UPDATED: La Jolla News Nuggets: Fireworks foundation in need of funding, more history in peril? … and more

Neighbors say the owner of this historically significant home on Lookout Drive hired workers to denude its entire landscaping, including dozens of palm trees, with plans to sell individual parcels to developers. Pat Sherman

By Pat Sherman

EDITING NOTE: The first news item in this report has been updated to include feedback from the owner of a property where a potentially historic home by San Diego architect Cliff May is located.

More history in peril?

Historic preservationists are concerned that a 1936 home built by pioneering San Diego architect Cliff May (1909-1989) — considered the father of the California Ranch-style home — could be the next historic structure lost to development.

“It’s one of the most significant Cliff May homes in town,” said Bruce Coons, executive director of the Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO). “It’s the first full courtyard house that he built.”

Neighbors said that at the end of June all palm trees and other landscaping surrounding the historically significant home at 7727 Lookout Drive were cut down within a two-day period, without permits or proper public notification they believe was required.

Coons argued that any significant alterations to a property 45 years or older should trigger a review by the city’s Historical Resources Board (HRB) — including alterations to the original landscaping.

“The setting is usually a major portion of (a property’s) history,” said Coons, who also lives in a home built by Cliff May. “(May) had a particular plant palette that he used in those days — pepper trees, olives, cactus and other things. … It all went with his early California theme.” He said the property also lies within an area that should be reviewed for Native American archaeology before undertaking work of that scale.

Coons said he toured the property two years ago (most recently owned by the Yianilos family). He conceded that it “hadn’t been well tended” and “looked virtually abandoned,” but added, “the plantings were gorgeous; it was a virtual forest.”

The property’s current owner, David Mandelbaum, viewed the grounds differently.

“The landscaping was not there originally. It was planted by Mr. Yianilos in a very haphazard manner, and hadn’t been watered for five years,” he maintained, adding that it was home to “rats and mice and a complete fire hazard.”

Mandelbaum said he was told by the city that he did not need permits for the work done last month, which he said he views merely as “landscaping.”

Coons said a collection of May’s architectural plans and a photograph of the property housed at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art could have helped determine which trees were original.

“Things change over time — that’s the reason for the evaluation,” Coons said. “I mean, if they’re not there, they’re not there. But you have to do research to be sure … if those are the plants he planted.”

Mandelbaum said he has preserved an olive tree in the center of the property, which may have been an original planting. “We’re trimming it and watering it and trying to save anything that we think was of original, historic value,” he said.

Preservationists fear architect Cliff May’s 1936 California Ranch-style home will be either demolished or closed off by new development.

Several neighbors contacted the Light to express concerns that Mandelbaum was subdividing the property to sell as individual lots, and may be preparing to grade, which would require a permit and historic review.

However, Mandelbaum said the property was already divided into four lots more than a decade ago.

“If it is historic, so be it, it’ll be historic and we’ll restore it to its former glory,” Mandelbaum said, noting that he is not sure whether he will sell the property as “one estate or four houses.”

“There will be nothing that I will do to hurt the (Cliff May) house in any way,” he assured.

According to a 2008 U-T San Diego obituary, Greek immigrant and longtime La Jollan Theresa Yianilos, who once resided on the property, was known around town as the “Palm Lady” due to the “fervent campaign” she waged to preserve palm trees in La Jolla and elsewhere in San Diego.

Post Office update

According to LJHS Preservation Committee Chair Leslie Davis, on June 27 the Historical Resources Board voted unanimously to confer a local historic designation to the Wall Street post office based on Criterion E (because it is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places).

Davis said the LJHS twice requested (and were denied) having the city add other criteria as a reason for designation, which society members believe would further protect the building’s historic character if sold by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). The society argued that the property is doubly significant — both to San Diego’s local history and because of its WPA-era architecture and interior mural.

Davis said she believes USPS will consider the local designation the final step in the “Section 106” process, which must be completed before USPS can list the building for sale, per the National Preservation Act.

Meanwhile, a representative for the USPS saids its attorneys are still reviewing some 70 public appeals filed in regard to the pending sale of the building at 1140 Wall St. and relocation of its services.

“The attorneys will review each appeal individually prior to submitting them to the vice president for analysis and a final determination,” USPS spokesperson Diana Alvarado said. “These are carefully vetted. We do not have any (relocation) sites identified at this time.”

Local real estate broker Paul Lafrenz, who is handling the sale, said he is waiting to hear from USPS. “We’re not on the market; we have no information out,” LaFrenz said. “If you said, ‘Can we see a package?’ I wouldn’t have anything to show you.”

