‘Windemere’ site redevelopment moving too fast for La Jolla preservationists

Irving Gill’s Windemere Cottage, one of the state’s earliest examples of Craftsman-style architecture, was demolished unexpectedly on Dec. 23, 2011. Courtesy

By Pat Sherman

It has been nearly a year since historic preservationists received a giant lump of coal in their holiday stockings — the Dec. 23, 2011 demolition of architect Irving Gill’s Windemere Cottage at 1328 Virginia Way.

Though the La Jolla Historical Society (LJHS) fought to obtain a historic designation for the 1894 Craftsman-style structure (one of Gill’s earliest designs), San Diego’s Historical Resources Board failed to deem it historic, citing a “lack of integrity.”

Now, the property owner is on a fast track to redevelop the site and construct a 4,918-square-foot, two-story home with a basement, detached garage and guest quarters — a proposal preservationists feel is moving much too fast.

Representatives for Golba Architecture are seeking to obtain a Coastal Development Permit for the project through the city’s Sustainable Building Expedite Program. The program reduces the time it takes city staff to review development permit requests by as much as 75 percent, in exchange for incorporating environmentally sustainable materials and energy-saving devices like solar panels.

The project was heard by the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee (DPR) on Nov. 20.

LJHS Preservation Committee Chair Leslie Davis, who attended the DPR meeting, noted that the property was referred to on the agenda as the Bernate Ticino Residence, with no reference to its property owner or Windemere Cottage.

“I thought, boy, they were definitely trying to slide this thing in under the radar,” Davis said.

1328 Virginia Way, where Irving Gill's Windemere Cottage stood until last December, when it was demolished via a city-issued emergency demolition permit. Pat Sherman photos

In a letter sent to project manager Laura Black with San Diego’s Development Services Department, the Preservation Committee requested that a full environmental impact report be conducted on the property, which was not done prior to the demolition of Windemere.

“There could be artifacts on the property based on the historic nature of that cottage,” said Davis, who also requested the city conduct a California Environmental Quality Act report. Prior to demolition, Windemere was deemed historically significant by staff at the California State Office of Historic Preservation.

“The site was noticed for public hearing, which prompted the owner to quickly demolish it just prior to Christmas Eve, on the excuse that the building was unstable and not fit for habitation,” wrote Davis, on behalf of the Preservation Committee.

“It should be noted that any instability was created by the owner itself, by directing the removal of the roof brackets, eaves, and other features critical to the stability of the single- wall construction methodology of this rare, two-story structure.”

Davis said the property owner previously expressed willingness to relocate Windemere to an alternate site.

“The society believed that the owner was negotiating with it in good faith,” Davis wrote.

Davis also requested that the environmental report outline Windemere’s “alleged structural failures, … how they were created, and who created them.

“Mitigation should include, first and foremost, reconstruc- tion of the lost structure,” she wrote.

In his own letter to the city, Dan Soderberg, chair of the Neighborhood Historic Preservation Coalition, wrote that “after the applicant purchased this property, character defining features of Windemere Cottage were systematically removed or destroyed in an apparent effort to render the building void of historic integrity. …

“Our coalition asks for a complete review of this application, including the flawed Historical Resources Board designation process.”

Davis said that when questioned by DPR members as to what was on the Virginia Way property previously, a Golba Architecture representative responded, “a vacant lot.”

“She tried to pretend that she had no idea what (was there),” Davis said. “They didn’t have any contextual photos either of any of the things that you would typically have wanted. The (DPR) committee was not too happy with that.”

Though Davis characterized the proposed development as a “French Monster,” DPR Chair Paul Benton said the proposed development is closer to an Italian chalet, rectangular, and “very conservative.”

However, Benton said, DPR members had many questions about the demolition of Windemere, the appearance of the proposed development and its relationship to surrounding residential structures.

“It’s a fairly small lot (6,995 square feet), with buildings very close on both sides,” Benton said. “The (design) issues are focused on the appearance, and the height and mass of it.”

DPR members requested a litany of additional information on the project before moving the discussion to a future DPR meeting, most likely Dec. 11. The Development Permit Review Committee meets 4 p.m. the second and third Tuesdays of the month at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.

