La Jollan replaced as Historical Resources Board chair; Mayor’s surprise letter appoints new chair, members

The 1968 Richard Lareau-designed home at 5645 Taft Ave. in Bird Rock was designated ‘historical’ at the March 23 meeting of the Historical Resources Board.

When the March 23 San Diego Historical Resources Board (HRB) meeting began with David McCullough sitting in as chair instead of La Jolla resident Courtney Coyle, all parties were surprised, especially since Item No. 5 of a revised meeting agenda was “HRB vote of confidence and support for chair Coyle.”

“I think before we move on, I’d like to take a minute and give an explanation,” started McCullough. “Recently, the board has been acting with Miss Coyle as our chair person. The position is an appointed position by the Mayor, and we got a letter from the Mayor last night, and the directive from the Mayor was for myself to become the chair.”

The letter from Mayor Kevin Faulconer, directed to San Diego City Council president Myrtle Coyle, also appointed Diana Reynolds-Cordileone and Cindy Stankowski to the HRB board, and re-appointed McCullough, Richard Larimer, Todd Pitman, Amy Strider-Haleman and Ann Woods.

According to the Municipal Code, it’s the Mayor’s prerogative to appoint HRB members, who then are “subject” to confirmation by the City Council. As for the board chair, the Mayor must appoint one in March. The code reads, “If the Mayor has not designated a chairperson by April 15, the Board shall elect a chairperson from among its members.” Following this rule, Coyle was elected chair by her fellow board members seven months ago.

“I want to thank Courtney for filling in for us, I personally think she’s doing an unbelievably great job,” McCullough continued. He proposed that the item to confirm Coyle as chair be withdrawn from the agenda, but member Priscilla Berge protested.

“Can the item on the agenda be addressed in terms of a motion of appreciation for Coyle’s service?” Berge asked. “She was elected by the board at a time when the Mayor was not able (to do it) and I think it would be nice to have something in our minutes rather than just a blanket withdrawn.”

Berge, the most veteran member of the HRB board, will also step down, as was announced during the meeting. Her motion to convey appreciation for Coyle’s service passed 5-0-1.

During public comment, meeting attendees expressed concern over the unexpected chair change. Former board member and Native American advocate Abel Silvas, called the move “a blow to the heart” for Native Americans. “I had a whole speech about confidence in Courtney Coyle. (She) has supported a lot of projects within the San Diego city limits and with the (HRB’s) Archeological Subcommittee. I’m a little thrown back by this. I’ll go back to my communities and explain it, and maybe I’ll be back next month with a reply.”

Preservationist David Swarens added, “Ms. Coyle was a real chair, not a substitute chair, and I hope we don’t diminish her service in any way. I would like to say that Ms. Coyle has guided the board with professionalism and balance, which has served the community and the City very well during her tenure.”

Coyle accepted the Second Vice-Chair position. Board member Tim Hutter will be the HRB’s First Vice-Chair.

Bird Rock home ‘historical’

The Michael and Clara Brown house at 5645 Taft Ave. in Bird Rock was designated “historical” during the meeting, under Criterion C, for its embodiment of the Post-and-Beam architectural style. The 1968 Richard Lareau-designed home was originally nominated as representative of the Modern “Organic Geometric” style, but board member Berge pulled the item from the consent agenda to correct the record.

The eucalyptus tree planted in 1968 at the ‘historical’ home, 5645 Taft Ave., still stands in front of the house.

“It has the horizontal massing, it has the shallow-pitched roof with deep overhangs, the fix wood windows, the wooden planks and sidings as part of an exterior finish, and an absence of decorations (of the Post-and-Beam style) … It doesn’t have the motifs you expect to see with Organic Geometric,” she said.

The applicant, who in 2016 built a two-story addition in the back reflecting the Secretary of Interior Standards to pursue historical designation, agreed with the terminology change.

Board member Matthew Winter said he supported the designation, adding, “One of the troubles, when you hit Mid-Century Modern, (is that) these styles can all blend together.”

Pitman agreed with the designation but, as a landscape architect, requested more information about property landscaping changes in the future. “There’s been some landscape work done to this house, and I’m happy to hear the (front) tree is original, but we need to give equal time to these kinds of revisions as we do to the façade and the addition,” he concluded.

— The next HRB meeting will be April 27 at City Concourse North Terrace Rooms, Civic Plaza. Time TBD along with agenda at