Lafrenz said it is his understanding that whoever buys the post office will be required to maintain its historical aspects.

“That’s not going to be a preference; that’s going to be a requirement,” he said.

Davis is asking the community to phone Congressmember Darrell Issa, whose committee oversees the USPS, and ask him to support the community’s appeal of the post office sale. Contact Issa at (760) 599-5000.

Oh Canada!

The Toronto Globe & Mail carried this story last week under the headline “Beachgoers can breath easier in La Jolla, Calif.” Written by Lucas Aykroyd, it ended with the line, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s guano.”

Children’s Pool lifeguard tower work to begin

The city is finally set to begin demolition of the old lifeguard tower and construction of the new — as soon as Monday, July 8 — according to a city spokesperson.

Though the demo was supposed to begin May 30, the city was waiting for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to issue an Incidental Marine Mammal Harassment Permit, which the city received July 1.

La Jolla Country Day senior Fidelia Speidel poses by her winning artwork with Congressmember Scott Peters and Country Day art teacher Cindy Bravo. Courtesy MCASD

La Jolla student wins congressional contest

La Jolla Country Day senior Fidelia Speidel was chosen as winner of the 52nd District Congressional Art Contest, and attended a winners’ reception in Washington, D.C. last month, where her work will be displayed in the U.S. Capitol Complex.

High school students across the district submitted entries in early spring. After being on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s downtown gallery, a panel of local art community leaders determined a winner. La Jolla Country Day senior Mayra Nunez was chosen as a runner-up via Congressman Scott Peters’ (D-52) Facebook page. Her work will be displayed at Peters’ UTC office.

Cross to bear

The Mount Soledad Cross, and other religious symbols on government property, may soon be protected by federal law, due to language inserted into the 2014 Defense Authorization Act by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine).

Hunter said the language creates a legal foundation to protect such religious emblems on war memorials and monuments, and can include any of 57 religious symbols authorized by the National Cemetery Association.

ADA access at Children’s Pool

According to the San Diego Reader, a disabled man filed suit against the City of San Diego for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing safe access to the shoreline for people with disabilities.

Jack Robertson, a paraplegic, avid swimmer and president of Action Home Access, a company that retrofits homes for the disabled, filed the suit June 25. “Persons with disabilities find it a great place to start their ocean swim because they can avoid the large waves they would have to contend with when entering the ocean at other beaches,” the suit states. “Each time that the plaintiff has swum at the Children’s Pool, he has been bodily carried down the stairs by others. This is scary, frustrating, discomforting, embarrassing and difficult. … The lack of access and the inaccessible paths of travel have precluded the plaintiff from enjoying the Children’s Pool beach on a full and equal basis.”

July 4th fireworks display threatened

Though La Jolla’s annual July 4th fireworks display was scheduled to go off this week despite ongoing legal challenges over the event’s potential impact on the marine environment, fireworks organizer Deborah Marengo said there may not be a pyrotechnics show at La Jolla Cove next year if her foundation doesn’t get more financial support than it did this year.

“Each year expenses keep going up and each year we get less and less community cooperation,” Marengo said, noting that costs increased this year due to the city requiring additional fencing and fire retardant at the launch site. The water quality control fee also increased by $500 this year, she said. To donate to the fireworks fund, visit savelajollafireworks.com

Fireworks bill pending

Legislation is headed for the governor’s desk designed to end some of the legal disputes over permits for local fireworks displays.

On July 1, the Assembly Natural Resources Committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 633, which would direct the governor’s Office of Planning and Research to create guidelines for when temporary, minor-use special events should be exempt from a state law that requires environmental review as a condition for a permit.

The measure is designed to allay concerns that lawsuits could halt smaller community events, such as fireworks displays and parades, due to the expense of even minor environmental reviews. The guidelines would be developed by July 1, 2015, and certified by 2016.

Related posts:

  1. La Jolla broker gets listing for Wall Street post office
  2. Post office preservationists continue to gain support
  3. Congressman introduces largely symbolic bill to save La Jolla post office
  4. La Jolla’s beach cottages: An issue of integrity
  5. Postal Work

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Posted by Pat Sherman on Jul 2, 2013. Filed under Featured Story, La Jolla, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

1 Comment for “UPDATED: La Jolla News Nuggets: Fireworks foundation in need of funding, more history in peril? … and more”

  1. Hellen Wells

    These historic preservationists are out of control. There should be a law against such”advocates” meddling in private property that they don’t own or finance. I’m sorry, but that house at 7727 Lookout Drive is not significant in any way. The fact that Bruce Coons owns a home by the same architect should make him think about recusing himself from any proceedings related to the property.

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