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.
The organizers have agreed to move the stage and seating areas away from the walls, but the 50-foot setbacks being suggested by the city were making it challenging, Costin said.
After walking the site Friday with veteran play organizer David Lear, however, Setterland seemed willing to be flexible on that point and give the group another chance to make its case, Costin said. They planned to continue the dialogue Monday.
The group already has spent significant energy cleaning up the site, preparing the stage and printing up promotional material all focused on the cannery location, he said.
There are other options for the production, including in various city parks. But moving the production at this point — the first performances are scheduled for July — has organizers hoping the cannery site is ultimately approved.
(You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or email@example.com. On Twitter @citybeater.)
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