ENCINITAS — For nearly a century, the veteran-run American Legion San Dieguito Post 416 building on F Street has prioritized former service members, fighting the good fight despite storms of decay.
If some of “the boys” had a say, perhaps they would keep things as they’ve always been, without objection or complaint. But if the horse doesn’t pull, you must carry the load.
Recently, a wall collapsed at Post 416, leaving a gaping hole that exposed the aging building’s interior to passersby on 2nd Street. A Legion member helped repair the damage for only the cost of supplies, but the writing was on the newly rebuilt wall.
“We were founded by World War I veterans in 1930, and it’s time we needed a new home,” said Steve Lewandowski, a former Navy officer and CEO of the American Legion Post 416 Foundation. “If the termites stopped holding hands, this place would have collapsed a long time ago.”
A neighborhood meeting was hosted at the American Legion on Jan. 23 in Encinitas to discuss the proposal for a new post: Operation Noble Cause. The plans include demolishing the three existing single-level structures and replacing them with a two-story building.
The project will also include parking and landscaping upgrades.
Lewandowski, a past San Dieguito post commander, has helped kickstart the foundation’s ongoing campaign to raise funds for the new building at its current site.
The city’s planning department has not given the project an official “green light” due to red tape and a possible call for the City Council’s approval. From demolition to construction, it’s projected that the new Legion building could be up and running sometime in 2025, Lewandowski said.
The new building is currently marked at 4,237 square feet, which includes both floors. The proposed project will be wheelchair accessible, with an entrance on 2nd Street, a rear access ramp, two stairways, and an elevator, according to DZN Partners architects, the firm currently handling the project.
“This project is in the D-CM-2 zone of the downtown Encinitas specific plan and the coastal zone. A citizen participation plan is required because the structure requires a coastal development permit, design review permit, major use permit, and variance. The Legion Post requires a coastal permit because it is in the state Coastal Zone,” said DZN Partners officials.
Until the plans are approved, the historic building housing veterans and families for almost 90 years will have to stand firm for another year — a long wait that is worth the time, not just for the vets but also for the community of Encinitas, Lewandowski said.
The post is the city’s oldest continuously operating business and has over 800 members, contributing over 50,000 hours a year of community service. Post 416 also receives the National Commanders Award of Excellence, a prestigious award among fellow Legions countrywide.
The Legion is not just a haven for veterans or a place to knock a few back with the boys; it’s a place of generosity and hope for future generations and a beacon for young women and men.
From Cub Scouts and baseball teams to brave soldiers missing limbs from courageous acts, the new Post 416 building is a home for anyone, a shimmering light in the distance for those with eyes to see, or a crutch for those needing something to lean on.
In 2015, Post 416 launched a campaign to “Save Our Legion.” After several fundraising events and a successful drive to increase membership, sufficient funds were raised to implement critical repairs and some basic improvements, according to the organization’s website.
“We will take our photos, helmets, memories and all the stuff that makes it cozy and comfortable to the new building,” said Lewandowski. “You know, if we’re going to do this part once every hundred years, we might as well get it right.”
Buildings, relationships and moods change, but family stays the same.
Plans are available for review through the city, and photos of renovation plans can be found at sdpost416.org/foundation-416.
Donations can be made by sending a check to:
American Legion Post 416 Foundation
210 F Street
Encinitas, CA 92024