La Jolla Historical Society appeals city’s decision on Windemere site

Notice of Correction:

The original version of this story states that the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) ratified the La Jolla Historical Society’s appeal of the city’s environmental determination on the Windemere site. In fact, the LJCPA was ratifying its own appeal, which it filed the same day as the historical society’s appeal was filed.

By Pat Sherman

The saga of Irving Gill’s demolished Windemere cottage — and the property owner’s desire to build on the land where it once stood — reached new heights last month.

On Feb. 4 the La Jolla Historical Society (LJHS) filed an appeal of the city’s environmental determination on the site. The La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) filed a similar appeal, which it ratified during its Feb. 7 meeting. Windemere was demolished in December 2011, after the new property owner claimed it was no longer structurally sound.

The determination being appealed, issued by the city’s Environmental Services Department in January, opines that the project is “categorically exempt” from the mandates of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), because the demolition and proposed replacement structure would not cause a significant impact on the environ- ment and meets CEQA criteria for new construction. The city also found no record of historic resources within or adjacent to the site, and no potential to disturb archaeological resources.

Tim Golba, the architect hired to design a replacement residence at the Windemere site (1328 Virginia Way), said property owner Frank Bottini postponed his presentation on the project to the LJCPA last month following the historical society’s appeal.

“Our client felt it was premature to present the actual building project to the (LJCPA) trustees given that the environmental appeal could potentially result in changes to the building and require another return trip to present any building modifications done as a result of the environmental appeal,” Golba stated, via e-mail. Golba said Bottini would likely return to present the project to the LJCPA at the conclusion of the appeal process.

Bottini is seeking to fast-track his home construction via the city’s Sustainable Building Expedite Program, which reduces the time it takes city staff to review development permit requests by as much as 75 percent, in exchange for incorporating environmentally sustainable materials and energy-saving devices.

The Development Permit Review committee denied its approval of the proposed 4,198-square-foot, two-story replacement structure (known as the “Bernate Ticino Residence”) in January, on grounds that a Coastal Development Permit required per city municipal code was not obtained prior to Windemere’s demolition.

Bottini contends that the La Jolla Historical Society had not filed an application with the State Office of Historic Preservation (SHPO) to deem Windemere historic prior to its demolition, and that a state hearing on the 1894 Craftsman- style home’s potential historicity had not been scheduled.

However, LJHS Preservation Committee Chair Leslie Davis contends Bottini was notified that the state was assessing Windemere for a historic designation, and that Bottini broke off negotiations to relocate the structure to Historical Society property at that point. Davis said both the city’s Historical Resources Board (HRB) and City Clerk received a letter regarding the pending state historic designation via certified mail. La Jolla attorney and CEQA expert Julie Hamilton, who filed the Feb. 4 appeal on behalf of the LJHS, argues that the city’s initial environmental determination allowing the demolition should not have been issued without notice of the proposed replacement home, per the terms of CEQA (which precludes “project segmentation”).

Hamilton said the owner’s removal of windows and wood eaves destabilized Windemere, clearing a path for the city to approve demolition of the old-growth redwood structure.

“The historical society’s position is that this was a significant historical impact,” Hamilton said. “They need to come up with a feasible alternative or mitigation measures that would reduce that impact below the level of significance. ... In an ideal world they would find old-growth redwood and reconstruct the cottage. Is that unrealistic? That remains to be seen.”

The San Diego City Council is scheduled to consider the LJHS’s appeal during its April 8 meeting.

Meanwhile, the La Jolla Association, a group advocating for the rights of private property owners that is critical of the LJCPA’s autonomy in advising the city on planning issues, is claiming that the LJCPA’s ratification of its environmental appeal violates City Council policy 600-24 ( Vrv9MM

), as well as the LJCPA’s corporate bylaws, approved and accepted by the city in March 2009.