La Jolla’s La Casa de los Amigos gets historic designation from San Diego board

La Casa de los Amigos (center) was built in 1924 in La Jolla's Lower Hermosa neighborhood.
(Screenshot by Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

A local preservationist hails the decision as ‘glorious,’ and the applicants for a planned development of the property hope for clear guidance on what they will be allowed to do.


Despite recent debate in La Jolla about the future of La Casa de los Amigos — a century-old blufftop house in the Lower Hermosa neighborhood — the San Diego Historical Resources Board had only a few questions before designating the property as historic during its Jan. 26 meeting.

La Casa de los Amigos (Friends House), dates to 1924 at 6110 Camino de la Costa. It had been proposed for demolition last year as part of plans to build a new three-story, 10,567-square-foot residence with decks. Applicant representative Matthew Segal said La Casa de los Amigos’ footings and foundation are failing and the two-story house is unsafe.

During hearings by the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee, some local preservationists said the house is a local landmark and should be saved.

The applicant then sought historic designation for the home in the hope that it would clear up confusion about how the planned development of the property could proceed and what mitigation measures would be needed.

The DPR Committee voted in December to postpone its final review of the project until the Historical Resources Board ruled on whether La Casa de los Amigos is a historic resource.

The HRB agreed to designate the house under four criteria:

  • Criterion A (indicating the house 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) relating to the development of La Jolla, with a period of significance of 1924
  • Criterion B (indicating a house is identified with people or events significant in local, state or national history) for its association with UC San Diego’s first chancellor, Herbert York, who lived there. The periods of significance are 1964-70, 1972-79 and 1983 to 2009.
  • Criterion C (indicating the house 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) as an example of the Spanish Colonial Revival style, with a period of significance of 1924
  • Criterion D (indicating a house is representative of the work of a master builder, designer, architect, engineer, landscape architect, interior designer, artist or craftsman) as a notable work of master architect Herbert Palmer, with a period of significance of 1924

The designation also includes the stone wall on the coastal bluff and the stucco site wall along Camino de la Costa.

Little of La Casa de los Amigos at 6110 Camino de la Costa is visible from the street, except for a decorative entryway.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The only comments from HRB members involved the formal naming of the house to include La Casa de los Amigos and a question about whether York lived in the house during his time as UCSD’s chancellor (he did not).

The item was listed on the board’s consent agenda, meaning it was passed without a presentation or discussion.

Segal said the original intent was to preserve and remodel the house. But the Local Coastal Program adopted in the 1970s, which serves as a planning document for coastal communities, requires a 40-foot distance between a structure and a bluff. Any change to the property would need to conform with the setback regulations.

Sixty percent of the house — including the living room, dining room, basement, two bedrooms and the dormer — is in the setback area and would need to be removed as part of any renovation, Segal said.

The applicant team was under the impression that the rules regarding the setback would supersede the property’s historical authenticity, but Coastal Commission Coastal Program Analyst Alex Llerandi later said that was not necessarily the case.

Thus, Segal and his father and business partner, Jonathan Segal, said they decided to pursue historic designation for the property to get clear guidance from the city and the Coastal Commission on what they would be allowed to do there.

“We have to redo the foundation, so it’s an uphill battle and we need some quick direction as to which way to go. We look forward to the city and Coastal Commission reaching a conclusion in the next few weeks.”

— Jonathan Segal

Benefits of historic designation include availability of the Mills Act program for reduced property tax for owners to help maintain, restore and rehabilitate historic properties; use of the more flexible Historical Building Code; use of the historical conditional use permit, which allows flexibility of use; programs that vary depending on site conditions and the owner’s objectives; and flexibility in other regulatory requirements. However, houses cannot be modified significantly once they are designated historic.

Llerandi previously told the La Jolla Light that he could not comment on what would happen should La Casa de los Amigos be designated because “each case is a little different.” However, now that the property has been designated, it can go before the La Jolla DPR Committee again and further levels of review.

After the HRB vote, Jonathan Segal said he was “super excited.”

The engineer he is working with said “we have to redo the foundation, so it’s an uphill battle and we need some quick direction as to which way to go,” Segal said. “We look forward to the city and Coastal Commission reaching a conclusion in the next few weeks.”

While the Segals said they are “diligently trying to save the house,” they could do so only if they can remove and replace the failing footings in accord with the engineer’s findings.

Preservationist Seonaid McArthur, chairwoman of the La Jolla Historical Society’s Landmark Committee, called the home’s historic designation “wonderful” and “glorious.”

“It’s an important step for this property,” she said. “HRB staff singled out the wall in front, which has been such a striking part of the neighborhood … and the wall on the bluff side.”

She said Lower Hermosa has experienced an increase in construction projects that “don’t fit in with the neighborhood but dominate what was here.”

The San Diego Historical Resources Board meets monthly. To learn more, visit and click on “Public hearings, meetings and notices.” ◆