Local, alternative perspective. Insightful stories for the Santa Clara Valley.

ALMADEN’S BAKER RANCH & NEARBY PROPERTIES, STILL QUESTIONABLE

IT’S BEEN THREE WEEKS SINCE DE·ANZA POST REPORTED ON THE HISTORIC BAKER RANCH IN ALMADEN, INCLUDING NEARBY PROPERTIES; WHEREAS, SINCE THEN, NEW INSIGHTS ONLY SEEM TO RAISE MORE QUESTIONS, FROM BOTH THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTOR.

Baker Ranch sits adjacent to a large parcel with several of its buildings

Baker Ranch sits adjacent to a large parcel with several of its buildings

Digging up information/records about historic Baker Ranch & House in Almaden is not as easy as it seems; but, the property that is situated at 6468 Almaden Road, is somehow approximate to more than one consideration in this neighborhood.  Apparently, there’s two adjacent lots that are in question.

Traveling at length into Almaden Valley, suddenly there arrives these streets, building and lots that are fronted by Almaden Expressway and Camden Avenue.   Here, is found an “agricultural” themed site with “architecture and structure” that was built during the period known as “Horticulture (1870-1918).”

Baker Ranch in Almaden Valley, set back from Almaden Road

Baker Ranch in Almaden Valley is set back from Almaden Road

Baker Ranch at corner of Almaden Road & Timbercrest Drive

Baker Ranch, just beyond the corner where Almaden Road & Timbercrest Drive merge.

This is a designated “City Landmark Site/Structure,” known as “Baker Ranch Buildings,” and according to a California State Historian for the California Office of Historic Preservation in Sacramento,

The copy of a  resource record prepared in 1987 for the ranch was apparently submitted by San Jose as part of the city’s inventory. The record was a modified version of the DPR 523 form series.

This property, however, “does not do not appear to have been submitted for national or state-level registration.”

The Sourisseau Academy (a collaboration between San Jose State University and the city’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Library) provided an obituary of the Baker Ranch’s namesake, Reuben Baker.   According to the Mercury News obituary from Monday 5 August 1918, Baker was “a well-known pioneer resident of Santa Clara County.”  He passed away at the O’Connor sanitarium due to an ailment that was “owing to his advanced age.”  He was originally a “native of West Virginia, and the grandson of Major Baker of the Revolutionary War.”   Reuben J. Baker died at age 84 but came to California as a young man.  He “engaged in agriculture, having made his home on the Almaden road, where he resided at the time of his death.”  He was survived by a number of family members, some of them with the same surname.

Jim Reed, Curator of Archives and Library at History San Jose, says that Reuben Baker’s marriage license and several court cases from 1865-1871 are available.  Those court cases are “about land disputes or bad debts. There is also a land dispute from 1916.”

But, with regards to the property here that seems to be related to the above-said name, there still remains some questionable matters that are both assumed and long outstanding.  Now, too,  the parcels that are adjacent or nearby to it are subject to inquiry.

A council liaison from San Jose Councilmember Khamis’s office replied to de·Anza Post, saying that a call was made to the real estate firm last year when the property was posted for sale.  Michele Dexter, speaking on behalf of Khamis’ office, said, “It turns out that the house is not actually for sale, just the 1-acre parcel on the corner.”

Baker Ranch posted

Parcel adjacent to Baker Ranch posted “For Sale” at the corner of TImbercrest & Almaden Road.

Looking at Baker Ranch: Abandoned VTA Park & Ride Lot at Curtner Avenue and Almaden Road/Expressway.

Looking at Baker Ranch: Abandoned VTA Park & Ride Lot at Curtner Avenue and Almaden Road/Expressway.

That “1-acre parcel on the corner” extends out from the elbow turn that is created when Timbercrest Drive merges onto Almaden Road.  At this designation, Almaden Road is a frontage street to Almaden Expressway.  The parcel that is supposedly for sale is bordered by these streets and continues along Almaden road.   From where that parcel “for sale” starts and ends is currently unknown.  It has yet to be determined how much space remains up against the historic Baker Ranch house and buildings, although there is a cyclone fence here conveying some estimated sense of boundary.

Even now, the commercial real estate services company that represents this property has yet to respond to de·Anza Post’s inquiry. Cassidy Turley’s “for sale” sign still appeared at the site when de·Anza Post published its first story just weeks ago.  In current regards, there is nothing to indicate that the property has been taken off the market.

Dexter, from Khamis’ office, explained that Cassidy Turley had told her that the owners listed it for sale to the highest bidder and supposedly accepted a $2.9 million offer.

The name of those “owners” is not confirmed.

As far as the City of San Jose regards, the adjacent historic property (including the buildings) has APN number 701-01-006.   Its city landmark file number is HL92-61. Regarding city zoning, its current status seems to be within an R-1-8 Residence District (8DU/Acre).

But, what’s the zoning on the undeveloped parcel adjacent to the historic Baker Ranch buildings, which seems to be for sale?  That’s not clarified yet and an inquiry has been made to the City of San Jose’s Planning, Building & Code Enforcement.  So far, it is assumed to be residential, since that appears to be its last consideration for use and development.

Dexter is not clear about what’s happened, or even the current status, saying that she believes that this sale was “contingent on being able to develop the property into homes that could be resold.”  In that sense, she concluded, “I’m not sure if the sale has actually been completed.”  Khamis’ office then referred the matter (such as for further consideration) to the city’s Planning, Building & Code Enforcement.

