Business & Real Estate

‘Culmination of a long-held dream’: City approves sale of auto museum

The Sacramento City Council has approved sale of the California Automobile Museum to the California Vehicle Foundation, the museum’s host organization.
The Sacramento City Council has approved sale of the California Automobile Museum to the California Vehicle Foundation, the museum’s host organization. mcrisostomo@sacbee.com

The Sacramento City Council has approved the sale of the California Automobile Museum to the California Vehicle Foundation, the museum’s host organization.

Tuesday night’s approval clears the way for the museum at 2200 Front St. in Sacramento to put a much-needed new roof on the building. The museum says it is within $10,000 of raising the required $750,000 for that project. It also wants to add insulation and improve interior climate control.

The council’s action represented a significant milestone for the 70,000-square-foot museum and its eclectic collection of motor vehicles. Since 1988, the museum has leased the building from the city for a nominal fee.

Over the years, museum officials have pursued multiple proposals to upgrade the aging facility or win ownership to build a new facility on the spot.

Those efforts included a 2013 proposal by auto sales magnate Paul Snider and his wife, Renee, who pledged $15 million to construct a 178,000-square-foot combination natural history and automobile museum at the Front Street site. The proposed natural history museum would have housed the Sniders’ extensive collection of wild animals hunted at various international locales.

While that plan won support from some city officials, the Sniders’ eventually pulled back amid a flurry of opposition from critics upset with the collection of hunted animals. Among the vocal opponents was the Humane Society of the United States, which said that trophy hunting was harming endangered species.

On Tuesday night, the City Council approved sale of the building and the property on which it is situated for $70,000, plus a $100 easement for an adjacent parking area.

The action also appeared to close the books on the Docks project, a 2003 proposal for a 29-acre residential and commercial development along the Sacramento River. That proposal called for a mix of 1,000 housing units, 200,000 square feet of office/retail/parking space and a green area in space that included the CAM site.

The plan was formally approved by the city in 2009, but the recession put the brakes on numerous development proposals. In addition, the estimated cost to remove and replace an existing wastewater treatment plant facility was $18 million to $20 million.

The museum has been working on its “Raise the Roof” fundraising campaign in earnest since renewing its lease with the city in February. While the lease renewal called for a small $200-a-month payment, it included deadlines for raising money to fix the roof.

In an email to museum members, Tupper Hull, president of the museum’s board of directors, called the city’s approval of a sale “the culmination of a long-held dream of the museum – to own our building.”

The museum was constructed in the 1950s. During rainstorms, museum staff and volunteers routinely rushed to place buckets under drips and covered vehicles in the way of roof leaks.

Mark Glover: 916-321-1184, @markhglover

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