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Historic ‘Spaghetti Acres’ receives honorary designation

Next to be considered: ‘Old Town’ & ‘Muir Wood’

The Merced City Council approved the Spaghetti Acres Neighborhood as an Honorary Historic Neighborhood District at its meeting Jan. 17.

Spaghetti Acres is the second neighborhood to receive such a designation in Merced. The Ragsdale neighborhood was the first, back in 2017.

Cities bestow such honorary designations to recognize the historic character of neighborhoods, including the cultural and civic contributions of the founding inhabitants.

Spaghetti Acres is the neighborhood surrounding Fremont Elementary School, roughly bounded by R Street, 18th Street and Bear Creek, which was first settled by Italian-American immigrant families who proceeded to contribute so much to Merced’s development. From the first settlement and farming by the Pregno family, to the establishment of the Italo-American Hall and beyond, Merced has benefited hugely from the accomplishments of local Italian-Americans.

The Spaghetti Acres neighborhood also has a significant concentration of homes reflecting the architecture of Merced’s development from the 1920s through the 1950s.

The Merced Downtown Neighborhood Association (DNA) was instrumental in pushing through the designation. DNA Board Member Marc Medefind said the honorary district designation provides a “win-win” for both residents and the City of Merced.

“I think we can all agree that certain urban neighborhoods, like ‘Little Italy’ in New York, or the ‘North Beach’ area of San Francisco carry a certain allure which will be nice to replicate here in Merced,” Medefind said. “Spaghetti Acres is a hugely appropriate name for agricultural, historical, gastronomic, ethnic, and cultural reasons.”

“Giving an area this honorary designation does not involve property rights issues, reviews or permits. However, it does provide a positive impact through the association of an identified district of which we can all be proud,” Medefind added. “It is also likely to have the effect of increasing property values. The DNA board hopes recognition will foster reinvestment consistent with historic preservation, and will result in continued preservation of the neighborhood’s fabric and character.”

Best of all, this request should not cost the city or its citizens a dime to implement. This is mainly thanks to a fundraiser sponsored by the DNA, former Assembly Member Adam Gray, and the Italo-American Lodge, which together raised more than $5000 for Spaghetti Acres signage. A DNA sub-committee was formed to work with the city to install such signage.

To facilitate the City Council’s consideration of the request, DNA members prepared a report, which included background on the project and discussion of the neighborhood. It also included a resolution for the Council’s consideration; an architectural and historic overview of the area; as well as DNA’s neighborhood outreach efforts, including signed petitions and summaries of community outreach efforts.

The Downtown Neighborhood Association is eyeing two more areas in Merced for additional honorary neighborhood designations, Old Town and Muir Wood. Old Town is the area bounded by   G and M Streets and between the BNSF RR and the Downtown Business District. Muir Wood is the area around John Muir Elementary School, bounded by G Street, Bear Creek, M Street and the BNSF RR tracks.

The benefits of creating such districts are much like those derived from any historic preservation effort. Districts help explain the history and development of a place, the source of inspiration, and technological advances. They preserve a record of the neighborhood and the residents who lived there, while accentuating the distinctiveness of areas within the city.

Another benefit of an honorary district designation is that it will encourage the maintenance and preservation of the character of the district and foster a sense of neighborhood stability. Designation will help encourage new construction and renovations that are complementary to the neighborhood.

Designation will also help assure clear identification of the features the residents and community value for these neighborhoods and express the expectations for the type and quality of future development.

What does it mean for property owners?

Recognition, stability, increased property value, neighborhood renewal and pride of ownership are benefits of designation. Local districts protect the investments of owners and residents. Buyers know that the aspects are protected that make a particular area attractive over time.