Commentary: Polo Barn demolition decision should be delayed
by Debbie Muth
Jan 09, 2014 | 8624 views | 4 4 comments | 347 347 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On November 11, 2013 a public notice was sent out stating the Scotts Valley City Council was considering an agreement to allow the demolition of the historic Polo Barn complex. This notice was announced by mail and sent only to those residents that resided within 300 feet of the Polo Ranch development. The notice further stated that in just nine days time the demolition approval would be discussed at the City Council meeting. For residents interested in historic and recreational resources in the city this change was a complete surprise as this revised agreement had not been disclosed or discussed with the Planning Commission, Parks and Recreation Commission, the Scotts Valley Historical Society or at any other public forum before the November 20, 2013 City Council meeting. 

In 2009 the City of Scotts Valley approved an agreement to preserve and move the Polo Barn structure as part of the Polo Ranch development and the developer, Lennar Homes, agreed to those terms. The idea was that the barn would be used as the centerpiece of a neighborhood park with possible uses as a historical museum, art center or community meeting rooms. Historically-minded residents had been secure in the knowledge that the Polo Barn, one of only three remaining historical structures in the city would be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations. This baffling and sudden turn of events raises several questions concerning government transparency, accountability and community values.

Why is the Polo Barn complex worth saving? The final Environmental Impact Report contains more than twenty specific mitigation measures for the various protected and endangered animal and plant species found on the Polo Ranch property but surprisingly, not one mitigation measure directing Lennar Homes to protect the Polo Barn from trespassers, vandals and the elements. 

Over time, the barn has been severely vandalized and stripped. In addition, holes have been cut into the roof and the barn and most doors and window panes have been removed to allow for the “dispersal” of bats who at one time resided in the barn. Various members of the Scotts Valley Historical Society can document numerous calls to council members, city staff and police; however the trespassing and damages continued. The common response to these requests was met with the response that protection of the barn was up to Lennar Homes and no other action could be taken. 

According to a report issued in 1988 by Archaeological Resource Management titled “Historical Evaluation of the Hollins Stables Off Highway 17 in the City of Scotts Valley” the Polo Barn complex clearly meets criteria for historical significance based on association with events significant to broad patterns of history, association with significant personalities in the past and possessing distinctive architectural characteristics of type, period or method of construction. What is not so clear are the motives of Lennar Homes in requesting demolition of the Polo Barn in return for a $1 million payment to the city and a small passive park to be built in the development.

Page 6 of the November 20, 2013 staff report on the potential demolition of he Polo Barn states, “WHEREAS, the developer has established that the historic Polo Barn and caretaker’s quarters cannot feasibly and safely be relocated to Parcel D.”

After persistent requests a cost estimate done by a contractor hired by Lennar Homes has been supplied. Nowhere in any public documents are actual independent cost estimates to move the barn or expert opinions as to why the Polo Barn is unsafe.  

Scotts Valley has a rich tapestry of history ranging from ancient native-American settlements, a Spanish land grant, pre-1900 pioneering farms, ranches, farms, dairies, vineyards, private estates, Bethany Bible College, “The Barn”, Scotts Valley Cavalcade and numerous road-side attractions like Santa’s Village, the Tree Circus, Lost World, Ye Old Dutch Inn and the Beverly Gardens. Sadly, few remnants of local history remain. On November 13 the city council decided to delay the decision to demolish the Polo Barn until a January 15, 2014 meeting. A decision of such importance to demolish one of our last remaining historical structures deserves time for more public input. Options for the Polo Barn need to be explored analyzed and discussed. What has changed since the 2009 agreement that Lennar Homes should be allowed out of the development agreement to move and partially restore the barn?

Let your city council officials know your opinion. Visit to call or write an email.

- Debbie Muth of Scotts Valley is a member of the Scotts Valley Planning Commission and the Scotts Valley Historical Society. 


Comments-icon Post a Comment
January 10, 2014
As a friend of mine just pointed out, if Lennar Homes is offering $1 million and a small park for the right to back out of their contract, it means they stand to make a lot more than that by demolishing the complex. It also shows that after willfully neglecting the property they agreed to maintain and refurbish, they have at least $1 million plus to spend on holding up their end of the legal contract they signed.

What possible reason could the city officials have to allow this obvious breach of contract, other than direct or indirect person gain?
oh come on
January 10, 2014
If I understand this letter correctly the hysterical society has had from 2009 to know to come up with a plan or funding for this barn and now they want more time how will that help?
January 10, 2014
If the Polo Barn building holds such a historical significance, why does almost nobody in town even knows that it exits? If it's so critical to save Scotts Valley's "rich tapestry of history", why is there not a line donor's lining up to personally to financially support the restoration (hint, because it's beyond repair and almost nobody cares)

I'm a realist, it's beyond repair, and there is no chance that it's ever going to be more than a dilapidated and dangerous eye-sore.

If you are a "Not in my back yarder" who doesn't want a housing development in your back yard, that's fine, you can have and express that opinion, but don't hide behind a farce of an argument that this building actually means anything to 99% of the people in this city and delaying the vote is going to do anything to change anyone's mind on the matter.
Craig Polson
January 10, 2014
The argument that a building is of no historical value because people don't know about it makes no sense whatsoever. I would imagine that a local historian could identify several locations and places of significance that the general public is unaware of... which does not diminish their historic significance whatsoever. If anything, it proves the opposite: that places of significance need to be saved and the public needs to be made aware of them. Even Lennar Homes agreed to the stipulation that the barn was of historic significance and agreed to preserve it... then let it deteriorate to it's current condition.

Why would Lennar Homes offer to pay $1 million dollars to the city to destroy an old barn unless there was some circumstance they were trying to buy their way out of?

Why is there no line of donors waiting to support the project? Please refer to the sentence you typed before that one: the Polo Barn is not something that people are very aware of, nor has there been ample opportunity to inform the public since the demolition issue came up. Thus the need for the above article.

As for being beyond repair, I think that is a statement that is subjective at best. There are a number buildings in the county, as well as in the state, that have been saved from worse condition than the Polo Barn... and many of those structures weren't just *barns.* I would suggest that the investment and work required to restore a dilapidated Victorian home, or even an old railroad station, is far more substantial than the barn that represents much of complex in question.

If you would like to argue that the barn's actual historical importance does not merit restoration, that is a totally valid discussion to have. What this article is arguing for is the time to have such a discussion, and the importance of having a public discussion before rushing to destroy something that many people are not aware of.

Both here and on the Santa's Village Facebook group this issue has encountered a surprising backlash of knee-jerk calls for demolition without the parties involved even being aware of the importance of the structures involved. For crying out loud, who want's to destroy an historic building, and why?

All that said, I'm no expert on the barn. But from what I've read, it seems important to discuss:

1) The historic value of the Polo Barn complex in terms of it's local history and architectural value?

2) What would be required to restore the barn to whatever degree is required?

3) Who would be responsible for overseeing the restoration?

4) What would be the purpose of the restoration?

Perhaps the upshot will be that the barn is not worth restoring, or that the public just doesn't want it... fine, so be it. But that decision should be arrived at via the public forum, and with facts and an understanding of the costs/benefits.

Rushing through a minimally discussed decision to destroy the buildings very much smacks of back room politics and money. Maybe a million dollars worth.

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