Santa Paula: Renovation and Relics

 By Sheryl Hamlin

During the June 5, 2017 Santa Paula City Council Meeting, Gary Nasalroad presented an all-volunteer plan to refurbish the old county fire station on 8th and Santa Barbara. According to the presentation by Gary Nasalroad, the building was built in 1934.

Gary Nasalroad showing Original Conditions circa 1935-1937

The proposed restoration plan, explained Nasalroad, grew out of the Santa Paula America in Bloom initiative to landscape the property, for which the city provided a water connection via Ed Mount’s budget. This successful project then sparked discussions of the “next step” for this historic building still in relatively original condition.

Using the model for the murals project, the team consisting of Nasalroad, Doug Nelson, John Nichols and Howard Bolton, as well as the Santa Paula Fire Department, devised a plan to paint the building, plaster up the doors and create murals in place of the narrow doors.

Vern Alstot of the SPFD presented the current conditions and some of the relics found inside, which will be given to the Santa Paula Historical Society and the Santa Paula Theatre Centre, pending council approval. Mr. Alstot stated the proposed restoration project would be funded through donations going through an unannounced 501(c)3 organization.

Current Conditions, Source: SPFD

The relics found include lighting, a gun range box and a movie theatre light.

Relics Found, Source: SPFD

Railroad Corridor Project

Doug Nelson had plans from a 1997 effort to create a Railroad Ag Corridor, a project from 12th street to 8th Street, which never materialized due to funding, although the Railroad Plaza was built, which Nelson designed. He was excited to be creating another piece in the corridor project, which he called a “bookend”.

Santa Paula Arts and Business Council

Based on Mr. Nasalroad’s statements, the proposed renovation project appears to be aligned with the Santa Paula Arts and Business Council, which was credited for the successful murals project chaired by Joyce Carlson. There exists a website “GoSantaPaula” which is produced by this council, but no information about membership or meetings. Mr. Nasalroad also stated that John Nichols is acting as color consultant for the project.

Council Questions

Council Member Procter asked about potential uses and seismic retrofitting. Mr. Leach explained that the building underwent seismic work in 2003, which did not include the roof. They need to complete the roof sheeting which involves removing and replacing all tiles in order to certify occupancy. This will occur with funding, he said. After the 1994 earthquake, the county wanted to demolish the building, but the city denied the permit and obtained the building. Mr. Leach said there was not that much wrong with the building when the county requested demolition.

9-11 Memorial

Another idea emanating from the team was the use of the triangular piece of property to the west of the fire station to house a piece from the Twin Towers destroyed on 9-11-2001. Santa Paula was one of two cities to obtain a piece of the twin towers.


Funding will be achieved, explained Nasalroad, with the brick model used previously in town, where individuals buy one or more engraved bricks.

Declaration of Personal Property as Surplus

During a subsequent agenda item, Carlos Juarez and Jeanne Orcutt spoke about the relics found in the former Fire Station. Carlos Juarez demonstrated a gun range box complete with a light and bullets. Also there was a projector from the former theatre on Main Street, which was recently cleaned out by the manager to the successor to the former Redevelopment Agency in order to prepare the theatre building for sale. These items will be donated to the Santa Paula Historical Society and Santa Paula Theatre Center for display. The council approved these relics as “surplus” making the donations possible.

Questions/Issues Regarding Historic Resources

Several questions which were not addressed by council relate to the procedures and protocols for designating and processing historic properties in the City of Santa Paula.

The city’s land use plan which is part of the current General Plan describes the concept of historical overlays. For example, the historic district on Santa Paula Street is an overlay and potentially Main Street could be a historic overlay. In fact item #21 in the Land Use Plan says:

21. Implement an Historic Overlay Zone for portions of the downtown and surrounding historic neighborhoods.

When the Railroad Corridor project was discussed in the 1990’s, how might the creation of a historical overlay have helped advance the corridor?

The city’s Historic Ordinance Section 17.55.080 Nomination of Landmarks outlines a procedure for designation of buildings. It would appear that this 1934 fire station falls into several of the categories in the ordinance making it eligible for designation. Was the designation process ever considered for this building? Designation could help with funding. Might any of the proposed alterations affect a future historic designation? There appears to be no trigger for a historic review of a building, so the ordinance is invoked selectively. In the last four years, the Design Assistance Committee has been convened twice: once for the guard rail around the depot and once for the Ebel Club landscaping, while during this same period other significant buildings have been modified without review. The Historic Preservation Commission has not been convened.

To watch the meeting click here.

For more information about the author visit Sheryl Hamlin dot com.

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