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Historic preservation chief Hattersley-Drayton leaves City Hall after 15 years

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Karana Hattersley-Drayton no longer is Fresno’s historic preservation project manager.

Hattersley-Drayton left city employment in late January, City Hall communications director Mark Standriff told me on Thursday. Standriff gave no other details concerning her departure.

Standriff said the city plans to fill the position. In the meantime, Standriff said, Dan Zack, assistant director of the Development and Resource Management Department, will handle City Hall’s historic preservation duties.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Hattersley-Drayton started her city job in June 2002.

“As the City’s Historic Preservation Manager I review environmental documents (Section 106/CEQA) and HUD funded projects, prepare historic survey reports, serve as staff to the City’s Historic Preservation Commission and promote public events that celebrate Fresno’s history and cultural heritage,” Hattersley-Drayton wrote.

Hattersley-Drayton came to City Hall from Caltrans, where she was an associate planner-architectural historian, according to her Linkedin profile. She has an undergraduate degree and two graduate degrees from Cal.

Any veteran City Hall reporter in the last 15 years has interviewed Hattersley-Drayton. She was always generous with her time. She was always a great interview.

I’m in no position to say whether she knew her stuff. But to a layman like me, she certainly seemed brilliant when it came to architectural history. I came to learn that when you say “architectural history” to Hattersley-Drayton, you’re really saying “human history.”

I remember the day in early May 2009 when Hattersley-Drayton and Lauren MacDonald, an architectural historian and preservation planner with Johnson Architecture in Fresno, joined me for a walk around the Hugh M. Burns state building on Mariposa Mall.

It was my contention that the Burns Building is the ugliest building in all of Fresno, perhaps in the entire San Joaquin Valley. The building was celebrating its 50th birthday in 2009. The monstrosity is designed in what’s called the International Style. It’s enough to note that you wouldn’t expect a region full of farmers to build a major building in the International Style.

I wrote a story for The Bee about my discussion with Hattersley-Drayton and Johnson on the Burns Building’s virtues and vices.

“You know, I like that building,” Hattersley-Drayton told me. “It’s not a great building, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good building.”

I love that quote. It comes real close to saying something substantive, thus pleasing a pesky reporter, but leaves Hattersley-Drayton plenty of wiggle room should the architectural world’s grand poohbahs try to take her to task.

I say that as a high compliment to Hattersley-Drayton. Being the historic preservation project manager in Fresno for nearly 15 years means being in the spotlight rather often.

All of us who have poured over the books of Pop Laval photographs know the conventional wisdom: Fresno was once full of remarkable commercial and residential buildings from the late 19th century and first half of the 20th century. Then we got drunk on suburbia and urban renewal. The result was the casual destruction of most of that irreplaceable legacy.

Most, but not all. A fair number of those buildings survived to see the 21st century. Whether they are in a condition that warrants their preservation is a technical, legal and political question.

That’s a recipe for conflict in a city fond of development and a world built on rebirth. Hattersley-Drayton thrived in the City Hall cauldron for 15 years. Fresno is a better place for her labors.

Thank you, Karana.

George Hostetter is The Sun’s Fresno Civic contributor – covering the City of Fresno, County of Fresno, and Fresno Council of Governments.

2 Comments

  1. George thank for taking the time to thank Karana.
    She held a special designation from the State
    which permitted her sign off on environmental assessments,
    Without sending to the state. That designation goes with her.
    More importantly is why Karana and other star employees are leaving the city. She’s no spring chicken so retirement is nearby. It’s JENNIFER CLARK she has several EEOC complaints against her. And she mismanage HUD FUNDS which is why the Office of Inspector General is HERE RIGHT NOW AUDITING THE CITY. HUD OIG has subpoenaed the city for documents

  2. George… I think you received this already but I only saw this nice piece a week or so ago when a college friend in Canada saw it and sent it my way. Thanks again.

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