The planned demolition of the historic Chancellor’s House at UCSD has been postponed following the house’s placement on the National Register of Historic Places and opposition from local Native American groups.
The house, built in 1952, was placed on the register because of its Pueblo Revival style architecture, which has become very rare, and its location, which lies over a Kumeyaay Native American burial ground dating back approximately 10,000 years, according to John Bolthouse, executive director of the La Jolla Historical Society.
The building was designed by architect William Lumpkins and has been used as the university chancellor’s house since 1967.
“The La Jolla Historical Society felt very strongly that the property was significant historically and should be placed on the Register of Historic Places,” Bolthouse said. He also counts the placement as a victory for the historical society because it is the first national designation his organization is primarily responsible for.
“We at the society are very proud because this is our first national designation that we have led the charge on,” Bolthouse said.
The house was placed on the register in the categories of both archeology, because of the Native American burial grounds, and architecture. However, Bolthouse also emphasized that the La Jolla Historical Society did not attempt to have the house placed on the registry to deliberately make it difficult for the university to demolish the house, but rather because his organization felt that the house was of sufficient historical value.
The placement does have the effect of making it more difficult for the university to proceed with its plans to demolish the house because the university then has to make a stronger case to the University of California Regents, who will make the final decision as to what course of action will be taken. UCSD officials want to demolish the house because they say that the building is no longer habitable.
“An investigative study of the house found a multitude of serious structural problems and safety and code compliance issues,” said Dolores Davies, executive director of University Communications and Public Affairs at UCSD.
In response to the position of the university that the house is no longer safe, Bolthouse said, “From what we see we can probably see some of those points, but our contention is that it does not necessarily need to be demolished. It is also our contention that it can be done cheaper than leveling it and building it from scratch.”
When asked what would replace the house if UCSD does end up demolishing it, Davies responded, “A facility that meets both the residential needs of the university in terms of holding events and a variety of university and community gatherings. We are also committed to developing a facility that is sensitive to community and environmental concerns and reflect the historic nature of the house and site.” Davies also said that UCSD is willing to take into consideration the historical aspects of the property before changes are made. “In recognition of this designation, we are committed to the development of a facility that embodies the architectural and historical character of the existing structure,” she said.
Despite the disagreements, both sides of the debate said they are open to concerns of the other and are willing to search for a suitable compromise.
“We have and will continue to listen to these concerns and maintain an open dialogue with all interested parties as we are committed to this property being a hub for community and university relations,” said Davies. “Based on feedback and comments we have had from members of the community, we are reassessing project options. We are proud of this property and its potential and recognize that in the past it has helped strengthen our relationships with the community. We want to make sure that the new university house helps us in reaching out to members of the community, just as it has in the past.”
Expressing similar sentiments, Bolthouse said, “We always welcome the opportunity to help the university in capturing and preserving their rich heritage, which happens to be part of La Jolla’s rich heritage.”