By Doug Porter
Shortly after 5pm on Friday one of San Diego’s two remaining historic Saltbox houses was bulldozed by contractors working for developer HG Fenton. Adjoining properties were left untouched. And what some consider the birthplace of the local LGBTQ movement became a pile of rubble.
Local LGBTQ activists and the Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO) had hoped to work out a deal to save the property, either by incorporating architectural details into the finished development or by moving the house to another location. A Friday morning conversation between representatives of the Lambda archives and the developer made no mention of the building’s impending destruction.
Activists weren’t concerned about demolition because they had an email from City of San Diego Development Services specifically stating that if a demolition permit is applied for the subject property would be reviewed for historical determination as a 5 year period had passed since the original permitting.
Just two days prior to the after-hours demolition, preservationists were informed that the Bernie Michels-Thom Carey house at the corner of Florida Street and El Cajon Blvd was to be considered in August for the National Register of Historic Places by the State Historic Preservation Resources Board.
UPDATE: (via SanDiego6News.com)
“I don’t think there’s any honest explanation for how something like this could happen,” said Jay MacAskill, president of Save Our Heritage Organisation.
The building near the intersection of El Cajon Boulevard and Florida Street was scheduled for review by the state’s Historic Resources Commission in August. According to emails, city staff notified developer H.G. Fenton the site could not be demolished until the building’s historic status was decided.
But on Friday, the city granted Fenton a demolition permit anyway around 1:30 p.m.
“The demolition permit may have been issued in error,” according to a second city document that was hand-delivered to the site hours later. By then it was too late.
The building in question is considered significant because it includes the space where Bernie Michels and other activists in the early 1970s developed and wrote the initial planning and incorporation documents for the LGBTQ Center for Social Services, now known as The Center.
From the FaceBook page set up by activists working to save the property:
One could almost say this was where the San Diego LGBTQ movement sprang forth from and wouldn’t go back into the closet. It was here that Bernie and others decided that our community needed to take care of ourselves and be proud of who we are.
Calling the destruction of the building a tragedy, activists have sent a letter calling upon the City Attorney, the Mayor and City Council members to investigate why a demolition permit was granted.
They are calling on people to attend a June 4th meeting of the University Heights Community Association (Alice Birney Elementary School Auditorium, 6:45pm) where John La Raia from HG Fenton is scheduled to appear to discuss the project.
The block where the property once stood includes the old 7-Up bottling plant. H. G. Fenton Company purchased the 1.5-acre site in 2014 for $7.7 million from American Property Enterprises.
Efforts to save the property were endorsed by Neighborhood Historic Preservation Coalition, which includes the Albatross Neighborhood Association, Between Heights Community Association, Burlingame Neighborhood Association, Greater Golden Hill Community Development Corporation, Heart of Kensington, Hillcrest History Guild, La Jolla Historical Society, La Playa Heritage, Mission Hills Heritage, Normalites for Normal Heights, North Park Historical Society, Ocean Beach Historical Society, Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO), University Heights Community Development Corporation, and University Heights Historical Society.
It’s my understanding that objections to the demolition are not because people were opposed to the development–which is currently a real eyesore–but stem from what activists consider bad faith negotiations undertaken by HG Fenton.
GOP Mailer Targets Supe Roberts
The 2016 election isn’t happening this month, but you wouldn’t know it if you’re on the local GOP’s mailing list. (h/t sdrostra)
NBC7’s Gene Cubbison interviewed local party leaders for their take on the situation with County Supervisor Dave Roberts:
“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” said Tony Krvaric, chairman of the Republican Part of San Diego County. “It’s just a matter of if he leaves office before the election.”
Roberts flatly denies every allegation of misconduct and improprieties lodged by those former staffers, and told NBC 7 in an interview Thursday that he’s confident of withstanding any recall or re-election challenges.
In a Friday recording session for this weekend’s edition of NBC 7’s “Politically Speaking with Gene Cubbison” program, San Diego County Democratic Party chairwoman Francine Busby vehemently defended Roberts.
“He is one of the most successful, hard-working supervisors that we have had in years — he has brought a fresh breath to the county board,” Busby declared. “And he’s pointing out the fact that he had two staff members that were disgruntled — they made that very clear publicly. They’re looking for compensation for that.”
Krvaric offered this rebuttal: “If we are following the legal process, Bob Filner would still be mayor today. This man has no credibility, whether he makes it to the end of his term. There’s no doubt he will not end up being able to run for re-election, at least not with any credibility. We will have several candidates, and that’ll be a race.”
How Many People Killed by Police?
Protests around the county following reports of deaths in Ferguson and elsewhere have prompted two major news organizations to track the number people killed by police in the United States.
The Washington Post investigation concludes that during the first five months of 2015 these deaths have been occurring at a rate of 2.6 per day, for a total of 385.
“These shootings are grossly underreported,” said Jim Bueermann, a former police chief and president of the Washington-based Police Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving law enforcement. “We are never going to reduce the number of police shootings if we don’t begin to accurately track this information…”
…After nearly a year of protests against police brutality and with a White House task force report calling for reforms, a dozen current and former police chiefs and other criminal justice officials said police must begin to accept responsibility for the carnage. They argue that a large number of the killings examined by The Post could be blamed on poor policing.
