Amalfi Street house in La Jolla gets historic designation, but home on Prospect Street is denied

This property at 1802 Amalfi St. has been designated historic by the San Diego Historical Resources Board.

Two La Jolla houses were on the San Diego Historical Resources Board docket June 25: one, at 1802 Amalfi St., was quickly designated historic; the other, at 1174 Prospect St., was “reluctantly” not designated after a presentation from the city.

The board approved the historic designation of the Rev. Nassau and Estelle Stephens/Thomas Shepherd House at 1802 Amalfi as part of its consent agenda.

According to a report associated with the designation, the 1931 house met the qualifications under two criteria.

Criterion C indicates a property 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.”

The report says “the [house] embodies the distinctive characteristics through the retention of character-defining features of the Spanish Eclectic style and retains integrity to its 1931 period of significance. Specifically, the resource features a smooth stucco exterior, low-sloped hipped roofs arranged at varying heights and clad in Mission tiles, asymmetrical facade, elaborately paneled front door flanked by pilasters and decorative stucco vents, arched openings and a wood plank door on the entry portico, multi-lite wood windows and French doors, and wrought-iron features.”

Criterion D indicates a house is representative of a “notable work of a master builder, designer, architect, engineer, landscape architect, interior designer, artist or craftsman” — in this case, Thomas Shepherd.

“The [house] … retains integrity as it relates to the original design,” the report states. “Specifically, the resource is a notable example of Shepherd’s work in the 1920s and early 1930s on large houses done in the Spanish Eclectic and other Mediterranean styles.”

Homeowner Ann Craig thanked the board for designating the house as historic.

“It’s a wonderful, wonderful house,” she said. “I feel so fortunate to get to live in this house and to know that the future of the house is intact.”

According to the city, benefits of historic designation include the availability of the Mills Act program for reduced property tax for owners to maintain, restore and rehabilitate historic properties; use of the more flexible Historical Building Code; flexibility in other regulatory requirements; use of the historical conditional use permit, which allows flexibility of use; and other programs that vary depending on the site conditions and the owner’s objectives.

A house at 1174 Prospect St., was not designated historic by the San Diego Historical Resources Board on June 25.
A house at 1174 Prospect St., was “reluctantly” not designated historic by the San Diego Historical Resources Board during its June 25 meeting.

The Prospect Street house, built in 1895, was up for review in conjunction with a preliminary review application to determine whether the building is historically significant as part of an analysis for future development. The details of the “future development” were not discussed.

A Historical Resource Research Report prepared by Brian F. Smith and Associates concluded that the property isn’t historically significant under HRB criteria due to substantial alterations. City staff concurred and recommended that the house not be designated as historic.

“Modifications which occurred to the property within the La Jolla beach cottage’s 1880-1930 period of significance include the enclosure of the rear partial wraparound porch, replacement of the original wood batten with shake shingles, the single basement level addition, a roof extension over the front porch, the addition of decorative brackets on every facade, and verge boards in the west and east gable ends,” the report on the project states. “However, due to substantial alterations which occurred after the La Jolla beach cottage 1880-1930 period of significance, there has been a loss of design, workmanship and materials. Unknown remodels occurred in 1939, 1941,1945, 1948 and 1951, and a complete remodel occurred in 1984.”

HRB trustee Amy Harleman said “the list of alterations is so extensive you could hardly recognize it as the same building.”

During public comment, La Jolla resident and historian Diane Kane said: “Yes, this property has had a lot of modifications … but if you were 125 years old, you wouldn’t look great either and would have a lot of replacement parts. A lot of the remodels were repairs in many instances in kind with the same materials. … The reason we have this building is because it has had all this repair work done on it. The reason we still have some of these old beach cottages is they were useful to somebody and they have seen a lot of community history. I would request the history be brought forward … and look at this house in the post-modernist style.”

Kane asked that more work be done to see if the property might qualify for historic designation under Criterion A, which indicates a property exemplifies or reflects “special elements of the city’s, a community’s or a neighborhood’s historical, archaeological, cultural, social, economic, political, aesthetic, engineering, landscaping or architectural development.”

Acting board chairwoman and La Jolla resident Courtney Coyle said: “I cannot support staff’s recommendation based on this report. I look at this as one of the oldest structures in La Jolla. It was built in 1895, the same year as the Red Rest and Red Roost [cottages] that are on the national register … so I cannot in good conscience let a structure of this pedigree go without knowing that we’ve made every effort to look at it in a critical way, including taking a serious look at it under Criterion A.

“In terms of the integrity discussion, I had questions the report didn’t answer, like whether there is still a view of The Cove, because that would contribute to its association as a beach cottage. Beach cottages were meant to be flexible space. Clearly the structure is a survivor because it has been flexible.

“I think there is a lot to be said for this, despite some of the cosmetic changes that have happened.”

Though the board did not ask that the project be re-evaluated under Criterion A, members who voted not to designate the property did so with a lack of enthusiasm.

“It’s pretty hard to look at a building that has architects Richard Requa and Irving Gill [associated with it], that has the connection to the community that this one does. I really don’t want to see a building with this much history go,” trustee Todd Pitman said.

Trustee Ann Woods said she supported the staff recommendation, but “reluctantly.”

A motion to support the recommendation passed 6-1, with Coyle opposed. ◆