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Coast Walk Trail, Warwick’s and historic home are honored with People in Preservation Awards

The sun sets over La Jolla's Coast Walk Trail, which has been rehabilitated and maintained by Friends of Coast Walk Trail.
(Courtesy of Brenda Fake)

Accomplishments in preserving Warwick’s bookstore and restoring Coast Walk Trail and a historic Upper Hermosa home will be recognized at the 39th annual Save Our Heritage Organisation People in Preservation Awards on Thursday, May 19, online.

The awards honor preservationists who led distinctive projects. Winners will be recognized for commercial, residential and cultural landscape restorations; adaptive reuse of old buildings; preservation of local culture; and legacy-business rescues, according to SOHO.

Here’s a look at the three La Jolla honorees:

Friends of Coast Walk Trail

“Over the years, increased public use, soil erosion, invasive species and a lack of city of San Diego funding had led to the sloped, meandering trail’s severe deterioration,” according to SOHO.

In 2010, residents of Coast Walk formed the nonprofit Friends of Coast Walk Trail “to address the issues plaguing this endangered resource. … FOCWT began an extensive restoration of the trail. The project has provided a strong preservation model for successful public/private partnerships and has given back a beloved natural resource to San Diego locals and visitors alike,” SOHO stated.

In recent years, FOCWT has cleared invasive vegetation from the trail, which was built in 1932, and replaced it with native plants, fixed a bridge, repaired a fence and a view platform, filled in a dipping part of the trail to level it, and replaced old signs with new ones containing an updated logo and a QR code for a “History Hike.”

The preservation efforts also are up for the national Vernacular Architecture Forum Advocacy Award, which honors achievements in promoting and preserving buildings and landscapes constructed outside academic tradition and without professional guidance.

Friends of Coast Walk Trail President Brenda Fake said while it is “fantastic” that FOCWT is being recognized, “it really is an award that is reflective of the community and the many friends who have volunteered, donated and supported the transformation, because the shared vision of keeping this historic landscape safe and accessible honors the past and ensures future generations can enjoy a truly La Jollan experience.”

Warwick’s bookstore

When the venerable La Jolla bookstore faced the possibility last year of losing its lease at 7812 Girard Ave. after some 70 years there, community members rallied to save it.

In spring 2021, fourth-generation owner Nancy Warwick got unexpected news that her longtime landlord had received an unsolicited $8.3 million bid — all cash — to buy the building. The landlord had accepted. Warwick, who had been negotiating a new lease, was given 15 days to beat the offer or face an uncertain future with a new landlord.

“Thankfully, over 30 investors came forward and put together an offer to buy the building that toppled the first one,” according to SOHO.

Warwick’s now has a 10-year lease, with two five-year renewal options — up to 20 more years to continue the family business.

Warwick’s bookstore last May celebrated its new lease and investors in its building at 7812 Girard Ave.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

SOHO called Warwick’s an “important cultural resource and gathering place that has deep roots in San Diego. ... It continues to attract and influence hearts and minds of all ages. This legacy business has earned the admiration and appreciation of investors and regular customers who can walk to the store, as well as far-flung visitors who learned of its curated shelves in top travel guides. Now in its 126th year [in business], Warwick’s is a living example of how a locally owned, personally run store can impact learning and world horizons while providing a priceless sense of place.”

Warwick told the La Jolla Light that she and her family “are deeply honored by this award and for SOHO’s recognition of those members of the community who came together — decisively and enthusiastically — to safeguard the future of Warwick’s. We feel a tremendous sense of gratitude for the 33 investors who believed in the store and its place in our community, with special thanks to Jack McGrory and Steve Avoyer. They are heroes to us all and, indeed, the very definition of ‘preservation in practice.’”

807 La Jolla Rancho Road

When it came to restoring the 1961 Robert and Rebecca Liebner/William Ivans House, owners Joan and Gary Gand made it a mission to fully rehabilitate the house inside and out. With original photos and blueprints in hand, the couple began an extensive two-year project, according to SOHO.

Though the house’s exterior was mostly intact, it was “weathered and peeling from 60 years of being battered by sun and coastal conditions.”

The interior had been remodeled, and all the original wood cabinetry had been removed and replaced with lighter wood cabinets.

To return the house to its “former glory,” SOHO stated, “master carpenter John Vugrin rebuilt the cabinetry using the same wood chosen in 1961, a warm mahogany. A Florida company matched the walnut parquet flooring for any future replacement or expansion. Rebecca Liebner had designed a unique sculptural fireplace suspended from the living room ceiling and Vugrin repainted it black with paint meant for ship boilers.”

The renovation was complete in 2021. That same year, the San Diego Historical Resources Board designated the property historic.

“The resource is a rare example of a unique method of construction, as evidenced through its structural support system and retains a good level of integrity from its 1961-1970 period of significance,” according to a report associated with the historic nomination.

Joan and Gary Gand show their Jewel Award from the La Jolla Historical Society in March for 807 La Jolla Rancho Road.
Joan and Gary Gand show the Jewel Award they received from the La Jolla Historical Society in March for the renovation of their house at 807 La Jolla Rancho Road.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Earlier this year, the preservation effort was honored by the La Jolla Historical Society, which called the house “a hidden gem.”

SOHO said the Gands “more than fulfilled their goal to restore the exterior and carefully renovate the interior to reflect its 1961 origins.”

Joan Gand told the Light that she is “thrilled and honored” to receive the award. “We worked really hard to preserve and save the house for generations to enjoy, and we feel that getting the recognition is another form of preservation in that it might inspire others to save other wonderful houses.”

Learn more about SOHO and the People in Preservation Awards at sohosandiego.org.