Filling out the parcel on which the historic Green Dragon Art Colony once stood, a new townhome complex is going in on Coast Boulevard across from La Jolla Cove. Approved by La Jolla’s community advisory groups in 2011, and then by the San Diego Planning Commission in 2014, plans for the three townhomes (which range in floor area from 3,000 to 5,000 square feet) were designed by Alcorn & Benton Architects. Their pricetags have not yet been determined.
With a little more than 70 percent of the Green Dragon lot already developed with La Jolla mainstays such as Eddie V’s, Goldfish Point Café and the shops and restaurants at the top of Prospect Street, all that remains is an unusual little parcel containing three lots. On each lot, a townhome will be built, with construction materials and scaffolding already at the site. Construction is underway in the form of shoring and pipe-setting, and will take approximately 18 months.
Each of the townhomes will be named for an early 1900s cottage once part of the Green Dragon Art Colony — Jack O’ Lantern, Gables and East-Cliff — and will incorporate architectural elements from the namesakes. Architect/engineer Paul Benton said some of the historical features to be represented include: board-and-batten siding; river bottom stonework on exposed foundations; bungalow-style windows; gable, hip and shallow-pitched roofs; and covered decks and porches.
“What we have now is a vacant lot with a 15-foot retaining wall. We are cutting that wall down (to a smaller size),” he said. “It’s a steep site with native shrub and what’s been growing all along. We’re going to replace that with low-level landscaping and ornamental trees. The net result will be a much friendlier street.”
Although the original Green Dragon cottages were designated as historic, they were removed in 1992, pursuant to City of San Diego and California Coastal Commission (CCC) Permits. The CCC permit imposed a condition on any future development of the site, requiring consultation with the State Historical Building Safety Board to determine the design elements of the former cottages that were historically and/or architecturally significant and worthy of potential incorporation.
“The owner (Don Allison) is conscientious about the historicity of the site, and as part of our permit, there are standards we have to follow ... everything from the size of door to the window trims. This has been reviewed by the CCC and State Historical Building Safety Board, so they have eyes on this,” Benton said. He added there is an archaeologist on site at all times in case anything of interest is unearthed in the process.
According to Planning Commission documents, the units would be accessed from Coast Boulevard via three proposed 12-foot wide driveways. A total of 12 onsite parking spaces are proposed.
Other project components include the construction of four-foot wide, vertical public staircase from Prospect Street to Coast Boulevard, between the Gables and Jack O’ Lantern units. This public access is a requirement of a state-issued Coastal Development Permit special condition, and is consistent with the community plan recommendation for a public access-way through the site. Project retaining walls that vary in height from two to 10 feet are proposed along only a portion of the Coast Boulevard frontage.
A history of development
“The Green Dragon Colony was original developed by Anna Held (later Anna Held Heinrich), a German woman who came to America in the late 19th century. She came to La Jolla in 1894, and began buying property and building the cottages that made up the Colony,” said La Jolla Historical Society archivist Michael Mishler. He explained that the cottages became a haven for artists and musicians, and when they were not being rented, Bohemian parties were held there. By the 1920s, the parties became more “high society” events.
However, as time went on, the cottages were redeveloped and the property was bought and sold a few times. “If they weren’t being rented as cottages, they became stores and shops,” Mishler said.
Author Patricia Schaelchilin’s “La Jolla: The Story of a Community 1887-1987” chronicles a portion of the history of the site. Josephine Seaman purchased the Colony in 1926, and the cottages were left in their original state until 1944, when they were bought by Jack and Alice Mosher. “The buildings (except for four cottages left standing) were in-filled for commercial use over a 10-year period as a beautifully designed collection of shops …” Schaelchilin writes. “They remained in that state until 1987.”
The remaining original cottages were demolished in 1991. The only original structure remaining is a fireplace from one of the cottages, which is now located at Eddie V’s restaurant.