The Coast News Group

Letters: A valuable piece of Encinitas history on verge of destruction

A valuable piece of Encinitas history is on the verge of being destroyed by the latest potential density bonus project on Melba Road in Encinitas.

This beautiful piece of open space ties old Encinitas with new Encinitas. The property sits on Melba Road and is home to a beautiful historical home built in 1938 or earlier.

Melba Road is lined with a grove of mature Torrey Pines. The property serves as a local walkway for our neighborhood and children. The community has used Melba road for many years, always admiring the beautiful tree line of the Encinitas Redwoods.

The historical property borders the last rural horse farm in Encinitas, Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito, Oak Crest Park, Oak Crest Middle School and Encinitas Community & Senior Center.

Due to the proximity of these places to the project, a development would negatively impact so many people’s lives, along with the longtime tax-paying senior population. The property was home to the greenhouses and is also home to rare species such as the Cooper’s hawk, and native plants loaded with Monarch butterflies during summer and throughout the year.

This sacred land was once owned by the original property owner of the Botanical Garden, Anton van Amersfoort, in 1938. We uncovered a deed with his name on the property dated 1938. This gentleman was a key player in Encinitas history. This is the information put forward on the San Diego Botanic Garden’s website.

Prior to Ruth and Charles Larabee, approximately one-half the property that is now known as San Diego Botanic Garden was owned by Anton van Amersfoort, an avocado grower who immigrated to the United States from Holland.

He had come into possession of the ranch and the house and he later sold it to Ruth Larabee in 1943. During his years in Encinitas, Anton became a major landowner with a claim to at least 16 properties in the general area, one of which was as large as 80 acres. He became a well-recognized avocado rancher, listed in a 1928 Avocado Growers’ report.

Mr. van Amersfoort could bring this orchard through four years of dry farming and now having it in such excellent condition is a tribute to his understanding of tree growing. He was a strong advocate of the excellence of the fuerte variety.

In addition, van Amersfoort was a prime mover in the local water district when irrigation finally did come on the scene in 1923. He was a director of the Encinitas Water District, which later became the San Dieguito Irrigation District, and held this position for a number of years, even surviving a recall petition.

There is a good chance that van Amersfoort may have even lived and built the beautiful historical home that is on the Melba property. We also think that perhaps some of the trees on the border of the property were possibly planted by him.

This property would be ideal as an annex of the Botanic Garden or outdoor STEM lab for local schools. It also has the potential for a similar setup to San Dieguito Park in Solana Beach.

Numerous studies have shown that the conversion of open space to residential use negatively affects local government budgets. Residential land use requires municipalities to spend more money on services, such as infrastructure, fire and police protection, and schools, than the property taxes generated by such use.

If allowed to develop on this property, the drainage and runoff would head right for Ocean Knoll Canyon, which would be counterintuitive because this location just received a large grant to restore the property and clean up the canyon.

Please call or write to your council member and encourage them to dedicate the property as open space for the Encinitas community. We have had so many housing projects in the last few years with no consideration for open space for the community. This small plot of land that previously was a greenhouse still reaps the benefits of the well-maintained property.

The property should be made contiguous with Oak Crest Park, which is home to California Gnatcatcher and baccharis vanessae, Encinitas baccharis and Del Mar manzanita. Soft infrastructure funding should be used for the acquisition of the land aligning with the Encinitas Climate Action Plan.

JerylAnne Kessler