“We have to get beyond what is legal and start focusing on what is preventable. Most are preventable,” said Ronald L. Davis, a former police chief who heads the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
The Guardian investigation, which included deaths by taser and other means, found a significantly higher number:
Black Americans are more than twice as likely to be unarmed when killed during encounters with police as white people, according to a Guardian investigationwhich found 102 of 464 people killed so far this year in incidents with law enforcement officers were not carrying weapons.
An analysis of public records, local news reports and Guardian reporting found that 32% of black people killed by police in 2015 were unarmed, as were 25% of Hispanic and Latino people, compared with 15% of white people killed.
I’m going on vacation. Look for this column to appear again on Tuesday, June 9th.
On This Day: 1916 – Some 12,500 longshoremen struck on the Pacific coast, from San Diego to Bellingham, Wash. Demands included a closed shop and a wage increase to 55¢ an hour for handling general cargo. 1967 – In Britain, “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was released by the Beatles. 1980 – Cable News Network (CNN) made its debut as the first all-news station.
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S. Ledeboer says
The representative from Fenton will apologize and blame an “overenthusiastic construction worker with a jack hammer.” Been there; heard that.
Don Wood says
When a city changes the name of its land use planning department to
“Development Services” department, and tells the planning staff that the departments budget, and their own salaries, will only be paid for out of fees the city charges developers for approving their project proposals and zoning exemptions, what can you logically expect those planners to do? This is not the first, or even the thousandth time that city staff in the Development Services department have bent or broken the rules to give a developer what they want. If readers are upset with the way the department and its staff behave, start at the top with the mayor and city council members. Go to city budget meetings and demand that the city find another way to fund its planning and zoning efforts, one that doesn’t hand the whole henhouse over to the foxes.
Tem H. says
Agreed. It’s an intrinsic conflict of interest when the department’s budget (and hence, staff salaries) is funded through the user fees it collects.
We’ve seen this problem before. It’s called the BLVD 63 project in Rolando. Development Services staff work for city government in name only. Follow the money. There’s who they really work for.
Will one of our city councilmen PLEASE take the lead to fix this problem? Your constituents (most of us, anyway) would love you for it.
Don Wood says
‘Krvaric offered this rebuttal: “If we are following the legal process, Bob Filner would still be mayor today.’- interpretation: We got Filner by going after him personally outside the legal process. Having bullied one local democrat out of office using questionable means, the local GOP establishment is trying to do the same thing now. No need for any laws to have been broken. No proof needed other than unsubstantiated accusations. All we need are torches and pitchforks in the middle of the night. Watch most of the local media rush all over town chasing whichever new claims are made against their target. Who needs facts when we’re feeding hysteria.
You got that right! I saw holes in the Roberts thing right at the beginning, and I was not surprised when KPBS jumped on the bandwagon like they did on Filner. I was not aware that the Planning Dept. now has all its expenses and salaries dependent on the fees paid by developers. That is preposterous as there is total disincentive to reject proposals even if they are wrong for our neighborhoods.
What is so galling about the demolition at Florida and El Cajon Blvd is how very mundane it was. The developer clearly targeted a low level city staff person and got a permit on a Friday afternoon with no bit of compunction or morals in mind. Way to go HG Fenton! Quite a resume builder for acting in good faith on the behalf of the community.
DEVELOPMENT SERVICES HAPPENNINGS IN NORTH PARK:
Kentucky Fried Chicken – 2007 – Community Plan and LDC violated by
City Official’s reply: “We’ll make sure this never happens
Jack in the Box – 2011 – Demolition and rebuild denied unanimously by
City Planning Commission.
– 2013 JIB acquires improperly issued over-the-
counter permit for an ‘interior remodel’,
proceeds to demolish building followed by
illegal complete rebuild. City Official’s reply: “We’ll make changes to the LDC, to make sure
this never happens again”, (but will not halt
construction, and ultimately sides with JIB
in ongoing lawsuit brought by residents).
Bernie Michels-Thom Carey historic Saltbox house – 2015 HG Fenton
acquires improperly issued demolition permit,
demolishes structure after hours on a Friday,
while knowing requirement to go through
historic review first.
City Official’s reply: “The demolition permit may have been issued in
WHAT??? NO “WE’RE SORRY, WE’LL MAKE SURE THE UPDATED LDC
IS FOLLOWED NEXT TIME SO THIS NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN” ?
Until there is some sort of accountability for the City blatantly violating it’s own laws, of course this will happen again…and again….and
Blaming the ‘low level city staff person’ or an ‘overenthusiastic construction worker with a jack hammer’ is like killing the messenger. Of course the higher ups knew what was going on in every case, on both sides of the counter, and the developer was likely instructed how to ‘get away with it’.
How about a statement like:
“IF THIS HAPPENS AGAIN, THE BUCK STOPS WITH THE DIRECTOR,
AND HIS ASS WILL BE CANNED”?
But that would take an administration with a moral compass and not beholden to the wealthy developers and power suits. It would also take a citizenry with the cajones to finally really stand up to them.
Damn straight Rick!
The fact of the matter is that we’ve been lobotomized into pleasantness with our city officials.
Todd Gloria is a native son, but clearly has ambitions to rule beyond his folky constituency.
Welcome to gentrification! Every new kid on the block has some agenda that doesn’t give a damn about the past. It sucks to lose all the character of a place.
Development Services just wants the money.