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Twenty Years of Preservation Efforts in San Diego
By Kathleen Flanigan


On this, the occasion of Save Our Heritage Organisation's twentieth anniversary, it was felt to be important to document into one source, the growth, the accomplishments, and the disappointments of the organization. The following history is not just a description of an organization, but a wonderful story about people who cared enough to devote their energies to a very emotional, yet important cause. This history reflects, in an intimate manner, how preservation in general has changed in the past twenty years.

It would be an over-sight on our part to present a history of SOHO, describing the context in which the organization was born, without describing the preservation climate in San Diego during 1969.

San Diego was starting to grow away from the reputation of being a sleepy little navy town. The El Cortez Hotel still towered over the downtown skyline and local decision-makers were struggling to identify the appropriate avenues to ensure that San Diego would continue to meet the needs of its people as an attractive and viable city.

What became apparent was that local decision-makers did not recognize the city's older and historic building stock as an important resource. In relation to the East Coast, San Diego's architectural heritage is comparatively young; but it is still our heritage. SOHO continues to be hindered by this handicap, today. In continuing to define the preservation climate on a national level, many eastern cities were just beginning to introduce ordinances that would protect their historic buildings in the late 1960's, with mild acceptance from their general populace. Preservation, to the public, meant historic plantations and cultural interpretive parks, such as Williamsburg. The concept of protective districts and adaptive re-use had yet to become part of the developers' and design professionals' vocabulary.

In San Diego, when a group of visionary people met in January 1, 1969, to save a Victorian house, the National Trust for Historic Preservation was just starting to organize a Western Regional Branch to assist grassroots preservationists. It would take several years before the San Francisco office would be able to support groups like SOHO. And, there were no state or local governmental offices in place to which the novice preservationist could turn. In many ways, this group had the luxury of "making up the rules" as they attempted to save this important house.

Much has changed in the past twenty years to aid preservationists in their continuing struggle. City, County, and State governments have agencies or commissions established to review preservation issues. State and Federal laws regarding preservation have been established, strengthened, and have become more encompassing. The definition of what is to be protected has also broadened to include vernacular architecture, industrial buildings, historic landscape, view corridors, open space, and modes of transportation. These are elements that more and more people regard important to their daily environment.

The days of standing in front of the bulldozer are gone. Today, the preservationist must be well educated in history, architecture, restorative techniques, and local government procedures. They must be informed at an early stage in local planning, and aggressively network on a national level to keep abreast of legal decisions that impact preservation.

The focus of preservation is growing. Professionals are viewing it as a specialty. Greater academic importance is being placed on the field. And, larger numbers of people are mobilizing on specific issues. It would be our greatest hope that an encompassing local legislation would be enacted that would protect our historic architectural environment and that the energies currently being devoted to an advocacy role could in turn be directed to further education people on the significance of preservation in identifying where we, as a people, have been and where we are striving to go.

Robin W. Webster
President 1988-1989




Preface | Beginnings | 1969

1970 | 1971 | 1972 | 1973 | 1974

1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979

1980 | 1981 | 1982 | 1983 | 1984

1985 | 1986 | 1987 | 1988 | 1989


Four Decades of Historic Preservation
in San Diego County


2476 San Diego Avenue · San Diego CA 92110 · Phone (619) 297-9327
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