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Stabilization planning begins for Red Roost and Red Rest cottages in wake of October fire

Red Rest cottage burned down in October. The adjacent Red Roost was damaged.
(K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Much like the decay of La Jolla’s historic Red Roost and Red Rest cottages has been slow, such is the case with their planned restoration after a fire last year. Crews and San Diego city representatives were onsite recently on Coast Boulevard to determine how to stabilize and preserve the structures — the first step in what is expected to be a lengthy process.

The cottages are considered The Village’s oldest structures. Red Rest burned down in the fire early Oct. 26, and Red Roost was damaged. The cottages (sometimes referred to as bungalows) were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

On Nov. 2, city historical resources and code enforcement staff and a building inspector visited the site to assess the damage, San Diego senior planner Suzanne Segur said at the San Diego Historical Resources Board’s March meeting.

A civil penalty notice was issued to the property’s ownership Dec. 11 saying that since the fire, “the bungalows have fallen into states of disrepair due to lack of maintenance and neglect. The historical resources regulations of the land development code require property owners to maintain the historical integrity of unoccupied designated historical resources.”

The property and the adjacent La Jolla Cove Suites were sold in 2018 to a group of investors in the hotel business. At the time of the fire, the cottages were uninhabited and covered by protective tarps.

The Red Rest and Red Roost, built in 1894 for George Leovy and Dr. Joseph Fishburn, respectively, have stood at 1187 and 1179 Coast Blvd. virtually unmaintained for three decades in what preservationists have called “demolition by neglect.”

The notice required the owners to submit an application to stabilize the structures before performing any restoration work. Since then, the owners informally submitted stabilization plans, and staff of the city Development Services Department is reviewing them.

“The new owners are very committed to properly caring for the Red Roost and Red Rest,” said La Jolla architect Paul Benton, representing the owners. “They now are working with the city on stabilization and preservation of the existing structures while looking ahead to a thoughtful plan for the long-term future of the cottages and their surroundings. Professionals have been onsite as part of the research and planning for the stabilization and preservation work.”

He said he couldn’t elaborate on the stabilization measures until they are approved by the city.

The civil penalty notice further required that the owners “obtain all required permits for work to come into compliance with all the historic resources regulations,” Segur said. “City staff is currently working with the owners to stabilize the fire-damaged Red Rest while working on development plans for the site, which will most likely require a discretionary permit, [which is] a lengthy process.”

“Every effort will be made to preserve and reuse as much original material as possible,” she added. “The property owner is currently undecided about who they want to develop the property in the future, but they must come into compliance with the historical resources regulations.” ◆