Permanent seating installed in Nevada City’s Robinson Plaza |

Permanent seating installed in Nevada City’s Robinson Plaza

Nevada City residents Jim Morris (left), Al Bulf (right), and local metal-smith and furniture-maker Mark Odland (back), place the first of three sets of chairs and tables at Robinson Plaza in Nevada City Thursday.
Teresa Yinmeng Liu/ |

Weary tourists — and residents looking for a handy place to enjoy a snack — have a new place to give their feet a rest in Nevada City, as the Robinson Plaza on Thursday welcomed a new component.

The small commemorative space, located at the base of Commercial Street where it meets Union Alley and Coyote Street, was equipped with a steel triangular table with three chairs, the first of three sets of permanent seating to be installed in the upcoming weeks.

“I’m so happy we are finally getting permanent chairs and tables for everyone to enjoy,” said Nevada City Vice Mayor Evans Phelps. “It’s taken two years and it is so worth it.”

Two additional sets of tables and chairs — one with two chairs and a space to accommodate a wheelchair, and one with four chairs — will be installed after they have been powder-coated by local metalsmith and furniture-maker Mark Oldland, who designed and sculpted the furniture.

Phelps said the set that is wheelchair-accessible will be placed next to the Pelton Wheel on display at the plaza so the structure will not be blocked from public view.

Planning Commission Vice Chair Pamela Meek, who is the committee’s liaison for the project, was present at Robinson Plaza Thursday as volunteers unloaded the new chairs and table from a truck.

“It’s a modern twist on seating that we haven’t seen,” Meek said, noting that the color of the chairs blend in with the bricks at the plaza.

The three sets of chairs and tables cost $8,700, Phelps said, but she was able to get $2,500 in support from the city.

According to Phelps, the Chamber of Commerce will kick-start a fundraiser in the first week of June to help raise money to offset the remainder of the payment.

Phelps considered installing seating at Robinson Plaza a priority when she ran unopposed for Nevada City Council in 2014, but the project faced some opposition.

When the project came in front of the Planning Commission in November 2014, some commissioners worried that the seating would take away the plaza’s historic appeal, and that seating could be moved or thrown into traffic on nearby Highway 49.

During a City Council meeting in January 2015, council member Terri Andersen and Mayor Jennifer Ray expressed concern that adding permanent seating at Robinson Plaza would limit its use. Officials eventually compromised and voted to move forward with two sets of chairs and tables at the plaza, which were in the space until their permanent versions replaced them on Thursday.

The project obtained its final stamp of approval from elected officials during a meeting on March 9, with council members Duane Strawser, Robert Bergman and Phelps all voting yes, and Andersen and Ray voting no.

When contacted by The Union on Monday, Ray said her views on the project have not changed.

“The plaza was intended to be open and versatile. With permanent tables and chairs, we lost that,” she wrote in an email. “Secondly, in the historic district, the decor and architecture are supposed to reflect the Gold Rush era — these particular chairs and table are totally inconsistent. Finally, I think portable tables and chairs would have been much less expensive and more practical.”

To contact Staff Writer Teresa Yinmeng Liu, please email, or call 530-477-4236.

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