State regulations shutter Auburn’s Santa House

“We had no idea when we went into it that they were going to change all the rules for tiny houses.”

Seems the Grinch has swooped down from Olympia.

Sorry, kids, there’ll be no Santa House in downtown Auburn this Christmas season.

What’s more, unless a permanent spot can be found to place the one that’s ready and cooling its heels on a trailer in north Auburn, there may not be a Santa House in the city for a long time.

Blame it on a recent change in state regulations that subjects small structures on trailers to the same rules as tiny houses, said Cheryl Rakes, director of the Downtown Auburn Cooperative (DAC). The upshot is that even a tiny Santa House must have a bathroom, a sink, water and a kitchen when it’s on a trailer — or no one can be inside of it.

And all that costs a lot of money.

“We’d have to hire an architect to get that done, and the DAC does not have the money right now,” Rakes said Dec. 4. “If we could find a permanent location for it, then we could take it off the trailer and we’d be able to use it for that and for other things.”

How much money are we talking here? Rakes said she did not know exactly how much except to say it would be expensive. Could the DAC put together that much money in time for 2024?

“Probably not,” Rakes said. “Right now, we’re concentrating more on finding a permanent place to put it, then we can use it. Hopefully we’ll have something done so we’ll have it out next year.”

The Auburn Noon Lions built the present Santa House in the summer of 2022 for the Downtown Auburn Cooperative before anyone knew about the new rules.

“It’s a bummer,” Rakes said. “We had no idea when we went into it that they were going to change all the rules for tiny houses.”

So for the second year in a row, Santa is without a pad to hang his cap, warm his bones, redden his cheeks and take kiddies on his lap for photo snapping in Auburn.

In 1970, the Downtown Auburn Business Association and Allen Graber of Graber Homes of Auburn first got the idea to build Santa his own home. Before then, Santa greeted children in the courthouse rotunda. People concluded that the jolly old elf needed his own place to welcome visitors.

Broadview Lumber donated the wood and Vic Miller of Graber Homes built Santa’s Chalet. The keys were presented to Santa Claus the day after Thanksgiving in 1970, and the chalet was settled on the northwest corner of the courthouse lawn facing the intersection of Main &and 7th Streets.

The elements took their toll on the building over the years, and workers effected repairs on an as-needed basis and as funds allowed. A high school’s Building Trades Class replaced the roof in 2000. In 2002, Auburn’s street department employees led a project to make further repairs.

In 2008, the Downtown Auburn Business Association made plans to address the remaining repairs needed. Funds were allocated following a successful summer art project. Jennings and Sons Construction was hired to complete the renovations, which included new outside siding and insulation, new inside walls, new insulated doors and windows, new carpet, and fresh paint inside and out.