ENCNIITAS — Despite the desire to preserve a historical structure, City Council voted to award a demolition plan for the Hall property that includes a 1940s adobe house.
The council voted 3-2 Feb. 24 to award a $181,470 demolition contract to R.B. Holt Inc. despite pleas from residents and two council members who wanted to save the house once owned by the flower grower Robert Hall for use as either an arts center or community gathering place.
The demolition project entails removing the Hall house, 16 other buildings, pavement and concrete slabs. This demolition represents the first phase in building the park.
Deputy Mayor Maggie Mayor Dan Dalager said the contractor is expected to begin work within the next week. Houlihan said that the idea of preserving the house has been on the public sphere for some time. She motioned to exclude the house from the demolition contract. Councilwoman Teresa Barth seconded the motion.
“I don’t see how that exclusion could slow anything down,” Houlihan said. “Wouldn’t the demolition go forward with that one provision?” she asked Chris Hazeltine, director of Parks and Recreation.
Councilman Jerome Stocks said he was not against preserving historical sites. “We’re right at the 11th hour,” he said. “This is the first step.” He said he wasn’t interested in any further delays.
He said the Environmental Impact Report did not anticipate any additional uses for the building and would cause a delay in the process. “I want to move forward, I want to move straight ahead.”
The Hall house sits at the northwest corner of the property. The structure is in the Phase II area of what will become the city’s largest park upon completion.
Lola Larsen, who came to the city in 1929, pleaded with City Council to save the hall house. “Please, please don’t do this,” she said. “We’ve lost all of our historic buildings.”
She said the adobe architecture was unique. After asking the audience for a show of hands as to who wanted to destroy the Hall house, she reminded the council that elections were coming up. “Bring some culture back to Encinitas,” she said.
Terry Sisson said that the house had historical significance and encouraged the council to take it off the demolition list.
Several supporters, including artists, proposed using the structure as an arts center.
Danny Salzhandler from the 101 Artists Colony said numerous artists would be supportive of preserving the house. “I hope there is a way to save this house,” he told the council.
Phil Cohen, an Encinitas resident, supported preserving the house. “Art is for everybody,” he said. “Save this piece of property, we have a good plan,” he said.
Carolyn Cope, a commissioner for the arts, said that the city’s committee supports saving the Hall house for use as an arts center.
Rick Lochner, Encinitas Soccer League president, urged the council to begin demolition immediately. He said he wasn’t opposed to saving the house but wanted didn’t want any further delays in constructing the park. “We’ve had nine years to think about this,” he said.
“It’s going to cost more, it’s a liability issue and it’s going to cause delays,” Stocks said. Barth disagreed saying that several residents, including an architect, have offered their services for free to help save the structure. “I don’t see that saving this property in a corner of the site is going to delay anything,” Barth said.
In fact, Houlihan said she has asked on numerous occasions to have a public discussion on whether to preserve the structure, but to no avail. “We could have put the whole issue to rest if we had had a public discussion on the feasibility of preserving the house,” Houlihan said. “At least we would have had the facts to tell us, No. 1, is it even feasible to even save it,” she said. Houlihan said it should have been a separate agenda item to clarify the process.
In fact, the council voted in October 2008, on an amended motion by Dalager and supported by Stocks to preserve the Hall residence for potential future use. Barth said she is now trying to find out why staff ignored council direction. However, she was unable to have the agenda item supported because she did not receive the support of two additional council members. Houlihan supported bringing the question to a public meeting.
Demolition is imminent. “We will lose a link to our past unnecessarily,” Barth said.