A historical site plaque and a historical report at the public library are proposed to replace the Barton Ranch buildings if they are razed by their owner as proposed. The buildings are one of the last links to turn-of-the-century cattle ranching in South Lake Tahoe.
The property’s owner, William Mosher, is asking for a permit to demolish nine buildings on the property. The buildings include a main ranch house and barn that date back to about 1900 and three guesthouses, one built about 1910 and two built about 1945.
According to Mosher, the long-vacant buildings are in poor condition with collapsing floors, mold and other issues including lead and asbestos that make them unsafe for habitation and unsuitable for restoration or preservation.
They also are a magnet for graffiti, vandalism, vagrants and other criminal activity, creating problems for their owner, police and neighboring property owners.
Members of the Lake Tahoe Historical Society argue the request for a demolition permit deserves greater public scrutiny than it has gotten and a push to try to save the buildings.
The issue goes before South Lake Tahoe’s Planning Commission on Thursday. City officials are recommending it be tabled until June so the family and historical society can meet to discuss possible options.
According to Hilary Roverud, director of development services for South Lake Tahoe, a public notice incorrectly stated that an environmental review done for the California Environmental Quality Act came with a negative declaration.
Instead, the review came back with a mitigated negative declaration, calling for a memorial plaque at the property and a historical report at the library to counter the cultural loss if the buildings are torn down. That new notice would be circulated for another 30-day comment period.
Two guesthouses on the Barton Ranch property already have been torn down, according to the Mosher family and its representative, Gary Midkiff. The permit would allow the family to raze the rest.
A historical review of Barton Ranch that Judith Marvin, of Foothill Resources in Murphys, Calif., prepared for Midkiff in 2009 said it could be eligible for listing on the National and California Registers of Historic Places based on its local significance. That’s because of its connection to a once-prominent livestock industry that has almost completely vanished from Lake Tahoe, as well as its link to a prominent ranching family that helped bring the first year-round doctor to Lake Tahoe and donated land for Barton Hospital.
“The complex … is the last significant vestige of livestock operations in South Lake Tahoe and retains all the elements of such, with a ranch house, barn, corrals, a livestock chute, guesthouses and other support facilities,” Marvin wrote in her report dated February 2009.
W.D. Barton acquired the property from Melville and Emma Lawrence and Harry O. and Adelaide Comstock in 1915. At the time it included 640 acres.
Today, Barton Ranch and its buildings sit on one acre in a grove of pines along Emerald Bay Road, just south of the shopping centers at the “Y” intersection — an area the city of South Lake Tahoe is targeting for redevelopment as part of a Tahoe Valley Area Plan being created.
In her report, Marvin notes that community plans for South Lake Tahoe dating back nearly a decade have identified Barton Ranch as a property that could be developed into a centerpiece for the city’s southern gateway, functioning as a museum, visitor center or events center.
The environmental review prepared by Midkiff counters that while reports have mentioned Barton Ranch as being of special interest, “there has been no success in identifying anyone interested in taking the buildings and moving them to another site or rehabilitating them for adaptive use.”