Landmarks and sweethearts

It’s was a close call last week for one of Bites’ favorite pieces of abandoned Sacramento. The old tank house on Franklin Boulevard was quietly slated for demolition by the property owner, North Valley Bank.

It’s an unusual structure in this worn working-class neighborhood, a reminder of a time when Sacramento really was a cow town. Built sometime around 1940, the tank house used to provide some of the neighborhood’s water supply before the more modern, more centralized water system came along.

Bites has been a fan of the tank house for a while but never knew much about it, until the bank put in a request with the city to knock it down.

Luckily, the structure got a reprieve when the city’s preservation department put together a quick ordinance to have the old tank house listed as a historic landmark.

In the report, city staff members note that the tank house “represents a relatively rare property type in Sacramento that serves as a tangible reminder of the city’s pre-suburban past.”

Faced with this resistance, the bank withdrew its application for a demolition permit, at least for now.

But here’s where Bites gets confused. As soon as the bank backed off a bit, city staff also withdrew their application to have it listed as a historic structure.

Why not go ahead with the historic listing and ensure that the old landmark isn’t summarily destroyed at some point in the future? Can someone get on this?

Last week was also a bit of a setback for interim City Manager Gus Vina. The city council is moving ahead with a national search for a permanent top executive. Vina was promoted to caretake the city manager job after Ray Kerridge bailed to Roseville, rather than stick around through building department scandals and “strong mayor” politicking.

By all accounts Vina is smart and competent, and some observers say he doesn’t play politics. So that’s all good.

But one council member explained to Bites that Vina is a bit like the flavor vanilla. There’s nothing wrong with vanilla. Vanilla is a perfectly good flavor. But you always want to see what else they’ve got behind the counter.

It’s tough to say whether Vina’s prospects will improve when he delivers a new report later this month explaining the city budget deficit isn’t improving much. Remember, in 2010, the city had to close a $42 million gap, and it could be that high again this year.

Some on the council thought Vina bungled a potentially helpful ballot measure to hike the city’s “business operations tax” earlier this year. And Bites has heard repeated complaints about the sweetheart deal he gave Police Chief Rick Braziel earlier this year to stay in Sacramento.

Braziel got an 8 percent pay raise (technically a salary “restoration”) in exchange for bowing out of the running for police chief in Seattle, Washington.

But rumors that Braziel knew he wasn’t going to get the Seattle job, and used the prospect to finagle a raise anyway, left some council members fuming.

“The city got rolled” is how one City Hall insider put it. Worse, many felt the deal was cooked up between Vina, Braziel and Mayor Kevin Johnson, with the rest of the council left out of the loop. That’s a big no-no with this council. Seems like even vanilla can sometimes leave a bad taste behind.