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Oh to Live in a Vacation District...

By Eric Richardson
Published: Friday, September 28, 2007, at 12:15PM
Caltrans Building Eric Richardson [Flickr]

I was glancing through the agenda for next Wednesday's joint meeting of the City Council's Transportation and Public Works committees when one of the items struck my eye. Listed second was

City Engineer report relative to the vacation of First Street and Main Street Vacation District (Airspace Vacation; VAC E1400892).

Vacation District?

At First and Main?

Turns out it's much less fun than it sounds, but still an interesting story.

Vacation of public right of way is when the City turns over the right of way to the adjoining property owner. Often you'll see this in the case of an old alley that's no longer needed. Apparently a Vacation District is nothing more than a couple of right of way vacation requests bundled together.

So what's this Vacation District at First & Main? It's the City giving Caltrans permission to build its new headquarters, which opened almost exactly three years ago.

The northern edge of the Caltrans building hangs out over the sidewalk and roadway. This air space is over public right of way, and is actually part of the right of way itself. In order for Caltrans to legally build Thom Mayne's design, it needed the City to vacate that airspace. That's what the City's now doing, giving up its rights to a chunk of air that extends 35 feet into the First street right of way from 58 feet to 205 feet above the street. There's an addition airspace vacation for the signage that juts over the sidewalk on the Main street side.

So why now? The City had given Caltrans a temporary permit in 2002, and had started vacation proceedings in 2004, but the process timed out before Caltrans finished up the conditions it had to meet. The motion now is just cleaning up old loose ends and finally getting everything legal.

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