Santa Claus is still coming to town despite house troubles

Downtown Auburn Cooperative will host Santa this season.

Santa has lost his house.

Building regulations have scuttled the opening of the new Santa House that the Auburn Noon Lions built last summer for the Downtown Auburn Cooperative.

That leaves Santa without formal digs where he can warm his bones, redden his cheeks and take kiddies on his lap for photo snapping in Auburn this Christmas season. A tough go for the jolly, old elf.

“I’m couch surfing,” said Santa, alias Shawn Rakes, husband of DAC Executive Director Cheryl Rakes.

But, fret not. Santa will be at the office of the Downtown Auburn Cooperative at 262 East Main St. this season, ready for all those kids and photos, said Cheryl Rakes. (See dates and times below)

The unexpected player in this bummer was the advent of the tiny-home movement and the many attendant regulations now on the books concerning sheds on trailers.

The problem surfaced several weeks ago when Rakes called the Department of Labor and Industries to get an electrical permit to install the electrical wiring, and an official there, hearing that the Santa House would be on a trailer, said they needed an additional permit.

“Turns out we needed a licensed architect to design an 8×12 shed,” said Billy Jack Newman of Rail Hop’n Brewing Co. “After Christmas, I’m going to start calling around to all the architects in Auburn and see if someone will volunteer their time to help do the drawings for this, because it’s something for the community.

“I understand it, but at the same time, I’m disappointed,” Newman added. “I think it’s a little excessive for what it is and what’s it’s going to be used for, and the size of it. I understand if it’s a big vehicle on a trailer, where people are mass walking through it. But if it’s one kid and a parent getting a photo? Typically, a building like that doesn’t require a permit.”

“We will have it next year,” Rakes said.

No forewarning?

“What happened,” Rakes said, “is somebody told me I should call L&I for the electrical inspection, and I thought, no big deal because we were hiring a licensed electrician. I didn’t even think about the house being on a trailer, so that kind of opened the can of worms. By that time, we didn’t have time to hire an architect and get the plans signed off.”

“When we found that out, we only had like two weeks, and we wouldn’t have had time or money to get it inspected that way,” Rakes added.

At some point in the past, the old Santa House made the move to a city in Oregon. So by building a new pad, the hope had been to introduce bit of nostalgia with the return of a feature that longtime Auburnites would remember.

Construction began on the new house Aug. 6 at the home of Kristi and Bill (Billy Jack) Newman in the 500 block of A Street Northeast. The Newmans are the owners of Rail Hop’n Brewery on West Main Street, and Rakes is Kristi’s mother.

“All her childhood, she remembered going to Santa Claus’ house and getting her picture taken with Santa,” Newman said of Rakes. “Part of trying to develop more stuff for our community downtown, to bring awareness to all our businesses downtown, is to get people down here. You get foot traffic down here, they realize there’s businesses down here that weren’t here 10, 20 years ago, or the last time they were down here, and it’s occurring to them to come down here more often and experience what downtown Auburn has. And part of that is to bring back the Santa Claus House.”

If you go

Santa will be at the office of the Downtown Auburn Cooperative at 262 East Main St. and will be available for kids and photos Wednesday and Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m.; Friday from 2 to 7 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.