As the years go by, more and more historic cottages, homes and other structures are threatened by ongoing development. Many, ultimately, are lost to development.
Such was the case with the Windemere Cottage at 1328 Virginia Way, California’s first Craftsman-style cottage, designed by famed architect Irving Gill and built in 1894.
In 2009, LJHS was advised that Windemere was pending submission to the city’s Historical Resources Board (HRB) for historic designation by the previous owner.
Heath Fox, LJHS’ executive director, said Windemere, now under new ownership, was brought forward at a September 2011 HRB hearing with a recommendation by staff, at the new owner’s request, to “not designate” due to “loss of integrity.”
Less than four months later on Dec. 23, 2011 the owner demolished Windemere cottage.
“The old growth redwood was discarded, with no attempt to document, salvage or recover any building materials,” said Fox.
Through Council District 1, Fox said, LJHS requested an explanation from the Code Compliance Department supervisor.
“The response was that the owner had documented hazardous conditions at the site that required immediate abatement, conditions we contend were of questionable validity that did not exist prior to the current ownership,” he said. “An emergency demolition permit was issued without notice or review, in spite of the fact that the city was already in possession of two ‘Notice of Intent’ letters to have Windemere designated on the California Register, an event that should have precipitated a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review.”
A year later, on Dec. 11, 2012, a project to redevelop the Windemere site was brought forward by the owner’s architect under a different applicant name, the “Bernate Ticino” project, without environmental review of any kind.
“Our contention in the appeal is that the owner intentionally segmented the process to create a situation that would deceive the city into issuing an emergency demolition permit in violation of CEQA provisions, that an environmental review under CEQA should be completed post hoc, and that appropriate mitigation matters are warranted,” said Fox. “We (LJHS) contend that this is the loss of a significant historic resource in violation of CEQA requirements.”
The next hearing on this appeal on the Windemere property to City Council is scheduled for Sept. 23.