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SOHO's Dedication to Preservation

By Barry E. Hager

If a historic resource in San Diego is threatened with destruction, who do you call? The obvious answer is Save Our Heritage Organisation. The reason is that SOHO is the most successful advocate for historical preservation in the San Diego region. In its 35 years, SOHO has grown from a small band of volunteers working on projects on a one-by-one basis to become a broad-based advocacy group fighting simultaneous battles on multiple fronts, many involving well-funded adversaries and various government agencies. SOHO has become synonymous with historic preservation in San Diego.

While the economic pressure for destruction of historic resources has greatly increased over the years, SOHO has increased its influence to protect our county's historical resources.

We work with homeowners, neighborhood organizations, builders, developers and city hall, and are continually involved with saving historic resources and structures. Many such efforts do not receive any publicity. We act preemptively whenever possible and this has proven very successful. There are many lesser-known preservation triumphs, however, best known are our many high-profile success stories.

Who could imagine the majestic Hotel del Coronado would ever be threatened. There were two battles SOHO fought with different owners. The first threatened to surround the entire Del with a series of four story structures and destroy many important outbuildings. SOHO took this battle nationwide and it has been said that our work was in part the reason it was sold. The new owners then planned a major revamp of the historic hotel that threatened to demolish several of the Hotel's important original service buildings. SOHO once again led a campaign to save the buildings. SOHO entered into negotiations with the owners that resulted in a settlement agreement, which saved the most important buildings. The Del has just sold again. We will remain vigilant.

Similar successful results occurred several years ago when the warehouse district in East Village was threatened by the ballpark project. SOHO sought negotiations rather than filing lawsuits, which resulted in saving 11 of 12 threatened buildings in the district, including the Western Metal Supply Building, the Showley Candy Factory and others. This is the largest preservation agreement in San Diego history and has since been used as a template for success in other states.

SOHO's results-based formula begins with education of the developer or agency about the historic property. They are shown how to effectively re-use the historic resource with which they are dealing. We have generated guidelines as well, and endeavor to make a potential adversary into a partner in preservation. This formula includes a combination of persuasion and negotiation, with the ability to carry out legal action, when necessary. This ability is directly related to the financial base and stability that we have been able to achieve through strong business sense using the same economic benefits of historic preservation that we advocate so strongly to others.

Sometimes practical advice falls on deaf ears. When the Port of San Diego entered into a lease last year with the Metropolitan Transit Development Board, which would have decimated a large portion of the Coronado Belt Line railroad, SOHO filed suit against the Port District and won, stopping the lease "dead in its tracks." While suing the Port on the Coronado Belt Line lease, SOHO has simultaneously been involved in protracted negotiations with the Port to save the Old Police Headquarters. SOHO has earned the respect that is vital to negotiate and litigate at the same time.

Times have changed. Working with and negotiating with owners, developers and government agencies has yielded vastly greater results than the old days of "standing in front of the bulldozers."

SOHO's move several years ago from an all-volunteer basis to a professional staff has leveraged its abilities. Drawing from its board of directors, consultants, staff and volunteers, SOHO has extensive expertise in various professions that involve preservation. SOHO's voice is heard and respected in preservation matters. With many preservation battles behind and ahead, SOHO remains dedicated to its role as San Diego's champion for preservation. Having professional staff has increased our standing with political entities, developers and decision-makers because SOHO is now represented at public forums at all times. In addition, it has helped with professional preservation organizations and granting authorities who recognize only those organizations who have professional staff.

This year SOHO has become an official partner with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, an honor usually reserved for statewide entities and the largest of local organizations that meet their criteria. SOHO is proud to be listed among these major organizations.

SOHO plans to continue increasing our strategic alliances with the people who can help our agenda. This is a program that is bearing immense fruit. We now must work to get more preservationists appointed and elected to public office in order to elevate historic preservation to the same status that environmental concerns now receive, and to raise the consciousness of how historic preservation is vital to our lives and to our future.

Due to these combined and organized efforts it is now a rare battle that is lost. This is a level of success for SOHO that our early founders and members dreamed of and worked for since the beginning. Our record of success is one of which we can be extremely proud during this 35th anniversary year.

2004 - Volume 35, Issue 3


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Court Sets Aside Port's Coronado Belt Line Lease

SOHO Takes Leadership Role

Disposable World

San Diego's Un-Recovered Past Obliterated & Forever Lost

The Event of the Season

People In Preservation Award Winners

Coronado Ordinance Scores a Victory for Local Historic Preservation
Designation of Coronado Railroad to be Appealed

SOHO's Dedication to Preservation

Eleven Most Endangered Historic Resources

Another Save!!!

New Resources in the California Room

Meet Summer Intern Stephanie Gordin

Chris Ownby

Whaley House Educational Series


A Home Run for Preservation

2004 Annual Membership Meeting

Annual Call for Board of Director Nominations

The Whaley House Interior Restoration

The Verna House Restoration

The SOHO Museum Shop Reopens

A Guide to Modern San Diego

San Diego Modernism Weekend

SOHO Museum Shop at the Whaley House

Strength in Numbers

Lost San Diego

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