La Jolla preservationists continue fight to save La Casa de los Amigos

La Casa de los Amigos (center) is the focus of plans to demolish the house and build a new one.

The Development Permit Review Committee backs sending a letter to a San Diego Historical Resources Board subcommittee with a list of possible alternatives to demolition.


Though plans seemingly are moving forward to demolish the historic La Jolla house known as La Casa de Los Amigos and build another home in its place, local preservationists are not giving up hope of an alternative.

The La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee (without the applicant present) lent its support March 21 to sending a letter to the San Diego Historical Resources Board’s design assistance subcommittee with a list of possible alternatives to demolition for the HRB to consider. The subcommittee next meets Wednesday, April 5.

After several hearings in recent months, the current plan is to demolish La Casa de los Amigos — a century-old historically designated two-story blufftop house at 6110 Camino de la Costa in La Jolla’s Lower Hermosa neighborhood — and build a new three-story, 10,567-square-foot residence with decks.

The Development Permit Review Committee deadlocked 3-3 on a motion to support the plan at its March 14 meeting and the matter appeared headed to the La Jolla Community Planning Association for possible further review.

However, the matter was brought back to the DPR on March 21 to explore options to demolition.

Applicant representative Matthew Segal previously said the footings and foundation of La Casa de los Amigos (Friends House) are failing and the house is unsafe. He said the original intent was to remodel and preserve the house. However, 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. 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. Thus, he argued it didn’t make sense to keep the house.

Local preservationists objected, and Segal and his father and business partner, Jonathan Segal — who would live in the home that would replace La Casa de los Amigos — sought historic designation for the old house in hopes that it would clear up confusion about how their planned development of the property could proceed and what mitigation measures would be needed.

The Historical Resources Board designated the property in January.

Matthew Segal said the applicant team worked with San Diego city departments and the California Coastal Commission to try to reach a compromise or receive guidance on what the team could or could not do with the property.

Those efforts were unsuccessful, he said, and “unfortunately, [demolition] is the direction we have had to go with this.”

At the DPR’s March 21 meeting, board member Angeles Leira said that on March 14, “we were told that we are in our last chance to see the house. We had a meeting with the city and [historical preservationists] and learned that it is not so black and white.”

La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee member Angeles Leira
La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee member Angeles Leira discusses alternatives to the planned demolition of La Casa de los Amigos.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Local engineering firm MDEP assessed the condition of the house and its footings in July 2021.

“The stamped report includes a path to repair and reinforcement to extend the useful life and performance of the structure,” said David Goldberg, a La Jolla Historical Society board member and president of the San Diego-based Save Our Heritage Organisation. “Overall, the report found the house is in good shape for its age and location on the coast.”

With the report in hand and after the recent meetings with preservationists, Leira drafted four proposed alternatives:

• Lift the house to build new footings and put the house back in place
• Move the house to a comparable lot
• Preserve the north wing of the house, “which can be seen from the street,” along with its pyramidal roof
• Move the whole wing to the front of the house and rebuild on the rest of the available lot

“When you start looking at the building and what we can do now to stabilize the house … [you see that] historical preservation is just as important as shoreline preservation,” Leira said.

The board voted 5-1 to support submitting the alternatives to the HRB for consideration. Trustee Greg Jackson dissented because the applicant team was not in attendance.

After the vote, Matthew Segal told the La Jolla Light that he was “disappointed the board took action without us there.”

“We are going to continue to work with the HRB [design assistance subcommittee] as our project develops,” he said.

However, he said the plan is still to demolish the house and build a new one.

Segal said previously that because La Casa de los Amigos is designated historic, “we have to … retain the heritage of the house. We will probably have to file a report, provide documentation of architecturally accurate drawings of the house. ... We may interview the original owner’s daughters and upload that video and maybe more.”

The documentation would be saved in an archive likely connected to city of San Diego historical resources. However, no physical parts of the structure would remain. ◆