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Cottage owners, city are talking

Resolution may open options on historic homes

Resolution of a criminal complaint clouding the future of the historic Red Roost and Red Rest beach cottages could open the door to fresh ideas on how to redevelop the coastal site.

The owners of the Red Roost and Red Rest this week were negotiating details of a settlement to end criminal action filed against them. They had been charged with several misdemeanor code enforcement violations for their failure to properly maintain the property and the historical bungalows on it “in a manner that preserves their historical integrity.”

“The city is dismissing the criminal complaint and we are going to meet with them to work out a civil-type settlement,” said Richard Annen, attorney for La Jolla Cove Properties Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of La Jolla Cove Motel and Hotel Apartments which owns La Jolla Cove Suites at 1155 Coast Blvd. and the cottages.

“We are going to work cooperatively to reach an agreement on maintaining the red houses.”

For nearly 33 years the Red Roost and Red Rest historic beach cottages have stood uninhabited and deteriorating, huddled like silent sentinels on the bluff overlooking La Jolla Cove.

During that time, perhaps a dozen serious potential investors have sought to purchase the cottage property. But every time the answer from owners has always been no, as they were apparently looking for just the right deal to redevelop the 114-year-old, California bungalow-style cottages at 1179 and 1187 Coast Blvd.

A year or so ago, the “right deal” almost came to pass: a proposal to reconfigure both cottages and bundle them along with a large chunk of La Jolla’s downtown Village including La Valencia Hotel, in a development agreement with Emar Properties of Dubai. That proposed redevelopment called for building a new hotel on the La Jolla Cove Suite site, and putting in high-end residential condos that would have been tied in with the hotel along with an entrance off Prospect with new retail space.

But when the “Great Recession” hit at the end of 2008 and the economy went south so did the beach cottage redevelopment package.

So what now?

Annen said it’s back to square one with the “red houses” — sort of.

“There was no way of finding another (development) partner at that time,” said Annen. “So we’ve been working our way back. Hopefully, when the economy comes back — we’ll find that partner.”

But something important has changed now. “The owner has determined it’s more feasible to redevelop that property by itself, and not necessarily in connection with the hotel next door,” Annen said.

Bruce Coons, executive director of SOHO (Save Our Heritage Organisation), a nonprofit seeking to preserve the region’s architectural and cultural history, knows what his group would like to see done with the La Jolla beach cottages.

“We’d like to see them restored and adaptively reused — put them back in the hands of someone who would put them to productive use,” he said.

“The best and highest purpose would be to restore those two buildings and use them to interpret the aquatic, historical, scientific and educational history of the area including diving, surfing, photography and cinematography,” said Tony Ciani, a La Jolla architect who works with historical dwellings and helped get the Red Roost & Red Rest designated historical back in 1976.

Milan Miller, the last tenant in the beach cottages, saddened by how long they’ve laid fallow, believes they “should be restored and put into a museum or a rental.”

And only the owners of the historic beach cottage site themselves know what they’d like done with the property.