The San Diego City Council narrowly voted March 18 to uphold the historic designation of the Abbe Wolfsheimer-Stutz house at 6200 Avenida Cresta in the Lower Hermosa area of La Jolla. The San Diego Historical Resources Board (HRB) designated the house historic in July 2018 under Criterion B for its association with Wolfsheimer-Stutz and her contributions to San Diego’s civic, political, legal, environmental, and arts and culture communities. An appeal to the designation was filed in September 2018.
Arguing Wolfsheimer-Stutz’s contributions to local history were of significance, the Council voted 5-4 to maintain the designation. According to the San Diego report to the HRB, Wolfsheimer-Stutz purchased the house in 1976 with her first husband Louis Wolfsheimer and lived in the property until her death in 2014 at age 75.
During her residency in the La Jolla house, Wolfsheimer-Stutz was a two-term San Diego City Council member (1985-1993) and Deputy Mayor (1989-1990), and is credited with being one of the early female San Diego City Council members; she is also named as a founding member and chair of the San Dieguito River Park from 1986-1993.
According to the HRB motion to designate the house: “She was a female law professor in the 1970s and a two-term 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.”
Those in favor of maintaining the designation spoke at the City Council meeting, and called the appeal “insulting” to her legacy.
Vonn Marie May, who authored a report on Wolfsheimer-Stutz, told the City Council, “this woman knew land use like no one during (her active years) or since” and “to call her an environmentalist would be an understatement.”
Others claimed the current homeowners would like the designation removed so they could make modifications to the house, specifically to the windows (a reason was not stated as to why the current homeowners would like the designation overturned).
Representing property owners, Thomas and Antoinette Keck (trustees of the Thomas and Antoinette Keck Trust), attorney Scott Moomjian argued there were factual errors and possible bylaw violations in issuing the decision, and new information had come to light and that the designation should be reversed.
He said the property had been altered “significantly” over the years and “the last thing we want to do is denigrate her reputation, but her accomplishments were not historical.” Among the factual errors Moomjian said the HRB had presented, he said Wolfsheimer-Stutz was not a “founder and chair” of the San Dieguito River Park, but was “extremely involved.”
Further, among the new information he presented, Moomjian said when Wolfsheimer-Stutz was elected to the San Diego City Council, five other female City Council members had been elected, and a sixth was elected the same day as Wolfsheimer-Stutz.
“At the time of the designation, no information was presented at the HRB bearing upon the history of local politics and the expertise and contributions of female candidates and appointees to office within the context of such politics,” he said.
However, District 1 City Council member Barbara Bry said based on the information presented, Wolfsheimer-Stutz was “clearly historical” and that “most men would not understand the struggles she faced.” She called Wolfsheimer-Stutz a personal role model and that she was “fierce.”
Other Council members spoke out in support of Wolfsheimer-Stutz’s contributions to local politics, including District 3 Council member Chris Ward who said “there are a lot of ways to continue to break ceilings and leave a mark.”
A motion to support the historic designation passed 5-4.
The decision comes exactly one week after the San Diego City Council voted to reverse the historical designation of the Edgar and Carrie Coleman Residence property at 7510-7516 1/2 Draper Ave. in La Jolla. Coleman was mentioned in the book “La Jolla, California Black Pioneers and Pioneer Descendants 1880-1974.” <end_bug_diamond>