La Jolla architect, mentor Dale Naegle dies at 83


By Dave Schwab

High-profile La Jolla Shores architect Dale Naegle, who mentored many of his contemporaries while remaining active in community planning, succumbed to cancer at age 83 Monday, Nov. 14.

Characterizing Naegle as “one of the great architects in this town,” longtime friend Fritz Liebhardt said of him, “He was a man of vision with insight. He could see how architecture would affect the whole community: He had a bigger perspective.”

“Understated, subtle and very beautiful and functional,” is how Liebhardt characterized Naegle’s work.

Architect Mark Steele, who was mentored by Naegle, praised his work for its “human” quality.

“He always loved the idea of shopkeepers having a retail store and residence above, very Old World, and he built and lived in one,” he said, adding Naegle’s personality “went into his buildings.”

Joe LaCava, past president of La Jolla Community Planning Association said, “I was honored to have known him and been able to work with him. He was one of the very special things about La Jolla and made a contribution to our community. It’s a great loss. He will be greatly missed.”

Architectural colleague Ione Stiegler said Naegle had risen high in the ranks — and regards — of his peers.

“He was tremendously active in the architectural community,” she said. “He was a fellow in the American Institute of Architects, one of the highest personal honors that can be bestowed on an architect.”

Steele said his lifelong association with Naegle went beyond work.

“I dearly loved the guy — he changed my life, I met my wife there (working with him),” he said. “When it was time to go on my own, he helped me get started.”

Steele related his favorite story about Naegle.

“He was really an accomplished musician, a piano and trombone player with a Dixieland group,” he said. “He put an ad in an architectural journal to recruit a replacement for the band and the ad said, ‘Oh, by the way, five years experience as an architect required.’ “

Another Naegle story was related by La Jolla architect Laura DuCharme Conboy, whose first job in San Diego was working for him.

“I ran into Dale on the street a couple of years ago and he mentioned a new computer architectural program he was using with drafting which is sophisticated and not easy to use,” she said. “He teased me calling me a dinosaur because I still do drafting by hand. He was using the latest technology, and I was admiring his ability to learn at his age. I enjoyed his sense of humor.”

Other remarks by friends and associates memorializing Naegle:

“This man was a giant in this community; someone who deserves to be written about and honored,” said Vaughn Woods. “If not for Dale Naegle, the La Jolla Shores Planned District Ordinance and Design Manual would not include the protectionist and architecturally aesthetic voice that has protected La Jolla Shores from overdevelopment for so long.”

“He was ‘one- of-a-kind,’ never complained about the physical handicap he was dealt — it just did not exist, not only for him, but for all of us that loved him,” said Naegle’s friend of 45 years Fred Sattes.

“He was a superb architect, a serious designer,” said Bob Mosher, 91-year-old architectural colleague of Naegle. “He did great multiple housing projects — many of them.”

Naegle, added Mosher, “had one of the most wry, witty senses of humor you could imagine. He was very funny. He wasn’t a jokester. He was clever in his humor. He also was a devoted friend. I have nothing but compliments for Dale as a person, an architect and a friend.”

City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, a La Jolla Shores resident said, “One of my fondest memories of Dale was getting to work with him on the plans for the park. I was so impressed with Dale’s resourcefulness when he was able to track down organizers from the Nobel Laureate committee to get permission to use the official logo in the park designs.”

Lightner has been working with the Park and Recreation Department and Paul Kennerson to complete the plans for the park. “I’m saddened that Dale won’t be here to enjoy the fruits of his labor, but I know how pleased he would be to see his design for the park brought to life,” she said.

“The idea of renaming Laureate Park in his memory or other prominent remembrance is a wonderful idea and has my full support. I only knew Dale for a couple of years, but I regard him as the finest man I ever met. He had it all — intelligence and grace, wit and humility, patience and honor,” said Rob Whittemore.

Naegle friend and business associate Douglas Allred remembers him as “a genius who had amazing qualities of humanity, wisdom, creativity and perseverance,” adding, “He had a tremendous ability to transform ideas into workable and doable plans. His designs included recreational and quiet places that encouraged people to stay at home and enjoy their neighborhood and friends.”

Allred concluded his remarks about Naegle saying, “Greater San Diego is a much better place because of Dale.”

According to the website

, Naegle graduated “from USC’s architecture program in 1954 during the height of Southern California’s modernist movement.”

The website said Naegle, while at USC, attended night classes during the week working for a variety of architects during the day.

Noting Naegle grew up in Van Nuys and in Santa Barbara as a teen, the website said Naegle spent 15 years as a musician in dance bands through WW2, traveling around Southern California during the war playing for soldiers with the USO.

Naegle came to San Diego from the Los Angeles area when a USC colleague asked him to help out on a San Diego spec project, according to the website, which added Naegle always had a particular fondness for La Jolla, saying the community “was not defined by its border, but by its heart.” Asked why he chose La Jolla to live, Naegle is quoted on the website as saying, “I’m going to work all my life … I may as well live in a vacation setting.”

Naegle was a familiar site in La Jolla at community planning meetings, which he attended regularly despite having polio and using crutches.

“Dale was an exceptional fellow who overcame his handicaps,” said Liebhardt. “He never complained or mentioned it.”

“He always refused to have a handicap sticker on his car,” said Steele. “He would refuse to park in a handicap space.”

Liebhardt said Naegle’s architecture was not only far-ranging but far-reaching.

“He had big plans and he did things on a grander scale than just designing a house or a simple building,” he said noting he was working on how to render buildings in the South “hurricane-proof.”

Liebhardt lauded Naegle for being conscientious.

“He had a lot of integrity,” he said. “He was always sensitive about always wanting to do the right thing.“

Some of Dale Naegle’s most notable architectural works include: Sam Bell Residence & Beach House, Coastwalk La Jolla (‘70s), Colony Hill (1967), Lawrence Welk Village in Escondido, Tenaya and Tioga halls at UCSD and the Windemere development in the ‘70s.

Plans for a memorial service for Dale Naegle and a remembrance of his life are still being formulated and will be announced sometime after the Thanksgiving holiday.