‘Architecture is an art form’: La Jolla native David Goldberg to receive People in Preservation Award
The former La Jolla Historical Society board member and current president of the Save Our Heritage Organisation was born on the Scripps Institution of Oceanography campus and lived in two cottages there.
It doesn’t get much more fitting in acknowledging people in preservation than recognizing former La Jolla Historical Society board member David Goldberg.
The longtime preservationist and history buff was born on La Jolla’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography campus and lived in a house there that since has been designated historic.
And later this month, he will be honored with the San Diego-based Save Our Heritage Organisation’s People in Preservation Legacy: Cultural Stewardship Award.
The People in Preservation Awards are intended to “pay tribute to individuals and organizations or agencies who have made significant contributions to our heritage sites and historic neighborhoods through their commitment to historic preservation,” according to SOHO. “These ... heroes and heroines have dedicated their expertise, time and energy to safeguarding and restoring precious historic buildings, landmarks, landscapes and neighborhoods, as well as contributed to educational projects and publications documenting our collective heritage and other iconic cultural sites and resources.”
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Goldberg, president of the SOHO board, said he was “floored” by the recognition. “SOHO has a policy to not give awards to active board members, so the policy was broken this year,” he said. Some of the other 2023 recipients also are board members.
“I was completely unaware. When I got the letter, I was taken back and honored,” Goldberg said.
Bruce Coons, SOHO executive director, said he has known Goldberg for more than 20 years and “I have seen firsthand how his preservation advocacy stems from a deep belief in stewardship and for the importance of place. The substantial time and passion he gives to not just one but two intensely active nonprofit organizations [SOHO and the La Jolla Historical Society] reflects his profound concern and connection to the cause.”
Goldberg’s history with, well, history, goes back to the day he was born in 1953.
His father was a Scripps Oceanography professor living in one of the cottages built for faculty housing. The family lived there the first two years of Goldberg’s life — for $42 a month in rent — before moving to another cottage on the campus. The first cottage where he lived has been demolished, but the second, known as T30, still stands.
“I have fond memories of living on campus,” Goldberg said. “It was lovely ... it was magical. Since that time, I have always loved old houses.”
The family moved off campus in 1958, but Goldberg’s love of history continued. “As a child, nothing made me happier than when my mother took me to see antiques or old houses,” he said. “I was just always impressed with old architecture, so I loved growing up in La Jolla.”
After college, and following in his mother’s footsteps, Goldberg joined SOHO in 1979 because “I found people there that were doing things I believed in.” He noted that around that time, “old buildings were just old buildings and people didn’t really like them.” But SOHO had formed to save a Victorian house in San Diego from demolition (the connection to a Victorian house is why SOHO spells “organisation” with an “s”).
“I’m a believer that architecture is an art form that needs to be saved,” he said. “[People at SOHO] felt that way, too.”
“As a child, nothing made me happier than when my mother took me to see antiques or old houses. I was just always impressed with old architecture, so I loved growing up in La Jolla.”
— David Goldberg
Because he grew up in La Jolla and wanted to explore other organizations centered on history, “the next logical step” was to join the La Jolla Historical Society, Goldberg said.
As a board member, he advocated for the protection of historic structures in La Jolla and fought attempts to overturn historical designation of certain properties. Though no longer on the board, he also recently testified before the San Diego Planning Commission about keeping an exemption in a San Diego housing package that would protect historic properties.
Goldberg now lives in a historically designated house in Point Loma.
He says the preservationist movement has evolved over the years. “It used to be very reactionary, that a developer would want to tear down a historic building and people would try to stop it,” he said. “But the beauty of preservation is that it evolves. It’s really about education, learning what it is about a property that makes it important and what can be done with it.
“A lot of people think if you have a historically designated house, you can’t do anything to it, and that’s not true. You can add to it, but you have to do it a certain way. There is another level of review to consider. It’s a much more multifaceted field than when I got involved.”
The People in Preservation Awards ceremony will begin at 5 p.m. Thursday, July 27, at the Marston House in San Diego’s Balboa Park. Tickets are $75 for SOHO members and $95 for non-members and can be purchased at sohosandiego.org. ◆