by Melissa Jacobson
The new, 7100 square foot, County Administration building on Escobar Street — which looks near completion — cannot be ignored for the girth of its footprint. It stands newly proud, overlooking the ageless Carquinez Staits and the Delta; waters plied by Native Americans (Chupcan-Miwok), fortune seeking gold miners, immigrant fishermen and even the likes of Jack London. But, what will be the legacy of this modern building? Something else we cannot ignore, and also looms large, is the legal agreement to protect our past before the County hurdles on to make our future.
It’s been five years since the Architectural Preservation Foundation of Contra Costa County (APFCCC) was founded in order to “save the jail,” a 1901 structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and a part of the vital history of Martinez and Contra Costa County. We challenged the County’s planned demolition of the Old Jail in Superior Court and began settlement talks with the County in good faith. In the Fall of 2019, settlement talks between APFCCC and the County slowed while the construction of the new County Administration building quickened. Now, we find ourselves in the midst of the pandemic.
Many citizens and homeowners of Contra Costa County voiced support for the preservation of the Old Jail property back in 2017. Citizens also supported – financially and through letters of support — the APFCCC in our lawsuit against the county’s violation of state law, local ordinances, due process, the enforcement of the California Environmental Quality Act and the County’s refusal to correct these violations.
This brief update, puts County officials on notice. We have not given up, nor will we go away from a just cause to preserve architectural history. The Old Jail property, once preserved, will allow the various stories – many highlighting Social Justice of Contra Costa County –to be told and preserved.
It has been a long haul, and the APFCCC will continue the momentum towards a successful resolution that will preserve the Old Jail property for future Contra Costa County citizens. The APFCCC will use all available means – once again – to ensure that before moving forward, we need to reckon with the past.
President, Architectural Preservation Foundation of Contra Costa County
We welcome those who are interested to apply for an open board position: APFofCCC@Gmail.com .Or, visit us on Instragram: apfofccc