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Local man shaken by recent demolition

City officials don’t believe nearby construction damaged old jail in downtown Newhall

Posted: October 7, 2009 10:50 p.m.
Updated: October 8, 2009 4:55 a.m.

According to Santana, who owns the jail, hair-line cracks have developed on the interior walls due to demolition crews removing nearby buildings.

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Demolition crews that removed a former auto parts store to make way for a new library in Newhall have damaged a historic building next to it, the owner says.

City officials challenge the claim and say they have no reason to believe the old Newhall jail building, erected in 1901, is less sound than it was before they began the work.

"New cracks are appearing and the old ones are getting a little bit bigger," Santana said Tuesday.

"If you look at development in cities throughout the world, it is extremely common for buildings to be built adjacent to existing buildings," said Paul Brotzman, Santa Clarita's director of community development. "I don't see any issues or concerns."

The jail, which Santana has owned since 1989, was most recently home to Antique Flower Garden.

It is surrounded by city-owned property on which officials plan to build a 30,000-square-foot library by 2012.

The jail will likely sit in the midst of a parking lot when the construction is finished.

Brotzman said city officials asked to go inside the building and photographically document the state of the jail before the demolition began, but Santana declined.

"That provides a basis for any potential claims or concerns so we can address (them)," Brotzman said.

Santana said he would still be open to letting city officials in to document the building's condition. He said he initially declined their request because a lawyer working with him wants to look at the building first.

At least one official worried Santana is gearing up for a legal battle.

"We feel like we're being set up for a lawsuit," city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz said.

Santana has stressed he does not intend to file a lawsuit against the city.

"I want to make sure when their pretty library goes in ... that we can enhance one another," Santana said. "I definitely don't want to lose my jail. I want to preserve it."

A demolitions expert who spoke with The Signal said Santana should definitely be documenting the condition of the jail building throughout the process.

Outside of environmental impact reports, he said, there are generally no studies required when demolishing a structure adjacent to an old building.

The Newhall jail building pre-dates the Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles, which was built in 1925 and was home to the Sheriff's Department until 1993.

The jail's survival is also of interest to Pat Saletore, director of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society.

"I'm very concerned about that building," she said. "I think the city understands the value."

Saletore said if anything, Santana should be monitoring and documenting the condition of his building.

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