which could take a couple of weeks. She said the redevelopment agency staff is finally coming out to visit the building on Friday, but the demolition has already started and she said they couldn't fund the demolition retroactively.

"It was my intention to preserve this historic building," Edwards said. "But by the time I bought it, the roof had already collapsed. I tried to do some shoring up, but it was too dangerous."

Back in March, Edwards told the Springs Redevelopment Advisory Committee that it would cost in excess of $500,000 just to stabilize the building - a building, according to Edwards' application, that the county's assessor has valued at $194,000.

"This historical landmark has been vacant for 40 years," Edwards said. "I've owned it for nine years. And the economy isn't helping right now."

The building was labeled as "dangerous" in November 2007, by PRMD.

At the March meeting, Edwards said a preliminary estimate on the cost of the demolition, which includes hauling away the debris and disposal fees, is about $75,000.

There have been signs in the boarded up windows of the inn warning that the building is made of unreinforced masonry and "You may not be safe inside or near unreinforced masonry buildings during an earthquake."

The Clemente Inn was built about 1912 and was a hotel until the Great Depression.

In 1977, the Clemente, apparently still impressive from the outside, was declared an historic landmark by the State of California. The insides, however, were beginning to rot.

In the early 1980s it was purchased for $25,000 by Kenneth Crutchlow of Sonoma and England, along with a full set of restoration plans.

Since then, the building has passed through a number of owners, all the while continuing to deteriorate.

In a matter of a week or two, a building that has raised the ire of Springs residents for years will pass into history.

--- end ---

Februray 3, 2009 story from the Sonoma Valley Sun:

Clemente Inn: Will it be demolished or revived?
Bonnie Durrance Sonoma Valley Sun
source and link to photos

Marty Edwards, owner of the Clemente Inn, has moved one step closer to making real her vision of people dining, music playing, the old charm of the 1920’s alive and kicking in what is now just the shell of a grand old hotel.

The building, located at 17367 Sonoma Highway in Fetters Hot Springs, has been vacant for 30 years, and is now condemned. Edwards has been trying to get it renovated for eight years, working, through a maze of economic difficulties, permit conundrums, and governmental entanglements which has brought her time and again to stalemate.

Two recent developments give her new options for moving forward. In November, the Sonoma County Permits and Resource Management Department (PRMD) determined that any use within the current C2 Retail Commercial Zoning designation will be acceptable. Previously, Edwards had been limited to restoring the place to a hotel, a business plan that would be unsustainable. “It just wouldn’t pencil out,” she said. Now, should she succeed in restoring the building, she will be allowed to turn it into a restaurant or café, which is what she wants to do.

The second, crucial, decision was made just last week by the Sonoma County Landmarks Commission, which has issued a go-ahead for her to apply for either partial or complete demolition, offering her a choice in the way forward. To get permission, said Lisa Posternak, Landmarks Commission staff planner, she had to submit three things. First, an historic resources evaluation report, photographs and architectural drawings, all approved by the landmarks commission. Posternak said the Landmarks Commission has approved both issuance of a permit “to completely demolish the building and issuance of a permit to demolish the wood portion (i.e., partial demolition) and stabilize the unreinforced masonry portion of the building.” She said Edwards has not yet applied for either permit, and that PRMD Code Enforcement will be establishing both a deadline for applying for a permit and for completing the work.

Edwards is pleased. “I’m going to start 2009 in a big way here.” She is now preparing to file for her permits, and there are decisions to be made. “There’s a fine line between applying for a demolishing permit or applying for a rehab permit,” she said. To keep the façade, which she’d like to do, is tricky. “You have to temporarily brace it and then go in and do permanent bracing. You have to do it twice.” She will be working on plans for this next step.

The dream is for the place to be a little restaurant. “I can see it! I think the neighborhood would love it. Music and food at the corner of Heaton and Highway 12 – as opposed to a falling down brick building. That would be nice. I get all excited about that.”

The Clemente Inn, once a popular restaurant and inn in Fetters Hot Springs, in the 1910s and 1920s, was built and run by Charles Clemente, who had moved to the area from France. In 1979, the Sonoma League for Historic Preservation described the place as something out of Masterpiece Theatre. “The dining room was large, with papered walls, a large wooden bar, potted ferns, tables, a player piano, a victrola and a small dance floor. The entry vestibule contained comfortable benches along the alcove with embroidered pillows, large scenic photographs on the walls, and a rocking chair. The family lived in rooms on the ground floor of the original house. A basement room in the northwest corner which has its own exterior door was once an ice cream parlor, exactly when, it is not known, but probably between 1912 and 1919.”

The Clemente family ran the place as a country restaurant and inn until 1928 when the property was sold. Then, a series of owners used it as a grocery, an inn and finally an apartment building.
The building has passed through numerous hands over the years, but no one has successfully resuscitated it. The roof has collapsed and the walls of the original frame building are collapsing. The interior has been gutted and all that remains is the framing.

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