Plan in works to save historic house

Now that University House, the historic La Jolla Farms home that has traditionally been the UCSD chancellor’s residence and meeting facility, is to be rehabilitated rather than razed, the project is being “rebooted” with the release of a draft environmental impact report.

“We’ve pulled together a University House working group with the community, partnering with the La Jolla Historical Society, the Kumeyaay Cultural Repatriation Committee, Save Our Heritage Organisation and other Native American representatives and interested parties to collaborate on planning for adaptive reuse of University House,” said Jeff Gattas, UCSD’s executive director of communications and public affairs. “We are going to rehabilitate the house with the standard treatment of historic properties so it will retain its historical significance.”

Gattas said site work on University House’s restoration will be “sensitively designed to minimize the impact to Native American and Kumeyaay cultural values and resources.”

The public will get a chance to have a say at a meeting at 6 p.m. tonight at University Center Administration Complex Room 111A.

John Bolthouse, executive director of La Jolla Historical Society, said his group is on board with the university’s new plan for redeveloping University House. “I give them full credit in reconsidering and committing to a new direction,” he said. “When we say we’re the historical society, it’s not just modern history, it goes back to all the prehistoric peoples that had an impact on this community, this location. We would like to maintain the house’s architectural character, restore it in such a way that we maintain its integrity and the respect for the Native American community.”

Gattas said the environmental review process “usually takes about a year” and that no date for starting the project has been set.

“We have to raise funds to build this,” he said. “Once we have a better idea of what the building will look like and what the design elements are, we’ll have a better idea of what the costs will be.”

University House is a one-story structure built in 1952 by noted Santa Fe, N.M.-based architect William Lumpkins for William Black, a prominent La Jolla developer for whom Black’s Beach is named. The 58-year-old historic home was closed in June 2004 due to structural deficiencies and code compliance problems. The 11,400-square-foot structure, composed of 7,400 feet of public space and 4,000 square feet of private living quarters, does not meet California seismic code regulations and has bluff erosion issues and mold problems.

In the years since the house was built, the property on which it sits was discovered to be a Native American burial ground, which has presented a major hurdle to its redevelopment.

Originally bought by the UC system in 1967 for $2.7 million, as recently as July 2006 the UC Board of Regents had been considering spending $7.85 million in mostly private funds to rebuild the chancellor’s residence. According to UC policy, all chancellors must live in designated university houses on or within four miles of campus to fulfill their public relations responsibilities as hosts and fundraisers.

However, because of the condition of the house, current Chancellor Marye Anne Fox had been living in a leased home in La Jolla. Earlier this year, the UC regents granted an exception to the housing rule and approved a housing allowance of $20,000 a year for the $1.2 million home she and her husband bought.