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La Jolla Shores duplex designated as ‘historic’

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The Ruth Smith and Louise Neece/Lloyd Ruocco & Homer Delawie Duplex is located at 8015-8017 El Paseo Grande in La Jolla Shores.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

A duplex in La Jolla Shores, which represents a rare example of a partnership between two notable architects, got the “historic” nod from the San Diego Historical Resources Board (HRB) during its June 27 meeting downtown.

The Ruth Smith and Louise Neece/Lloyd Ruocco & Homer Delawie Duplex is located at 8015-8017 El Paseo Grande and was designated as a historical resource with a period of significance of 1960 under HRB Criteria C (embodies distinctive characteristics of a style, type, period or method of construction or is a valuable example of the use of natural materials or craftsmanship) and Criteria D (representative of a notable work of a master builder, designer, architect, engineer, landscape architect, interior designer, artist or craftsman).

The house came before the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee in October 2018 for minor renovations, when it was considered “potentially historic.” At the time, architect Ione Stiegler said: “We’re actually sort-of excited about this project because this (duplex) is a unique marriage between Lloyd Ruocco, who was a famous mid-century modernist architect in San Diego, and Homer Delawie, another famous mid-century modernist architect, during their short-term partnership in 1960.” The planned renovation was in conformance with the Secretary of the Interior standards for historic preservation.

According to the HRB report, Ruocco has been called the second most significant – after Irving Gill – modernist architect in San Diego architectural history. A proponent of the Modernist International Style, Ruocco is one of the most innovative and community minded architects that San Diego has ever produced, regarded as San Diego’s “No. 1 designer and thinker” during the 1950s and ’60s, the report states.

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His partnership with Delawie, while short-lived, grew in that time. The HRB report explains that while on vacation in San Diego in 1958, Delawie came upon one of Ruocco’s designs and contacted him. Two days later, Ruocco’s partner called Delawie asking him to move to San Diego to work for the firm. One of his first projects was to work on a studio for Channel 10, then the most advanced television station in the country.

After working with Ruocco for 18 months, Delawie was asked to be a partner in the firm. Delawie left the partnership and started his own firm in 1961.

Projects designed by Delawie and firm have received some 65 design awards. Locally, Delawie has also been continuously active in historic preservation through involvement with the San Diego Historical Society and the City of San Diego Historical Resources Board. In 2003, Save Our Heritage Organisation presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his efforts in preserving the works of local Modern architects.

Of the Shores duplex collaboration, the HRB report details: “The (house) embodies the distinctive characteristics through the retention of character-defining features of the Contemporary style and retains a good level of architectural integrity from its 1960 period of significance. Specifically, it exhibits a strong triangular form, low-pitched gable roof with exposed rafters, vertical wood and stucco exterior, large carport, courtyards, obscured entries and aluminum windows and doors.”

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With the designation, the building must be maintained in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards. But the benefits of designation include the availability of the Mills Act Program for reduced property tax; the use of the more flexible Historical Building Code; flexibility in the application of other regulatory requirements; the use of the Historical Conditional Use Permit which allows flexibility of use; and other programs which vary depending on the specific site conditions and owner objectives.


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