Former City Council member’s La Jolla house designated ‘historic’: Late owner Abbe Wolfsheimer-Stutz considered civic leader

A house in Lower Hermosa was designated “historic” by the San Diego Historical Resources Board (HRB) by a vote of 7-2 during its June meeting at the San Diego Environmental Services building in Kearney Mesa. The house, located at 6200 Avenida Cresta, was deemed historically significant based on the career accomplishments of one of its former owners.

The house was designed by architect Thomas L. Shepherd in 1937, but was ultimately designated because it identified with persons or events significant in local, state or national history. In this case, Abbe Wolfsheimer-Stutz, who is considered an important contributor to watershed land in San Diego.

A motion made by HRB member and La Jolla resident Courtney Coyle read: “I move to designate the resource at 6200 Avenida Cresta under Criterion B for its association with Abbe Wolfsheimer-Stutz who is significant in local history, with a period of significance of 1976 to 2014, for her contributions to San Diego’s civic, political, legal, environmental, and arts and culture communities.

“Specifically, she was a female law professor and in the 1970s and a two-term female City Council member in the 1980s, helping to shatter glass ceilings in both arenas for female attorneys and politicians. She also played a visionary leadership role in the establishment of the San Dieguito River Park, as a founder and chair, it being among the first environmental joint powers authorities and conservancies in the region. She was also a passionate supporter of theater and dance, and has a dance studio named after her at Liberty Station.”

According to the San Diego report to the HRB, Wolfsheimer-Stutz purchased the house in 1976 with her first husband, Louis Wolfsheimer, and lived there until her death in 2014 at age 75.

Coyle’s motion further notes Wolfsheimer-Stutz’s “productive years as a law professor, a City Council member, arts supporter, Deputy City Attorney, and author, until her death. She held many gatherings at her home through the years and invited many people to come and discuss the various political and civic issues of the day. It is the singular property that cuts across each aspect of her career and productive life and she would recognize the resource as it stands today.”

Architectural historian Vonn Marie May authored a report on Wolfsheimer-Stutz, which reads in part: “Abbe grew up in the rural backcountry of San Diego County and attended the one-room schoolhouse on the ranch. She rode horses and explored nature’s wonders — experiences that would later inform her respect for the land and natural open space. Abbe sold her inheritance of the 980-acre Lilac Ranch. However, the sale was negotiated with the legal intent of complete preservation, absolutely no development in its future.”

That property would become “a major wildlife link in the San Luis Rey watershed.”

Coyle said letters such as these were part of the lengthy public testimony in favor of the designation to honor Wolfsheimer-Stutz.

Further, the property is located in what historic preservationists called a “very important corner of the neighborhood architecturally.” La Jolla Historical Society landmarks group chair Seonaid McArthur said: “We were struggling with the issue and concerned with what will replace it (if it were not designated).”

However, despite the public comments and opposition from the current homeowners, Coyle said the role of the HRB is to look solely at the historicity of the house.

“Our code and policy allows for properties to be designated based on their historicity, it’s not an owner consent model. Our policy provides for that; it’s supposed to be all about the historicity of the resource. At our meetings, we’re not supposed to consider whether the applicant is in support or opposition to it,” she said.

All said, the board determined the house meets the terms of designation on the Local Register of Historic Places.

To learn more, visit sandiego.gov/development-services/historical/board

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