Related posts:

  1. Congressman introduces largely symbolic bill to save La Jolla post office
  2. Redevelopment of former Copley site in La Jolla to incorporate early beach cottage architecture
  3. Crumbling historic cottages ‘roost’ in perpetual limbo
  4. Events net 100 letters urging Issa to help save post office
  5. Postal Work

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Posted by Pat Sherman on Dec 4, 2012. Filed under Featured Story, La Jolla, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

10 Comments for “‘Windemere’ site redevelopment moving too fast for La Jolla preservationists”

  1. James May

    I thought that the CITY of SAN DIEGO failed to even designate this structure since it was moved to this site and so altered? Sounds like GRADE A sour grapes to me…the preservationists issues should be with the City not the land owner……

  2. Jeremy Hicks

    So let get this straight, the building was torn down (legally I assume since that would have been big news) almost a YEAR AGO and now when the owner of the land wants to build a house these folks are opposing to what bring it back from the dead?? Sounds like they need to move on and support the beautification of a dirt lot!!!

  3. Angry Neighbor

    The Bernate Bacino project should never be approved. These people tore down a historically significant treasure in the dark of night and should not be allowed to rebuild on that site. They are not welcome in La Jolla.

  4. Erik

    When you demolish a house that millions of people would have been thrilled to live in, there is no way the replacement structure can ever be called "sustainable". The fact is that the building was constructed of a grade of redwood that could never be equaled today. Sustainable means that the thing could be built with no environmental damage. The damage has been done, and this project is cursed from an environmental aspect. It should be put on a non-LEED track, if not rebuilt resembling what it was.

  5. Cecilia B.

    I was outraged and horrified when I read this article. All we can do now is weep.

  6. Tracy Ann

    I am ashamed….not of anything in the article at all but the words of the absolute worst of stereotypical La Jolla'ns….how dare your apparently completely ignorant selves attempt to dicatate who and who does not belong in La Jolla. YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED for even typing such a thing and then hiding behind "angry neighbor". Do some research and learn the facts like that the City failed, let me repeat that, FAILED to feel this old house had any merit and did not designate it! Do you know the picture in the article is from 1905 when the house was on Prospect Street NOT it's former location now? Do you know that the building was moved and significantly modified over the years removing any authenticity? Do you know the City of San Diego granted a Demolition Permit LEGALLY and above the board to the Owner? next time before you try and dictate who and who is not welcome in La Jolla, do some research!

  7. Ashley Reeves

    "Crude Wealth in the hands of shallow people" (Quote:Walter Lipmann) It would be great if La Jolla could prevent these people from moving here but this is a (Free) Republic.
    Why can't La Jolla preserve its historic buildings? Very Sad

    • James May

      put quite simply, the BUILDING WAS NOT HISTORIC! That is why it was not preserved.

      • danields

        One needs to wisely choose where to get one's "facts." Here are the real facts. Not the ones fabricated by paid consultant of the property owner. 1. The City prior to this owners purchase of the property had cited this building as a perfect example of La Jolla Beach Cottage that should be designated under a specific clause within Criterion A of the City's Designation guidelines. It is simply shocking the City failed to follow through on this issue which they had previously indicated was a done deal. It should be noted Jerry Sanders didn't want anything in San Diego historically designated. And oh, by the way, the owner of the Windemere site is a neighbor of Jerry Sanders. That is how the City failed to designate Windemere. 2. The State of California on the other hand was moving forward to designated it. The State Office of Historic Preservation stated quiet clearly Windemere was not only historically important to La Jolla and San Diego, but very important to California. And through that important Nationally. That is why Windemere was demolished. The owner saw the writing on the wall, and systematically began weekend piecemeal demolition of the building. The the final short shrift of the system came when the building was knocked down two days before Christmas a year ago. The building was historic because it was designed by Irving Gill, San Diego's most important architect. Before the current owner bought the property, the building had very good integrity. This was completely documented by the prior owner through historic and architectural review before he sought to restore the building, which unfortunately didn't happen. 3. The building was historic because it represented, if not the earliest existent Arts and Crafts structure in California and the U.S., then certainly among two or three of the earliest. That alone, according to the State of California Office of Historic Preservation would reserved its place of the State Registery of Historic Places. Those are the facts.

      • Eva T

        irving gill? how much more historic can it get in southern cal? even i over here in germany know about him.

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