San Diego Historical Landmarks–#751: The Sanford B. Meyers Spec House #1

San Diego Historical Landmarks

For the introductory blog post to San Diego’s historical landmarks, click on San Diego’s Historical Landmarks.

Although I have not finished with San Diego’s historical landmarks #1, I’m going to skip ahead to #751 for a specific reason: It’s no longer a historical landmark!

Here it is, though, as of 6:30 this morning:

San Diego historical landmark #751

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That structure, the Sanford B. Meyers Spec House #1, is at 1619 J Street in Centre City.

1619 J Street location map

Go to Google Maps

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

It was built in 1906 and was approved by the San Diego City Council as a historical landmark in April 2006 due to its architecture and special elements.

The Architecture requirement for historical designation means that it “embodies distinctive characteristics of a style, type, period, or method of construction or is a valuable example of the use of indigenous materials or craftsmanship.”

The Special Elements requirement for historical designation means that it “exemplifies or reflects special elements of the City’s, a community’s, or a neighborhood’s, historical, archaeological, cultural, social, economic, political, aesthetic, engineering, landscaping or architectural development.”

City records describe the house as “A representative example of working class transitional vernacular residential architecture during the third phase of development on East Village beginning in 1906 and ending in 1921.

The main house has two bedrooms and one bath, as does the secondary house, and both houses have 1,000 square feet. It sold most recently at fair market value to Katalyst LLC in November 2005 for $985,000.

City records go on to state that it is one of three such houses still standing and that the historic designation was applied for after Katalyst LLC had begun plans to demolish it (and other neighboring houses) to build an apartment building. There are no neighboring houses now but there is a huge apartment building:

1619 J Street in San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Katalyst fought the historic landmark designation after he bought the property, with ongoing appeals hearings that finally stopped in 2007. The property fell into default in 2008 and was foreclosed on in April 2009 with debt at $1,147,000. The current owner, Jerome Navarra Family Trust, bought it from the bank for $1,050,000 in September 2010, knowing that the historical landmark designation was in place.

Navarra wants to move the house, actually to have someone else buy and move the actual house, so that he can build apartments there.

Moving a historic resource house requires a deposit of $8,000 to $10,000 for the city permit, a California Environmental Quality Act review, and “several tens of thousands of dollars” for permits, all before moving day. It also means that the owner has to hire six professionals: a qualified historian, architect, monitor, and a qualified mover among them. None of that is required with the historical landmark designation removed.

Navarra believed the issue was about private property rights and how the Historical Resources Board needs to do a better job of protecting city history resources. He noted that part of the municipal code says a historical property should be something that the general public can appreciate, not just expert historians. When people look at a property and say, “This is something special,” that’s a historic property.

Bruce Coons of Save Our Heritage Organization, however, noted that the Sanford Myers House actually is something special: “It was worker housing in Sherman Heights—we’ve done little preservation of worker housing in San Diego and almost none of middle-class housing.”

Can the bureaucracy make mistakes which should be corrected? Sure. But what if the original designation was correct and the removal is the mistake? What if the building is now moved and renovated, or even destroyed? What if that becomes the mistake?

Good thing we have pictures, I guess.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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5 thoughts on “San Diego Historical Landmarks–#751: The Sanford B. Meyers Spec House #1

  1. Naomi Baltuck

    These historic buildings are like old growth forest. Once they’re gone, they are gone forever, and it’s such a loss to everyone (except the land barons who would have them demolished to make way for apartments.) I’ve seen this happen to landmarks in Seattle, and it really makes me–there’s no other word for it–it makes me sick.



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