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Historic Adobe Saved from Demolition
updated: Jul 04, 2014, 9:06 AM

Source: Pearl Chase Society

Appeal of Santa Barbara County Historic Landmarks Advisory Commission Decision regarding County Landmark #34 -- Juarez/Hosmer Adobe.

It was a victory for historic preservation, albeit somewhat compromised, when the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors upheld central portions of the appeal by the Pearl Chase Society against the County Historic Landmarks January decision, which would have allowed the demolition and subsequent replication of the Juarez/Hosmer Adobe. Located in Montecito adjacent to Manning Park, the 1830s adobe and attendant structures dating from the 1870s have been designated as County Historic Landmark #34 since 1998.

The appeal was supported by the Montecito Association on grounds that HLAC had not followed several important procedural steps, steps which are in place to insure the protection of the County's historic resources. It was also supported by the greater community, including descendents of the Juarez and Hosmer families.

The property was purchased in 2009 by 461 San Ysidro Road LLC, owned by developer Brian Kelly. The company planned to restore the structures to create a livable private estate and applied for a Land Use Permit to develop on the site and rehabilitate the adobe, water tower and redwood cottage in 2009.

Finding the conditions of the structures considerably more deteriorated than previously thought, the company returned to HLAC in January 2014 and requested a change from a Rehabilitation Plan to a Reconstruction Plan. The Adobe would have been demolished and a replica created in its place, destroying much of the site's historical value and significance. Concerned community members contacted the Pearl Chase Society, a local preservation group, regarding this action, and the Society filed an appeal, thereby stopping the demolition until the appeal could be heard.

Responding to one of the concerns raised in the appeal, the owners willingly hired a structural engineer with expertise in restoration of 19th century adobes for another assessment of the condition of the adobe.

Mr. Nels Roselund of the Roselund Engineering Company determined that the adobe structure would have to be disassembled and reassembled, and in instances where adobe bricks had lost their integrity, they would have to be remade using clay from the compromised bricks. He anticipated, however, that many bricks could be retained and that there was no need for the change to a Reconstruction Plan. Retention of as much historic material as possible is required under a Rehabilitation plan.

The property owners were in accord with this conclusion and included Mr. Roselund's report in an amended Rehabilitation Plan. The Pearl Chase Society, while disappointed that there was no possibility of restoring the adobe with walls essentially intact, also supported the conclusion. Consequently, the Board of Supervisors agreed and overturned HLAC's decision. The Pearl Chase Society's appeal also challenged certain procedural violations. Some of those challenges, like lack of peer review of the new plan, were supported by the Board while others were not. Since procedures were created as a way of protecting our historic landmarks, PCS feels that it was, and is, incumbent upon County agencies to follow them.

The Board declined to impose certain conditions PCS felt were needed in the applicant's revised Rehabilitation Plan. There is a great concern that their plan makes no provisions for protection from the elements for the adobe during the process of disassembly; that there is no specific monitoring plan, and, in fact, that the plan lacks detailed ways and means of achieving the rehabilitation.

The applicants felt they want the flexibility to make these decisions as situations come up on the construction site. Supervisor Carbajal recommended to Planning Staff that they should take PCS's concerns into account as staff crafts conditions for the new Land Use Permit for the owners of the site, but was unwilling to make this a Board-mandated condition. Initially and mystifyingly, the Board intended to deny the appeal but implement most of its points. Supervisor Doreen Farr noted that the County wouldn't have come this far in the process without the Pearl Chase Society's efforts. She also expressed concern about the lack of a plan for dealing with inclement weather when the rehabilitation project began.

An ongoing concern, of course, is that the County has no system in place to prevent the degradation of its historic landmarks from lack of care and regular maintenance. "If something is worthy of becoming an official County Historic Landmark, then surely there should be measures the County can take to ensure its well-being," said Hattie Beresford, PCS vicepresident. "It's unconscionable that landmarks are allowed to degrade to the point that much of their historic fabric is beyond repair."

For now, the Juarez/Hosmer Adobe and associated Landmarked structures are protected from demolition, and the details for their future rehabilitation and preservation are in the hands of the County Planning Department as they consider conditions for a new Land Use Permit.

Photos provided by an edhat subscriber.

View more photos on edhat here.

A Muddy Affair: Historic Home Spared Demolition - Pearl Chase Society Goes to Bat for Montecito's 174- Year-Old Hosmer Adobe (07/05/14)
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