Atascadero Printery headed to tax auction

February 3, 2016

Atascadero Printary 2


Because of unpaid taxes, the historic Printery building in Atascadero is headed to a tax auction.

Bidders for the Printery Building, located at 6351 Olmeda Avenue, will need to start with a minimum bid of $1.3 million to purchase the historic building, which includes the Assessed Value/Land Value and the total amount due in back taxes.On May 14, the San Luis Obispo County Internet Public Auction will start at 8 a.m.

The Printery was built in 1915, with the first publication of the Atascadero News going to print in Jan. 1916. Over the years, it changed hands several times before ending up in the hands of former North County developer Kelly Gearhart.

In 1994, owners of the Printery Building, the Freemasons, donated it to the city – with the agreement that the city would maintain and renovate the building into a youth center.

Three years later, the still-structurally unsound facility opened its doors to the city’s youth.

Immediate concerns surfaced regarding the structure’s condition and the cost of improvements. Following an accident in 1999, resulting in a claim against the city, the council opted to find new digs for the city’s after-school programs.

Kelly Gearhart

Kelly Gearhart

In 2001, the Freemasons asked the city to return the building because of the city’s inability to abide by its contract with the Freemasons, according to the minutes of numerous city council meetings. In August 2003, the city council agreed with the understanding that Gearhart would be the eventual owner.

Gearhart, who is currently serving a 14 year prison sentence for fraud, planned to turn the building into an event structure like the Jack House in San Luis Obispo.

Four months later, when the San Simeon Quake shook Atascadero and further damaged the building, the property was in the final days of escrow. FEMA paid the city $4 million for the damage, which was later spent on a city youth center.

In 2009, amid allegations of criminal activity, Gearhart filed bankruptcy and the building was tied up in the court system for years.

On Jan. 31, Atascadero police arrested a 38-year-old transient for starting a fire in the Printery building. Nevertheless, damage to the structure was minimal.

However, in response to the fire, the City of Atascadero hired a local casualty company to board up the building in an effort to keep it and nearby residents safe.

Following the tax auction, significant additional resources will be needed to make the property safe, including earthquake retrofitting. The Atascadero Printery Foundation is a local, grassroots non-profit group that formed last year with the mission to “Save the Printery” Anyone interested in becoming a part of this nonprofit group should contact Karen McNamara at (805) 459-5113



  1. rockhound1965 says:

    In 2000, I interviewed with the City of Atascadero for the “Permit Kiosk” job. Wow. What a f**king joke! I sat in front of 7 men, all dressed like Mormons at your door, which only 2 spoke. The others were there to “observe”. After 5 minutes, it was clear they hadn’t taken the time to read my resume, which included a baccalaureate in Geology, and several years in Land Use Planning with 2 local businesses.
    Finally, after about 10 minutes of this little “act” of what was supposed to be a job interview….the City Manager asked what I had done to “prepare for the job”….at a kiosk….handing out permits.

    I told him I showed up “sober & on time”, and then stood up and said “Good bye you clowns”, ripped my resume out of the City Managers hand & walked away like they had the plague.

    Even I knew better than to work with people who I wouldn’t trust with crayons, let alone the future of my community.

    I got job for CalOSHA with the week.

    (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  2. achillesheal says:

    Yet another way government steals property from individuals. They assess excessive tax and confiscate the property when owners are at their lowest,

    How does this differ from what the mafia does? Except government does it to senior citizens , little old ladies and historic but now out of date businesses. Wonderful.

    (3) 13 Total Votes - 8 up - 5 down
    • SLO_Johnny says:

      We are the government. We tax properties to cover the costs of servicing those properties. We could send the owners separate bills from the fire department, the police department, the street maintenance department, the street lights, etc… It is much more efficient and convenient to send people one property tax bill. Find some other means of providing essential services if you don’t want to pay property taxes. Sales taxes?? Direct billing??

      (-2) 6 Total Votes - 2 up - 4 down
    • foolio713 says:

      this property was confiscated from a convicted felon, who embezzled millions of $$$’s from hardworking folks in slo county – don’t blame the gov’t for this, blame kelly gearhart – you want to feel bad for someone (“when owners are at there lowest”), think of all the folks who had to return to work after gearhart stole their retirement – i myself, think he got off easy with only 14 years !

      (9) 9 Total Votes - 9 up - 0 down
  3. RememberWhen says:

    What?! A vacant building in Atascadero??

    (11) 11 Total Votes - 11 up - 0 down
  4. pasoparent5 says:

    Not trying to be snarky but isn’t “printery” spelled wrong a few times in this article?

    (7) 13 Total Votes - 10 up - 3 down
  5. dogeatdog says:

    They should give it back to the Free masons. The city did not hold up their end of the deal. Atascadero knew what the contract said they were to maintain it and turn it into a youth center. They got $4 mil from fema that money should have been used on the bldg IMO.

    Nothing like kicking a gift horse in the mouth. Atascadero should be ashamed of themselves for allowing this to happen. Bet the Freemasons won’t give them anything else.

    (33) 35 Total Votes - 34 up - 1 down
  6. Jorge Estrada says:

    Just sell it and let the buyer figure it out. No controversy just private economics, the public can’t afford this unless the brick are for sale.

    (8) 10 Total Votes - 9 up - 1 down
    • r0y says:

      The problem with this is, unless there’s someone who A) thinks they can bribe their way through the city, or 2) is REALLY new at development, this is a turd. So much needs to be done, and governing agencies (in this case, the City of A-town) are usually just very costly obstacles to overcome.

      I always say, everyone should experience the “pure joy” that is going through the building process here. A process that is mostly redundant “unnecessarities.” (if that’s a word); and if one thinks the public is made safer by the city’s thumbs in the pies, well, that just shows us how many have not gone through the process. Don’t get me wrong, there is *some* oversight and taxation/fees that are necessary, but largely it’s all just feed for the hog trough.

      (14) 16 Total Votes - 15 up - 1 down
      • Mr. Holly says:

        There is another fee increase proposed for Atascadero. Very interesting that these recent fee increase closely coincide with the raises in pay and benefit packages that city employees receive.

        (13) 13 Total Votes - 13 up - 0 down
  7. SLO_Johnny says:

    It is highly unlikely that this building can be put to any economic use. A complete seismic upgrade would be extremely expensive. Seismic retrofits are designed to prevent the building from collapsing during an earthquake. The building would still likely not be repairable after a significant seismic event. One day after the completion of a rebuilding project, an earthquake could totally ruin the building.
    It could be preserved for historical reasons but just maintaining the exterior shell of the building would be costly.

    (13) 19 Total Votes - 16 up - 3 down
    • BeenThereDoneThat says:


      (4) 10 Total Votes - 7 up - 3 down
    • matt55353 says:

      Sad to say this is correct. City Hall is a similar(ish) building and cost $30million to retrofit. Dynamite, as suggested below, is probably the best option for a sad situation.

      (4) 6 Total Votes - 5 up - 1 down

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