I missed all the fun while I was off at Pinata Cousins Day.
My boss called to let me know there there was "a bloggers dream" going on
downtown. Here is the Davis Enterprise report, written by Jonathan Edwards,
which is worth its own entry! (First photo by Sue Cockrell, Davis Enterprise;
other photos sent from Walt's cell phone.)
A communication snafu shut down traffic for
seven hours Monday as trucks hauled two houses through downtown Davis.
A nonprofit agency moved the three-bedroom, one-bath houses eight blocks along Third
Street, from B Street to J Street, as part of an effort to preserve 'vintage' architecture
while creating affordable housing.
The city of Davis provided the empty lot at J and Third streets, a property it purchased
in August 2005. A developer, Sherman Home Company, donated the houses and $93,000, and
will build townhomes on the now-empty B Street lots across from Central Park.
For the first part of Monday's eight-block trek, a festive caravan accompanied the
houses. People danced in the streets, parents brought out their kids, a mobile pianist
played 'Our house / In the middle of the street / Our house.'
Davis resident Lis Harvey brought her 2-year-old son, Penn, to watch because 'he loves
construction.' This sort of thing - 'it builds community unity,' she said.
The party stalled around 10 a.m. when, between G and I streets, the houses reached the
Project manager Ben Pearl had worked with AT&T, PG&E and Union Pacific to arrange
to temporarily take down obstacles such as power and communication lines as well as the
metal cantilevers that hold warning lights and hang over streets just before a railroad
Union Pacific, however, didn't mention that PG&E would have to be there to protect
power lines as its crews unscrewed the 20-foot railroad cantilever and swung it off the
road and parallel with the sidewalk, allowing the 26-foot-wide house to pass, said Steve
Montgomery, the contractor in charge of the move.
'Nobody contacted us,' said Jim Kuehnau, senior field technician with PG&E. 'The first
thing I even heard about this is 8:30 this morning. I said, 'Stop everything. Don't do
anything till I get out there.' Ain't nobody going to get killed on my watch.
They said Union Pacific dropped the ball, but I don't know. We'll
come over and bail them out.'
Union Pacific's manager on the ground, Jason Couveau, said he didn't hear about the move
until Friday, and this sort of project usually has a two-week lead time. Normally, the
group who wants the obstacles removed signs a contract and all the parties get together
beforehand to hash out the details. That didn't happen in this case. There was no contract
'We have to plan out this type of thing,' Couveau said. 'You have a lot more fluidity with
more planning.' As for why there was no contract or meeting ahead of time, Couveau said,
'I don't know.'
Nevertheless, the work got done, just as Couveau predicted, even though it went 'a bit
slower than everyone would've liked.'
The houses cleared the street around 1:30 p.m. but the streets remained shut down till
about 3 p.m., when Union Pacific's crews cleared out.
Pearl downplayed the delay and focused on the project and the
crowd who came out to celebrate. 'We're just overjoyed that everyone's out here, that
people are out here supporting community,' he said.
Montgomery said normally, he doesn't praise utility companies, but PG&E responded
quickly. 'They were a lifesaver,' he said. 'We could've been there three more hours.'
Businesses along Third Street saw a drop in business. Five workers at Cable Car Wash sat
with their arms folded looking out at Union Pacific and PG&E crews, which blocked
access to their driveway.
Bob, a car washer who declined to give his last name, took it all in stride.
'It didn't go quite as quickly as they thought,' Bob said with a laugh. ' 'Just a minute'
A couple of doors down, shoppers roamed the aisles of the SPCA Thrift store, but business
was still slow for a Monday, said Katie Zane, shift leader.
But being able to watch two houses roll by was 'cool'; the staff had been ducking out all
day to go and check it out, she said. It also gave workers a breather, allowing them to
catch up after a busy weekend.
'It didn't affect us as much as we thought,' Zane said.
She hopes the new co-op residents will follow their brethren and patronize the thrift
store heavily. 'This is going to bring a lot more business, because the co-ops have always
Zane, who once lived in a co-op, said, 'It was really cool to see a co-op being born.'
The birth also was a death, as the two houses were uprooted from their original location.
Nancy Candelo's grandfather, C.F. Dixon, built one of them in about 1930.
'I think those old houses along B Street have a certain character,' she said. 'Now you're
going to get some high-rise condos in its place.'
Still, she said, 'it's better than it being torn down.'