However, in turn, going to the city’s Planning, Building & Code Enforcement, that department still seems to be in transition.  Laurel Prevetti has since left her position as Assistant Director thereof.  Prevetti has since moved on to become Assistant Town Manager for the neighboring city of Los Gatos; but, page after page of contact information still lists her as the key contact for San Jose’s Historic Landmarks Commission and related matters such as these.

Oddly, Prevetti’s email is still intact, spitting out the auto-reply “I am in transition between jobs and will be checking this email account infrequently through May 2, 2014. If you need assistance, please contact…”

That was about three months ago now; whereas getting to the new contact is a guess.  Attempts at correspondence have been made by de·Anza Post, nevertheless.

In fact, as of yesterday, 6 August 2014, the Agenda for the Rules and Open Government Committee at City Hall included a review of Board, Commissions, and Committees; therein, which namely saw new appointment nominations for the Historic Landmarks Commission.  That day, some of the last sitting commissioners approached the Rules and Open Government Committee and stated that they had been dismissed from the Historic Landmarks Commission by surprise while four new nominees are being placed on the August 12 City Council Agenda for action.  So, the commission itself is in transition, aside from its oversight.

The last major business item that involved the Historic Landmarks Commission was the Century 21 Theater (i.e., at Winchester Boulevard).  That divisive item was covered by the de·Anza Post.  The decisions regarding Century Theater’s preservation and landmark status had broken through from May and June 2014.

Meanwhile, considerations of historic properties, and those approximate thereto, seems to be in limbo.  Since May, Prevetti has since left San Jose government; but, moreover, the City Council took its usual vacation from the session during July.  Council has just returned, whereas the Rules and Open Government Committee just reviewed the City Council Agendas for the upcoming August schedule.  The next Agenda for the Historic Landmarks Commission is not scheduled until 3 September 2014.

Meanwhile, aside from the historic considerations, also long outstanding and subject to question is the fair-size parcel across the street, which was long ago a “Park-and-Ride” lot that was controlled by the Valley Transit Authority (VTA).  In all these years, its’s still unused; whereas its anybody’s guess how long ago that last VTA land use was initiated, aside from forfeited.

Altogether, between the undeveloped parcel adjacent to the Baker Ranch Buildings and the long abandoned VTA lot, there’s a considerable amount of land here.  It all appears to be in questionable status, as well as in transition.

The VTA actually responded saying that they checked with the Property Management Division, whereas, although an Assessor’s parcel number was not provided, they said that “our research indicates that the attached document describes the parcel to which you referred.  This parcel is owned by Santa Clara County.”

Almaden Expwy and Camden Property copy

“VTA Parcel Finder” provided by that authority with regards to what is now county-owned land, of which use is to be determined by the County Board of Supervisors and other departments.

So, apparently, after all these years the nearby VTA lot has been transferred directly to the county’s domain.   This has been confirmed by San Jose Councilmember Khamis’ office, as well as by a policy and outreach aide of County Supervisor Wasserman.

The email from Wasserman’s office stated that correspondence from the county’s Director of Roads and Airports indicated:

that they are currently appraising this property with the intention of putting it up for auction.  After it gets appraised it still has to go through the Board of Supervisors in order to be auctioned off.  This process should be completed in about 6 months to a year.

Khamis’ office still had additional notes to offer, beyond what the county has since provided.   The de·Anza Post assumes that the property “for sale” across the street is still residential in its zoning; but, Khamis’s office said that the former VTA lot that’s owned by the county is “zoned Commercial.”

Khamis’ office also conveyed that “the County looked into the viability of making use of the property, and decided they did not wish to go that direction.  So last year the Board of Supervisors voted to designate the property ‘surplus’ which was the step needed to be able to sell the property.”

Supposedly,  the county’s property can now be put up for auction, since it has already been offered for Affordable Housing.  Khamis’ office clarified that regulations require that county property must first be offered as such for a period of time before other plans are made.

Apparently, “a developer did submit an offer, but in the end it did not work out.”  That opens another scenario in which this land can be offered for other use, including commercial.   Although, there may be another or plural considerations before that next development.

There is no “for sale” sign, or even any other such public notice, at the site of the county land that is so mentioned.  What does appear is what seems to be an irrelevant posting: “Parking restricted 24 hours a day — unauthorized vehicles will be towed away… authorized by S.C. Co. T/A.”  This sign is an antique itself since the parking lot is nowadays locked behind a fence.   That status has been indefinite for unknown years, if not decades.  It is a remnant from when the Santa Clara County Transit Authority controlled the lot for day use parking.  This land has been out of public’s mind for what seems like an immeasurable duration.

Since that time — if not fairly recently — neither the county or the city have made evident any early public notification and outreach; that is since these matters do so far appear to be current and outstanding in their considerations, a well as that they are likely to garner public interest.  Regarding these properties, Notice of Development Proposal is not yet posted, as perhaps an actual application for development permit has yet to be received by the city planners.  Notwithstanding, there has yet to be:

  1. Visible sign and/or placard at the Baker Ranch house and buildings that designate its status as an official Historic Landmark that is registered into that inventory with said number.
  2. Public notification and outreach with regards to the adjacent parcel to the Baker Ranch, including possible developmental impact to the historic property.
  3. An auction notice and/or planning and development notification, plus public outreach, by both the city and county for what was historically used as a VTA Park and Ride lot; but, which is now possibly considered for commercial development.  This site is adjacent to what’s currently assumed to be residential use zoning.
Abandoned VTA Park & Ride Lot at Curtner Avenue and Almaden Road/Expressway.

Abandoned VTA Park & Ride Lot at Curtner Avenue and Almaden Road/Expressway.

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This entry was posted on Thursday 7 August 2014 by in San Jose and tagged , .

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