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Residents anxious about the future of Mudd's

A handful of curious residents, architects and city officials toured the now vacant building that housed Mudd's restaurant on Thursday afternoon hoping to understand the past, present and future of the unique restaurant.

Opened in 1981 by Virginia and Palmer Madden as a 9-acre combination conservation center, garden and restaurant, San Ramon's redevelopment agency bought Mudd's at a county foreclosure sale in 2008. With the dissolution of all California redevelopment agencies on Feb. 1, the future of Mudd's is up in the air.

"I would love to see this building turned into a historical site. It's one of the most architecturally unique restaurant buildings ever built," said Lory Hawley, who worked at Mudd's for 27 years and described herself as its curator.

Mudd's and its garden center currently consist of three separate buildings, one of which is over 100 years old, and four courtyards. While the facilities can use a deep cleaning and possibly an exterminator (there are rat traps in nearly every room), much of the damage is cosmetic in nature.

"The construction is magnificent," said Mudd's architect Max Jacobson, describing the Douglas-fir roof that is reminiscent of a ship. "Not a lot has changed from the original, the only difference is the floor and carpet."

Vance Phillips, San Ramon's chief building official, and LEED architect Jim Gibbon (also a member of San Ramon for Open Government) were on hand to discuss disabled access compliance. Although Gibbon said only the bathroom access would need upgrading, Phillips said all ramps are too steep and some of the walkways are inaccessible.

"The quality of the building shouldn't be in doubt," Phillips said, adding that depending on how the building is used, it could need more updates.

But the need to upgrade Mudd's may be unfounded.

San Ramon entered into an agreement with Oakland-based restaurateur and Pican founder Michael LeBlanc to demolish Mudd's and develop a similarly sustainable restaurant on the its footprint. Conceptual drawings submitted to the city of San Ramon show a two-story building at 5,846 square feet with smaller "great room" that can seat 120 people. LeBlanc said he would try to reuse as much of the original building material as possible.

Some residents, including Planning Commission Chair Donna Kerger, said they would like to house parts of the building in Forest Home Farms as historic items while others said they would like Mudd's to be turned over to the school district for safe keeping. The city has also had inquiries from several residents hoping to take remnants of the building for sentimental reasons.

But Michael LeBlanc, who did not return calls for comment, is still finding financing, according to city Administrative Analyst Joe Tanner. He must submit proof of financing to the city by Feb. 28, after which the city has 30 days to accept. If LeBlanc can't find funding, he will lose rights to the property and it will be liquidated by San Ramon's redevelopment successor agency.

"No bank is going to lend money to a clouded title. (Redevelopment) will preclude LeBlanc from doing anything," Gibbon stated. "Any developer who touches this property will get the wrath of the neighbors around here."

The city is still working on what it will do if LeBlanc's plans fall through, Tanner said.

"A lot of this has to do with the state of redevelopment. We're going to look into all our options and talk to our attorneys," he said.


Posted by Ms. Bunny, a resident of San Ramon
on Feb 7, 2012 at 9:31 am

Personally? I just don't see this location as being/qualifying for a truly historical site. I think San Ramon has a nice existing REAL historical flavor with the establishment of the lovely Forest Home Farm and Glass House. It would be so lovely if another restaurant was established on this site and probably would thrive better now with increased population in this area, than when this was first attempted with Mudd's.

Posted by Longtime Resident, a resident of San Ramon
on Feb 7, 2012 at 4:13 pm

The wrath or the neighbors or the wrath of Gibbon's merry band of drones?

Posted by Ms. Bunny, a resident of San Ramon
on Feb 8, 2012 at 9:01 am

Do grow up LR...Jim and others who hold a differing opinion from yours aren't any more a "drone" than you for going along with the "crowd".

Good grief. Be an adult for Godsakes.

Posted by Bob P., a resident of another community
on Feb 8, 2012 at 9:23 am

Bunny, have you heard Jim at meetings? (Just joking, I love Jim, he knows it too)

Posted by Longtime Resident, a resident of San Ramon
on Feb 8, 2012 at 10:31 am

Grow up, Ms Bunny? Really? I too have heard Mr Gibbon's pontifications and have come to the conclusion that the city could say the sky is blue and he would argue that it is not. Sorry if you don't like it or don't agree with me, but that's how I see it. So you feel free to grow up also.

Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer
on Feb 8, 2012 at 11:19 am

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Longtime Resident,

I asked Jim Gibbon to help save Mudd's. He didn't bring any drones with him. I believe it is important to save Mudd's as part of San Ramon's recent history.

See my blog on the tour in which I explain why it is important to save this building. Web Link

Most of the early part of the Valley's history is lost because historical buildings were not preserved when they should have been. So they were not around when residents and historians got around to recognize their historical importance.

Mudd's is part of San Ramon's recent agricultural history and is important to save. I shall be posting emails from Virginia Mudd and Kerry Marshall in my Friday blog this week, and a reply to Jessica Lipsky's story in my Monday blog.

Longtime, you always spout off about how much money the City wastes. The Council voted half a million dollars to tear down the Mudd's building but $215K to fix it up. Is Jim Gibbon's efforts to save Mudd's for future residents not worth saving the City $285K?


Posted by Jeff, a resident of San Ramon
on Feb 8, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Mudd's is NOT historic by any stretch of the imagination....it might be unique but not historic! The lack of maintenance by the previous owner is evident and it would take more money to fix it up, make ADA required changes and kitchen work than it is worth. Please, please, let someone come in and purchase the property from the City and make something of the site!

Posted by Michael, a resident of San Ramon
on Feb 8, 2012 at 10:50 pm

Anyone who ever had to listen to Jim Gibbon talk about anything is probably not as smart as they were before he started talking. Sorry Roz, having him aboard only hurts your cause. lets get a nice restaurant in there.

Posted by Jim Gibbon, a resident of San Ramon
on Feb 15, 2012 at 9:04 am

The Mudd's Restaurant was built next to and part of a farmhand Fireside building that was built in the 1920's. That fact by it's self qualifies it as a historic place. We are in the final stages of getting all the information to file for historic landmark designation.

We still need to pin down the owners of the farm that included the farmhand building. I think it was owned by the Norris family but need more information. If anyone knows the history of the Norris family please give me or Roz a call.


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