La Jolla cottages survive another day as preservationists gain ground with the city

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Preservationists convinced San Diego Planning Commissioners to allow the city’s Historical resources Board to consider a historic designation for these two WindanSea cottages — a review supported by the mayor.

By Pat Sherman

Historic preservationists gained considerable ground last week in their efforts to save four early 20th century cottages in La Jolla that they believe are worth preserving for future generations.

The owners of both sets of cottages — one in WindanSea and the other in the heart of the Village — hope to raze them to make way for new development.

Tudor or too-da-loo?

On April 18, the city’s Development Services Department (DSD) approved a coastal development permit to demolish two

Tudor Revival-style cottages

in WindanSea, to make way for the construction of a 2,563-square foot duplex that property owners Jack and Karen Visin hope to occupy with their two sons.

Preservationists wanting to appeal DSD’s decision — which found that the project was not subject to California Environmental Quality Act Review — asked the San Diego Planning Commission to delay hearing the matter until Aug. 8, so the city’s Historical Resources Board (HRB) could have a chance to consider the historicity of the cottages, and potentially confer a historic designation.

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A rendering of the 2,563-square-foot duplex (center) Jack and Karen Visin hope to build on their Playa Del Sur property, which currently contains two early 20th century cottages slated for demolition. Courtesy Golba Architecture

Preservationists say a historical analysis of the properties conducted more than two years ago by attorney Scott Moomjian and architect and Planning Commission Vice- Chair Tim Golba — the basis for DSD’s decision to allow their demolition — is woefully inadequate.

During Planning Commission meetings on June 13 and 20, the commissioners grappled with the issue of whether to allow a continuance, which would give the HRB time to consider the cottages’ historic value.

Commissioner Golba, the architect hired to design the Visins’ duplex, recused himself from both discussions.

During the June 13 meeting, Mayor Bob Filner sent his chief of staff, Allen Jones, to voice his support for a continuance. Though Planning Commission Chair Eric Naslund said commissioners would give “a great deal of deference” to the mayor’s request, after more than a half hour of deliberations the commissioners decided they would honor the request of the property owners and discuss the issue that day.

Moomjian argued that land-use approvals for the Visins’ proposed duplex were processed through the city’s Sustainable Buildings Expedite Program, and should not be subject to further delays.

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Historic property attorney Scott Moomjian. File

“Delaying the project two months is thoroughly inconsistent with the very nature and purpose of this program,” he said, adding that the “question of historicity was asked and answered more than two years ago.”

Diane Kane, a member of the La Jolla Community Planning Association’s Development Permit Review (DPR) subcommittee and a former HRB staff member, argued in favor of continuing the discussion. She said her committee could not make the findings to recommend approval of the permit required to demolish the cottages and redevelop the property because the evidence they were presented — specifically Moomjian’s historic survey — was inconclusive. “My committee was reviewing this project when we were summarily curtailed in (our discussions) by staff’s approval of the (permit),” she said. “We were told at our first meeting, ‘You don’t need to ask (about its historicity). It’s been decided.’ Our question is, ‘Who decided it?’ This did not happen with any kind of open public process. All we’re asking is that the light of day be shed on this.”

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