New plaque toasts architect’s design of Coronado Bridge
Event also notes passing of Coast Walk developer, William ‘Bill’ Zongker
More than 30 people gathered to honor the late La Jolla architect Robert Mosher Aug. 26, on the public observation deck above La Jolla Cove bearing his name, “The Mosher Point of View.”
The deck, adjoining Eddie V’s restaurant on the site of the former Green Dragon Colony, was dedicated in 2012. Mosher died this summer, at age 94.
In addition to a bronze plaque and a bas-relief of Mosher installed in 2012, a colorful new plaque was added last week during the event, touting Mosher’s work as designer and, some would say, savior, of the Coronado-Bay Bridge — a curvaceous, elegant design which Mosher fought state officials to implement. Construction on the bridge began in February 1967; it opened Aug. 3, 1969.
Don Allison, who with late business partner, William “Bill” Zongker, purchased the property where Mosher’s namesake lookout is located, hosted the event. Allison is in the process of developing the long vacant parcel just below Mosher Point as three townhouses, the design of which pays homage to the Green Dragon artists’ colony cottages that once stood on the site (read more at bit.ly/GreenDragonhomage).
Speaking with La Jolla Light, Allison said Mosher was appointed consulting architect on the Coronado-Bay Bridge by former Gov. Pat Brown (father of current Gov. Jerry Brown). However, Allison recalled, when Mosher went to Sacramento to visit with state engineers, they told him they had already designed a steel trestle bridge — “you know, like you see back East that go over train tracks and are bolted together pieces of iron,” Allison recalled. “That’s what the structural engineers came up with because it was nice and strong. They said, ‘I’m sorry Mr. Mosher, but it’s already designed and we can’t do anything about it.’ ”
Mosher, whom Allison recalled as “a very gentle guy,” didn’t want motorists to have to view San Diego Bay through metal beams. “He said I’m sorry you feel that way, but I must tell you that my clients own the two newspapers in town — The San Diego Union and The San Diego Union-Tribune,’ ” added Allison, nothing that Mosher’s business partner, the late architect Roy Drew, worked on Foxhill Estate (then owned by newspaper publisher James Copley). “He said, ‘If you insist on this design, I’ll have ask them to editorialize against it.’ ”
Two weeks later, state engineers had changed their minds, and asked to see Mosher’s concept, Allison recalled, noting that Mosher reportedly used the same warning to prevent a woman who was then the head of California Division of Bay Toll Crossings — and had a strong affinity for the color pink — from painting the bridge pink. “That’s why it’s the color that’s known among architects today as ‘Mosher blue,’ ” Allison said.
William L. Zongker (1931-2015)
During the Mosher dedication, Allison also feted longtime business partner William Zongker for his hand in helping him develop the wood-shingled Coast Walk property in 1975 (just north of the Green Dragon site). In the early 1990s, Allison and Zongker purchased the Green Dragon Colony property from Mosher’s family, attempting unsuccessfully to develop the property several times. Allison said he and Zongker submitted plans to develop four condominiums on the property in the early ’90s, although it met with community opposition.
“As a result, we just let it go for a while and forgot about it,” Allison said. “About six years ago, I said I want to get this thing done. I’m not a spring chicken. So we started processing it again through Alcorn & Benton Architects.”
Plans for the Green Dragon townhomes, off Coast Boulevard, have been approved by the city. The project could break ground as early as November. In 2003, Allison and Zongker also purchased the building housing Berkshire Hathaway Home Services at 1299 Prospect St. across from Coast Walk.
“We kind of maintained Green Dragon in the Mosher style because we have a great affinity for Bob,” Allison said. “My partner (Zongker) and I were kind of architectural — what do you call it when they follow rock stars around? — groupies. In fact, Bill wanted to be an architect at one point when he was in school.”
Allison, who met Zongker as a client of Price Waterhouse (today PricewaterhouseCoopers), noted several three- and four-story condominium projects in Mission Bay and Pacific Beach that Zongker designed and developed, and his ultra-modern, cliff-hugging home on La Jolla Mesa Drive, which Zongker completed in 2000 and resided in until his death May 14.
Zongker’s son-in-law, Thomas Monroe Wright II, noted that Zongker started out in the electronics business, attending San Diego State University late in life, where he studied business and engineering, eventually gravitating toward real estate development.
“He built one of the paramount featured homes up on La Jolla Mesa Drive, the one where everyone stops and takes pictures, with the stainless steel fence,” Wright said, noting that his father purchased the property more than three decades ago, though it was deemed unbuildable due to its location on a steep cliff.
“He found a way,” Wright said, remembering his father as an “extremely kind and eclectic man” with a “keen eye for design.”
“He built a model of a house and then looked at it from every angle,” Wright said. “They made him move a bunch of protected barrel cactus and he ended up building a super post-modern amazing house that everyone wants to get into and see. It’s just a work of art.”
Because Zongker and Mosher were close friends, Allison said it is likely Zongker had Mosher review plans for his home, which features floor-to ceiling windows, ocean views, and grand marble walkways, inside and out.