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The Palace

I read with bemusement the recent article by Mike Geniella (Dec 28, AVA) about the latest vision for the dilapidated Palace Hotel by the young Wall Street wiz, Minal Shankar. It’s going on a half-century since I arrived here in Ukiah, around the time when Pat Kuleto was dispersing federal funds on the Palace, provided for makework programs to boost the economy.

I have been writing occasional letters to the editor or columns on this eyesore for most of my life at this point, most recently after hearing about Ms. Shankar's interest in the old ruins. As with every previous attempt to introduce a rational viewpoint on the subject, they all fell on deaf ears.

For those coming in late to this half-century of procrastination, buck-passing and the rare pointless action on the rotten remains of the old hotel/bar/restaurant; not long after the cosmetically 'refurbished' structure closed its doors so many years ago, it was purchased by a Marin County realtor named Eladia Laines and a group of her friends. I can see how they might think that there was no way to lose on buying almost a whole city block right next to the County courthouse with all this grand old brickwork, for the bargain-basement price of something like $160,000!

Little did they know at the time that they would lose all their money on the “historic” dump. A number of years went by during which time Ms. Laines bought out all her partners, all the while, the building falling ever deeper into ruin. I remember hearing, way back then, from an experienced downtown landowner, “Without a demolition permit in hand, The Palace is not an asset but a liability.” This has only become more so as the years of leaky roofs and rotting timbers have passed by.

After decades of neglect, the City Council finally noticed this cancer in the heart of downtown and began to make noises, demanding that the owner start doing something with it. This developed into a couple-of-years-long comedy routine where the Council would demand her presence in their chambers, where they would berate her about the lack of progress and issue a list of accomplishments that they want to see by a certain date. Not once were any of these demands even remotely accomplished, but she would have a bunch of excuses. It became comical, the way they would hear her excuses de jour and issue another list of demands to be completed by a specified date, over and over.

After too long, it dawned on them that Ms. Laines simply did not have the wherewithal to do anything more than the asbestos abatement and a futile installation of some boards to prop up the rotting floors so they wouldn’t collapse completely. Oh, and the Sisyphean task of stapling plastic up in all the windows, a waste of time and effort that has been repeated every time the old plastic blows out.

Next in this decades-long comedy of errors was the idea of putting it before a judge, who may or may not have the slightest idea about construction, business economics, etc., who decided somehow that the solution would be to 'take control of the restoration project', (thus discarding out of hand the only rational solution, razing the site and starting fresh), and handing control over to a 'public receiver'.

They found this gentleman from San Diego or somewhere, who of course had glowing reviews for other projects that he had spearheaded as a public receiver. Never mind that he has no idea about Mendocino County's economy and what might work here. I had to laugh when I read back then about his mandate to, “borrow against the equity in the property to pursue the restoration”. WHAT EQUITY?! The thing had long ago established itself as a fiscal black hole into which money could be poured in infinite quantities without ever seeing the slightest hope of any return on investment.

The foolish public receiver apparently found someone with a lot of money who was more of a fool than him to lend him the cash to pay his no doubt exorbitant fees and squander a quarter mil or so in the completely wasted effort of generating engineers drawings for a seismic retrofit that will never happen. Interestingly, that second gentleman was also of Indian descent and apparently a very wealthy hotel owner, who was probably shocked when he became, by default, the owner of the tar baby project, after the public receiver's useless expenditures zeroed out Eladia Laines’s equity in the disaster. I don't think that he ever had any intention of getting involved with actual work on the property.

So, more years pass by with no one lifting a finger to work on the place (except for emergency demolition work on the cornice at the top of the building which was starting to fall onto the sidewalk below, fortunately without any injuries), and then along comes the next naif to try on this millstone around her neck.

The absolute wrong-headedness of Ms. Shankar's approach to the project is laughably obvious in her quotes in the article, where she says, “I think people are going to be really impressed with the caliber of this team.” Of course these “experts” are going to tell her that the project is feasible; to do otherwise is to turn away highly profitable work!

I predict that the “team” of top flight “experts” will cost her so much that the project will be in more debt then it will ever be able to pay off before they even break ground!

This and previous articles can be read at:


  1. George Dorner January 23, 2023

    As I have remarked before, the Palace site is the ideal spot to build the new courthouse. The courthouses–new and old– could be connected by a second story bridge. Result: convenient weatherproof court services.

  2. Michael Geniella January 24, 2023

    I suspect the ‘team’ Mr. Arteaga mocks is far more qualified to assess the Palace’s fate than he and his fellow naysayers. Let’s see what they come up with before we trashed the determined efforts of Ms. Shankar to do something positive. A successful Palace project could transform the downtown, and make our community more liveable.

  3. Eric Sunswheat January 25, 2023

    Ms. Shankar‘s profile indicates she is adept at tax law financing restoration for category historical listed structures.
    If anyone can put lipstick on a money sucking pig of a renewal project, she is up at bat to restore what makes cents.

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