Shakespeare plan for Santa Rosa cannery up in air

  • 4/21/2013: B11:

    12/9/2012: B7:

    5/12/2007:E1: Condo construction that incorporates the walls of the century-old cannery in the city's historic Railroad Square has been delayed.

    PC: Condominium construction that incorporates the walls of the century-old cannery in the city's historic Railroad Square has been delayed because of disputes between the developer and the agency seeking to create a transit hub and build a mixed use project next door. Shot on Friday May 11, 2007. ( Press Democrat / Charlie Gesell )

A plan to stage Shakespeare in Santa Rosa's Railroad Square this summer has run into a few snags, but organizers are hoping they turn out to be much ado about nothing.

The city recently denied a permit to Shakespeare in the Cannery, the group that had been planning 12 performances of "Romeo and Juliet" this summer in the former cannery building on Third Street.

The aging brick walls that made the site such an attractive backdrop for the production apparently have city staff worried they could have a tragedy on their hands if the walls came tumbling down in an earthquake.

"The department denied the temporary use permit because they couldn't demonstrate that they met the life and safety requirements primarily associated with the integrity of the walls," said city planner Noah Housh.

But the city's new building official, Mark Setterland, walked the property with organizers Friday and is helping them try to find solutions that may let the show go on after all, said attorney Chris Costin, who is helping the group with logistics.

"It was really like we were working with someone who was trying to find a way to get this done," Costin said.

Braces were installed in 2005 and 2013 to prop up the brick walls of the former cannery so they could be incorporated in a future development. But those are only temporary supports like the kind used to prop up building walls during installation, Housh said.

The group did submit information demonstrating that the walls haven't moved much over the years, but they did not provide a recent inspection by a structural engineer, Housh said. The site plan called for the stage to be right up against one of the walls, he said.

Even if the production could resolve the structural issues, the site has other constraints, Housh said. These include the need for sufficient emergency exits and access for people with disabilities, he said.

"What we told them is this site is very challenging and there are other sites in town that are less challenging," he said.

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