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San Diego may see plans soon for rejuvenating La Jolla’s Red Roost and Red Rest cottages

La Jolla's Red Rest cottage is pictured following a fire in October 2020.
La Jolla’s Red Rest cottage, considered one of the area’s oldest structures along with the adjacent Red Roost, is pictured following a fire in October 2020.
(K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The city says an application to reconstruct and renovate the historic Coast Boulevard structures could be considered next year.

Some two years after a fire destroyed La Jolla’s historic Red Rest cottage and damaged the adjacent Red Roost, the city of San Diego is anticipating receiving plans in coming weeks that could allow a renovation to proceed.

With the plan submittal, “the review can be completed and the application considered by the respective appointing authorities, including the Planning Commission, Historical Resources Board and the California Coastal Commission, next year,” said city spokesman Scott Robinson.

However, code enforcement investigations pertaining to the care of the cottages at 1187 and 1179 Coast Blvd. must be resolved before further plans can be processed.

The Red Rest and Red Roost, built in 1894 for George Leovy and Dr. Joseph Fishburn, are considered The Village’s oldest structures. However, they have been virtually unmaintained for three decades in what preservationists have called “demolition by neglect.”

After almost 50 years of private ownership and holdings transfers, the cottages were acquired in 2014 by Denver-based Apartment Investment and Management Co. In 2018, AIMCO sold the cottage property and the adjacent La Jolla Cove Hotel & Suites to a group of investors in the hotel business.

Then, early Oct. 26, 2020, Red Rest burned down and Red Roost was damaged. At the time of the fire, the cottages were uninhabited and covered by protective tarps.

The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department’s Metro Arson Strike Team investigators called the cause of the blaze “undetermined.” The estimated damage to the structures was $175,000.

A civil penalty notice associated with the code enforcement cases states that “the bungalows have fallen into states of disrepair due to lack of maintenance and neglect. The historical resources regulation of the Land Development Code requires property owners to maintain the historical integrity of unoccupied designated historical resources.”

The city said the owners must integrate best practices for managing stormwater at the property, submit plans to stabilize the fire-damaged structure and obtain required permits to preserve the integrity of the structures and for compliance with all historical regulations.

Robinson said he expects the code enforcement issues to be corrected through site development and coastal development permit processes that are underway.

According to a preliminary application last year, local firm Alcorn & Benton Architects looks to build a new four-story, eight-unit condominium building with an underground parking garage and rehabilitate the two cottages “to usable condition with modifications to provide for modern commercial uses [and] reconstruction of missing historic features.”

To accommodate construction of the condo building, the cottages “will be moved forward closer to the property line,” the application stated. “A ramp access to the underground parking will be located at the farthest northwesterly corner of the property.”

Applicant Paul Benton could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Red Rest cottage is to be reconstructed to match documented features of the property, including the roof dimensions and height, the brick chimney, the doors and windows, glazing, painted wood siding and more.

The Red Roost will be reconstructed as needed, according to the application. Plans include removing a metal ventilation duct, rebuilding the roof framing, replacing existing glazing with clear glass, replacing deteriorated and lost outlookers (a roof feature), reconstructing the brick chimney and more. ◆