Atascadero Printery headed to tax auction
February 3, 2016
By KAREN VELIE
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.
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