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THE PRICE OF HISTORY

The Jewel’s cultural and historical resources are worth preserving. That’s the idea behind a renewed movement to turn La Jolla’s Old Village surrounding The Bishop’s School and La Jolla Rec Center into a historic district.

It’s a long, drawn-out process fraught with numerous procedural obstacles. And it’s coming at a bad time, with the financially strapped city able to offer little, if anything, in the way of financing or personnel to support the effort.Nonetheless, it’s a quest worthy of undertaking, according to Pat Dahlberg, executive director of the La Jolla Historical Society.

“A historical district has been sought after in this area for a long time, this is nothing new,” Dahlberg said. “What we’re doing is just opening a dialogue. We don’t know if it’s practical, impractical or what.”

Dahlberg offers insights as she walks several blocks surrounding the Historical Society’s headquarters at 7846 Eads Ave., a home relocated inside La Jolla’s well-known cultural complex. She can point out the considerable number of historic or potentially historic structures that a historic district might serve to protect and enhance.

There are presently 42 buildings designated as historic sites within the cultural zone. There are at least as many potentially historic structures within the same area worthy of a second look at historical designation.

A few high-profile structures in the zone already on the historical list include: Brockton Villa, now a restaurant above the Cove; Red Rest and Red Roost beach bungalows; La Valencia Hotel; Colonial Inn; John Coles Bookstore; La Jolla Rec Center; Casa de Manana retirement center, an early 20th-century hotel; several buildings on The Bishop’s School campus; the Cave Store with its underground tunnel leading to Sunny Jim Cave; Darlington House; and Scripps House and Gardens, now part of the Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla.

“This was moved here in 1981 from down there on Prospect,” said Dahlberg of the Historical Society’s stone home. “It’s got a lot of integrity. This one could qualify as historic.”

The Historical Society home’s walls are lined with black-and-white photos testifying to the coastal community’s growth, progress and development over the years.

One could begin a historical walking tour of old La Jolla from the Historical Society building, down Eads Avenue to Coast Boulevard.

The trail is easy to find, just follow the rock-embedded concrete wall down to Prospect, then turn left. A stone’s throw from the Historical Society headquarters, a black gate topped by a gaslamp leads to a green home in the rear built in 1923 by the Ulysses Grant family, part of La Jolla’s Green Dragon art colony.

“This whole block was Ellen Browning Scripps’ estate,” said Dahlberg, turning the corner on Coast Boulevard heading east. “Up until four or five years ago, her chauffeur’s house was here. The underground garage he utilized to fix cars was here. It was declared historical but has been torn down.”

It’s a familiar lament of Dahlberg’s, old historic dwellings being swallowed up by impersonal new development, lost forever.

Historic districts like the one La Jolla is considering forming are the domain of city planner Diane Kane. The first step toward creating one, she said, is to exhaustively inventory everything historic or potentially historic within the boundaries of a prescribed area.

“The survey documents all the properties that are more than 45 years old,” she said. “What this gives you is a database.