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Historic Designation of Coronado Railroad Upheld by City Council

By Bruce Coons

Courtesy San Diego Historical Society


In San Diego on September 13, 2005, the appeal to the Historic designation of the Coronado Railroad was denied by the City Council by a vote of 4 to 2. This appeal needed 5 votes to pass. Donna Frye and Tony Young voted to deny the appeal and Scott Peters, Brian Maienschein, Jim Madaffer and Toni Atkins voted to grant it. City staff again stated that there were still no grounds for granting the appeal, but some on the council chose to ignore this fact again. Luckily for the railroad and the future of all historic designations, Donna and Tony supported following the law.

With the designation now secure an EIR must be prepared to assess any impacts to the historic resource before any project is commenced that will seek to remove or disturb the RR in any meaningful way. This does not mean the railroad is out of danger, what it means is that any negative impact must be reviewed and efforts must be made to avoid any damage to the resource before the project is allowed to go forward. This is, as we have stated before, an important milestone in our efforts to protect historic resources in the City of San Diego.

Before we challenged the council's right to overturn the designation on the Coronado RR the council was routinely and illegally granting all appeals that came before them. The council can only overturn designations if there is new information that negates the initial grounds for designation, errors that invalidate the grounds for designation or information that would show that the Historical Resources Board violated the ordinance by some impropriety. After we filed our suit in this matter all appeals were put on hold by Mayor Murphy and since that time we have worked with five of the nine pending appeals to resolve the issues and have the appeals dropped. We believe we can work out the remaining appeals as well. This is how the process is supposed to work. Every time the council has given the process a chance SOHO and the HRB have been able to reach a mutually agreeable solution. This is what the council had in mind when they adopted the ordinance in the first place. If the process were followed and the HRB and SOHO were allowed to work with the project proponents, the council would rarely if ever have to intervene and make decisions about subjects that they do not have the time or expertise to deal with properly.

Universally we have heard the developers say that their projects were better than originally contemplated after we came to an agreement about the retention of the Historic resources. The council has appointed experts in this field to the HRB and they should be allowed to do their job. This is what good government is all about, not making some split-the-baby decision that makes no one happy and costs us our heritage. Once it's gone, it's gone forever.

2005 - Volume 36, Issue 4

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