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Coronado Ordinance Scores a Victory for Local Historic Preservation

By Julie Kolb

The loss of a 1927 Coronado house designed by Requa and Jackson illustrates the City of Coronado's long-standing lack of a demolition policy, which has allowed historic homes to be demolished with little or no oversight. The house was torn down in 2003 to make way for a new two-story stucco behemoth. According to Bruce Coons, SOHO Executive Director, Coronado's redevelopment policy has historically allowed demolition permits to be purchased over-the-counter at a cost of $85.00 and with no review requirements in place.

While the Requa house was not saved, it was the threatened loss of three more of Coronado's historic homes, including the 1880's Livingston House known locally as 'the Baby Del' and an oceanfront Irving Gill-designed house, that prompted a response from the community, which resulted in the recent passage of an ordinance designed to help protect the city's rich treasure of historic properties. At a June 1 Coronado City Council meeting, community members, including members of the city's Historic Resource Commission, and representatives of SOHO filled the meeting to capacity to voice their opposition to the continuing loss of historic properties and to voice their support for the implementation of historic preservation measures.

With many voices speaking passionately on behalf of establishing guidelines and a means for protecting historic properties from unchecked redevelopment, those in opposition found themselves in the minority. SOHO member and realtor Elizabeth Courtier spoke articulately about the value of historic properties and what they mean to the community as a whole. Keeping historic properties intact also has a direct and positive impact on property values. Coons notes that "people have become extremely concerned about keeping the character of Coronado intact. The threatened demolition of these three properties galvanized community members into stepping up to voice their support."

As a result of community activism and a collective realization that the city was in danger of continuing to lose the very properties that make Coronado unique, City Council members proposed and later passed an ordinance that requires the review of demolition permits on homes 75 years or older. Penalties, which had previously been virtually non-existent, include requiring that the house be returned to its pre-demolition condition. Another benefit of the recent activism can be found in Coronado's Historic Resource Commission's proposal to survey the entire island creating a historic property inventory that will help to protect all of the island's historic structures, regardless of age.

The success of the passage of Coronado's ordinance represents a victory on several levels. In terms of historic preservation, the ordinance establishes guidelines, which should help protect historic properties from senseless demolition. In terms of benefit to the community, the ordinance also serves to emphasize the supremacy of community property rights over individual rights. Coons points out, "One person does not have the right to destroy the community by tearing down a historic property. It is up to the community as a whole to determine what it should look like.

Citing La Jolla as an example of a community that needs to grapple with the same issue but has yet to take any position, Coons says, "Only the community can decide. Not just SOHO, not your neighbor down the street. Only the whole community working together." The fact that many of Coronado's citizens and their leadership recognized the value of the community's historic properties and took steps to protect them is an important milestone that will go a long way to protecting the history, the architecture, and the character that make Coronado the special place that it is.

2004 - Volume 35, Issue 3

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