Animal rights advocates sound off about proposed natural history-auto museum

07/12/2013 12:00 AM

10/08/2014 10:45 AM

An elephant in the room.

That's how one Sacramento Planning and Design Commission member described the debate over whether the city of Sacramento should approve a combination natural history and auto museum that would feature stuffed hunted game animals in the same building as classic cars.

The commissioner, Kim Mack, was responding to comments made by animal rights advocates at Thursday night's commission meeting.

The panel heard the advocates while discussing the design of the proposed museum, a 175,000-square-foot structure that would cost an estimated $15 million.

The new museum, which would be built on city land, is the brainchild of auto sales magnate Paul Snider and his wife, Renee, a wealthy couple who have asked the city for permission to buy the land for $1.25 million.

The two have agreed to foot the cost of the new building, which would house their collection of stuffed exotic animals in addition to the existing California Automobile Museum on the site of the auto museum on Front Street.

The public comment portion of the discussion was filled by four speakers who each objected to installing stuffed animals in the proposed museum.

"This is not a world-class idea, this is a world-classless idea," said Jennifer Fearing, the Humane Society's California senior state director.

Some members of the commission confined their comments to discussions about the design of the new museum, while others opined on the necessity of reaching out to the community regarding the content of the new building.

Mack addressed the issue more directly.

"I think that bringing stuffed endangered species into the mix is dangerous to the reputation of our community," she said.

The planning commission spent the majority of the meeting discussing the design of the proposed building and gave the museum's architects feedback on the developing plans.

One point of consideration was the building's proposed polycarbonate facade – some commissioners endorsed it while others suggested alternatives.

One commissioner, Phillip Harvey, suggested that the architects of the project rethink their placement of the museum's parking lot on the north side of the building, and asked that they consider building the facade from structural glass.

"I don't think it's ready for prime time yet," Harvey said.

Katherine Turner-Van Diest, a representative for the proposed natural history museum, said she was glad the Humane Society took the opportunity to voice its concerns. She intends to continue discussions with the group as the project develops.

"I think any time you have someone give you feedback, you have to listen to it," Turner-Van Diest said.

The architects of the new building now will incorporate feedback from the planning commission and hammer out a new proposal that will be considered at a later meeting, said Michael F. Malinowski, an architect who spoke in favor of the design.

Call The Bee's Benjamin Mullin, (916) 321-1034.

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