Healdsburg to buy, tear down closed gas station

Clark Mason, The Press Democrat

A long-closed gas station at the corner of Mill Street and Healdsburg Avenue in Healdsburg, Friday July 10, 2015. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)
A long-closed gas station at the corner of Mill Street and Healdsburg Avenue in Healdsburg, Friday July 10, 2015. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)
A decrepit former gas station at a prominent downtown Healdsburg intersection has been purchased by the city after years of being boarded up and finding no buyers.

The Healdsburg City Council last week authorized the city manager to sign an agreement to buy the property at 185 Healdsburg Ave. for $640,000.

The site has been on the market for years and the city recently struck an agreement with the owners, Steven and Leslee Chain, to buy it.

The plan is to raze the structure and eventually expose, or “daylight” Foss Creek, which runs underneath the property before re-emerging a short distance away.

“The community has wanted that down for a long time,” Councilman Gary Plass said of the eyesore. “How soon can we take that building down?”

“As quick as we can,” says Public Works Director Brent Salmi, who noted that there will still be some environmental study required because the building is identified as a “cultural resource.”

Plass, 62, remembers the station being there when he was a young boy.

He said it was one of the last full-service gasoline stations in Healdsburg and has been closed at least 15 years. “They’d pump the gas, check your oil and wash your windows,” he said.

Foss Creek flows under the adjacent street intersection and through a “severely deteriorated,” nearly century-old box culvert structure under the property, located at the corner of Healdsburg Avenue and Mill Street, a block south of the Healdsburg Plaza.

Salmi recommended the purchase, saying it wouldn’t be possible to repair or reconstruct the structure without major disruptions that could undermine portions of Healdsburg Avenue.

The move also fits in with the city’s long-term plan to restore the creek as it emerges from under the adjacent five-way intersection.

“The idea is they want to daylight that creek and make it similar to how it is at Bear Republic (brewery),” said Mayor Shaun McCaffery.

The city is also planning to replace the tricky five-way intersection with a roundabout. Although Healdsburg doesn’t need to acquire the property to create the roundabout, “it’s helpful to tie the space all together and make it more pedestrian friendly,” McCaffery said.

The property is being sold “as is,” but the city has 20 days to inspect it. If the inspections reveal anything that renders the property unsuitable for purchase, the city can terminate the agreement.

City officials said previous tests found no sign of contamination from gasoline or oil. Plass noted that the underground tanks were removed some time ago.

Funds for the purchase come from the city’s capital improvement program, derived from bond proceeds that were transferred from the city’s defunct Redevelopment Agency.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com.