Escape from Sacramento

Lisa Heyamoto.

Lisa Heyamoto.

Bites has been looking forward to the big Sacramento Bee redesign and overhaul later this month. But one thing is clear: The daily paper is going to be a lot less adorable every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Lisa Heyamoto, the Bee’s perky three-dot columnist, is jumping ship. She’s taking her boyfriend, Bee Metro reporter Todd Milbourn, with her. “We both turned 30, and we had always wanted to live abroad but never had that experience.” So they are headed to Prague, where they plan to teach and work as freelance writers. Her last column will appear sometime this month.

Bites asked if her exit had anything to do with cutbacks and other craziness in the Bee newsroom, and she said not really—though she allowed that, “It’s pretty stressful everywhere right now.”

The column was just a year old, but Heyamoto shared a couple of observations with Bites. “I called it public flailing,” she said of the column’s early days. “It was big and scary, and everybody was watching.” Then there were the “reader comments” that would appear from time to time. You know the ones. Heyamoto would probably never call Bee commenters cretins and lousy spellers, the way Bites would. But she did concede they weren’t always kind. “I had some doozies.”

The Bee might want to consider overhauling their Web site, too. At least that’s the advice from business blog 24/7 Wall St., which graded the Web sites of the 23 biggest dailies in the United States. The Bee came in 23rd. is a very poor attempt to get and keep an online audience. … This may be the worst attempt to create an online version of a newspaper that 24/7 found. Grade D-,” 24/7 concluded.

Bites noticed a couple of things about the study. First, size matters. The bigger your circulation, the higher your ranking in this survey. The top rated online newspaper was The New York Times, followed by the L.A. Times. The Bee’s circulation was the lowest.

Second, there’s no accounting for taste. Take the St. Petersburg Times, which logged in at number 18, (and which coincidentally had the 18th highest circulation). “The website is well laid-out and set-up to pull the reader into its various sections,” 24/7 explained.

How do they pull them in, you ask? Bites checked it out, and on that occasion found the main story was “Nearly Naked Sushi.” Sure enough, the story was about a crazy new trend in local dining and came with a link to video footage of a bunch of guys eating sushi—off of a nearly naked woman.

Oh, so that’s what we’re missing.

Last month Bites reported that Rex Cycles was moving, and that the developer was considering knocking down the historic buildings on 20th Street and Capitol Avenue.

“We’re doing everything per proper protocol to see if it does have any historical value,” developer Michael Heller told Bites at the time.

Turns out the demolition was already a done deal.

Bites got hold of a report from an architectural consultant hired to assess the buildings’ historic value. The evaluation was completed weeks before the conversation with Heller.

The consultant found that the two buildings on the property were “examples of vernacular commercial storefront architecture, but have little historical or architectural significance.”

The buildings were built in 1915, and first used as a vet hospital and a laundry shop. In the late 1920s, they became auto repair shops. The buildings were more than 50 years old, which triggered the need for at least some cursory historic review.

But the property “does not contribute to the historic fabric of the 20th and Capitol Area,” according to the report.

Good enough for the city. The demolition was approved. On June 21, the buildings were razed and carted away, and the lot was fenced in.

Bites is no expert on historic preservation, but wonders what the hurry was. After all, the city’s Development Services department says Heller’s put in no application to develop anything. So it’ll be an empty lot for who knows how long.

Maybe the buildings were only a little bit historic, just a little significant. But they looked a lot cooler than a chain-link fence.