New President's Message
By Beth Montes
In preparation to write my inaugural President's message, I went back and looked through some past issues of Reflections. Having been a SOHO member for seven years and a careful archivist (okay, packrat), I found quite a bit of reading material.
Some of what I read was heartbreaking like the loss of the Julia Dent Grant House on 6th Avenue at Quince Street, the Irving Gill dwelling at First and Robinson, and the Bertha Mitchell House on 4th Avenue at Nutmeg.
Then there are the members of the Limbo List like the SS Catalina still floundering in Ensenada Harbor, the Hotel San Diego, and the Coronado Beltline to name a few.
But the successes were so uplifting. The San Diego Veterans War Memorial Building remains due to a terrific effort by preservationists and veterans alike. The ever-illuminating Neon Majorette was donated to SOHO in 2001. Highway 163 is now a recognized Historic Highway. The Warner Ranch House will remain for generations of San Diegans to enjoy. No one will have to drive by the Hotel del Coronado and reminisce about the power plant buildings and chimney since SOHO and the Hotel del owners were able to negotiate the saving of these important structures. Temple Beth Israel will continue to grace the corner of Third and Laurel and house an active congregation because of the collaborative relationship between the SOHO Board, concerned SOHO members, and the property owner. And, of course, who can forget the warehouse buildings in the East Village? I think every baseball fan in the world appreciates the value of the Western Metal Supply Company Building.
Several of the historic resources I named on my Lost and Limbo Lists above are there because they were either not successfully designated or had their designations repealed by City Council. One of my primary objectives as SOHO President will be to address these two issues.
Currently, our municipal code states that eight Historical Resources Board (HRB) members must vote in the affirmative for a property to become a landmark. These eight votes must be found even if only eight board members are in attendance at the monthly meeting. All other business conducted in front of the board needs only a simple majority to pass. I have not been to an HRB meeting in recent memory when more than 11 members have been in attendance, and many times there are no more than 9 or 10. Sometimes, board members have to recuse themselves from voting due to conflicts or because they were unable to view the properties before the meeting. Occasionally, a board member has to leave before the meeting is over, further diluting the voting pool for the structures placed toward the end of the agenda. The most egregious miscarriage I've ever seen was the day the vote to designate the Julia Dent Grant House was undertaken. The late Kathy Flanigan made a most impassioned and thoroughly researched case for the historic value of the home. Her research and presentation were impeccable. That day, there were only eight voting members available to decide the building's fate; 7 voted yes and 1 voted no. An extreme minority of 1 was able to seal the fate of this wonderful home designed by William Sterling Hebbard, built for a former First Lady, occupied by the son of President U.S. Grant, and repository, for fifty years, of President Grant's papers and memorabilia from the Civil War, the Presidential years, and later, items that are now traditionally placed in Presidential Libraries. Immediately after the designation failed, the property owner, who had been opposed to designation, demolished the home and all its history. Ironically the library was dispersed to the four winds at the same time. What we have now is a weed-filled dirt lot at the corner of 6th and Quince.
Besides the failure to designate historic structures, there is the equally dangerous and developing trend of the City Council overturning designations. It has become routine for the Mayor and City Council members to negate every contested designation brought before them. The de-designation of the Coronado Beltline is the most recent on the ever-growing list of resources that have lost historic status. Unfortunately, a change in the municipal code will not resolve this matter. But lawsuits probably will. SOHO, the Black Historical Society, and other groups will be taking legal action to reverse the Council's arbitrary and, likely, illegal behavior.
We will need the support of our members to accomplish these goals. You can help by writing letters, attending meetings, and donating your time and financial resources to further these preservation goals. SOHO will communicate current needs to you via Reflections, mailers, and the internet. Please, show your support any way you can.
I am honored to be your new President and to be involved with people who recognize the value of our architectural and cultural resources and are willing to work hard to preserve them. Keep up the good work!
MORE FROM THIS ISSUE
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Council Illegally Overturns Historic Designation
Uplifting Successes, Heartbreaking Losses
Old Police Headquarters Saved!
Historic Electric Laundry Company Building
Chandler House to be Saved from "The Big Sleep"
Kunzel House Receives State Historic Designation
SOHO Recognized at the 2004 Alonzo Awards
City Council Voting Record
Requa & Jackson House in Peril
A New First for Mission Hills
Proposal for Extension of Regents Road over Rose Canyon
SOHO Receives Stewardship of Adobe Chapel of the Immaculate Conception
in Old Town
Mrs. Whaley's Garden News
Some Like it Preserved
House to be Moved
SOHO Receives Donation from American Specialty Health
Events & Education
Invitation to 2004 SOHO Holiday Party
Enjoy the Holidays with SOHO
Meet Your 2004 Board of Directors
Strength in Numbers
Lost San Diego
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