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Requa & Jackson House in Peril

By James M. Schibanoff

The historic 1923 Batchelder House, an important work by Requa and Jackson, moved another step closer to demolition on October 4, 2004, when the Del Mar City Council voted unanimously to certify an environmental impact report (EIR) mandated by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The EIR acknowledged not only the importance of the master architect, Richard Requa, but identified the house as an important transitional work in the craftsman style. Although the EIR offered alternatives including the feasibility of onsite relocation, the City chose demolition with mitigation by photography. An appeal of the project will be heard on November 8.

Eugene C. Batchelder was the brother-in-law of Col. Ed Fletcher who was a principal member of the South Coast Land Company that resuscitated Del Mar from its abortive beginning in the 1880's. Batchelder operated the first store and post office in the new Del Mar, conceived the name of Solana Beach and laid out its streets, and was an early pioneer in Rancho Santa Fe. Most importantly he convinced Assemblyman Ed Fletcher to use his influence to locate the San Diego County Fairgrounds in Del Mar instead oCrown Point, Pacific Beach. The Del Mar Race Track was part of the package and it made the name of Del Mar recognised nationally.

Richard Requa was San Diego's leading architect of the 1920's and 1930's. He enjoyed a special relationship with Del Mar. He designed three other important homes in Del Mar including the Del Mar Castle and one for Coy Burnett, president of the Monolith Portland Cement Company. Burnett acted as a patron to Requa's creative development by sponsoring two European trips and publishing Requa's pioneering studies of Spanish architecture, Architectural Details: Spain and the Mediterranean (1926) and Old World Inspiration for American Architecture (1929).

SOHO has been a firm supporter of preservation of the house since a community-based campaign began early this year. In Del Mar, the house has been identified as historic by the City Council-appointed Historic Preservation Advisory Committee. Wayne Donaldson, California's recently appointed State Historic Preservation Officer, has described the house as a rare resource. Parker Jackson, a regional authority on Richard Requa, has supported preservation.

Del Mar has a rich architectural tradition but its record in historic preservation has been unfortunate. The Stratford Inn, the Tudor Revival hotel designed by John C Austin that was the centerpiece of the new Del Mar in 1910, was demolished in the 1960's. Many important homes have disappeared over the years. Most recently, the Canfield-Wright House designed by John C Austin narrowly escaped demolition. Community efforts at creating a meaningful preservation ordinance have been unsuccessful.

SOHO's strong position is that the "mitigation by photography" option chosen by Del Mar is not legally supportable when there are feasible project alternatives. This position is supported by legal code and precedent. When the building itself is the historic resource, photography does not mitigate. While everyone would like a picture-perfect Del Mar, the Batchelder House deserves a better fate.

2004 - Volume 35, Issue 4

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