Preservationists Clamor for Say on City’s Historical Resources Board - Voice of San Diego

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Preservationists Clamor for Say on City’s Historical Resources Board

Historical preservationist groups think the mayor has ignored them.

Local historic preservationists sure aren’t happy with Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

They don’t like how long it took him to put out a list of appointees to run the city’s historical resources board, and they don’t like that they weren’t consulted when he put the list together.

He submitted to Council President Sherri Lightner a list of appointees last month. They didn’t see it until this week, when they were preparing to release a letter shaming him for his lack of attention to the matter.

In short, historical preservationist groups think the mayor has ignored them.

The 11-member historical resources board runs the city’s historical preservation program, decides which buildings are historical assets, documents building before they’re torn down and determines which ones should be demolished to make way for new projects. Its members are usually history and architecture professionals. The mayor appoints board members and the City Council approves them.

Right now, the board has only nine members, and they’ve all reached the end of their terms.

The mayor has now submitted a list of names to fill the board, but it hasn’t settled concerns from preservationist groups.

In a letter to be sent to the mayor’s office on Monday, representatives of groups, including the Neighborhood Historic Preservation Coalition, Save Our Heritage Organisation and the La Jolla Historical Society said the issue has been at a standstill since 2014, when Faulconer circulated a list of reappointments and new appointments to the board. The Council never considered those appointees, and the issue went silent until Faulconer submitted the new list.

“The Historical Resources Board is an important volunteer city board, but it has ceased to function effectively due to chronic vacancies and low attendance,” the letter reads. “The current situation is preventing the city’s work from being done.”

Builders and architects, the letter says, rely on the board “not only to designate historic properties, but to not designate properties that are unworthy, thus clearing the way for thoughtful development in older neighborhoods.”

But it’s clear the groups don’t just want Faulconer to take action: They want him to confer with them and put forward a list of names that fits their priorities.

“The last attempt was not vetted to the public beforehand,” said David Marshall, principal of Heritage Architecture and Planning. “People from the historic preservation community saw the list and they weren’t happy with it because it included a bunch of pro-development, pro-construction people rather than people interested in historic preservation.”

The mayor’s most recent proposal hasn’t quieted the group’s concerns, mostly because they weren’t involved.

“It was my understanding from my meeting with Frances Barraza, the Mayor’s Appointments Secretary, almost two years ago, that representatives from the preservation community would be allowed to review the list of appointees prior to its going forward to Council for confirmation. That has clearly not happened,” wrote Diane Kane, a preservation architect, in an email.

The mayor has nominated Todd Pitman, David McCullough, Matthew Winter, Tim Hutter, Courtney Coyle, Carol Neidenberg, Amy Strider Harleman and suggested the Council reappoint existing members Richard Larimer, Ann Woods and Michael Baksh. Kane told us in an email that she’s comfortable with Coyle and Pitman’s qualifications but not the others.

Charles Chamberlayne, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, said it took time to produce a list of names because appointees need to meet a series of state and federal guidelines.

“We know the importance of this, but there are no shortcuts here,” Chamberlayne said. “It’s got to go through a public process but these things take time, especially if you want to do it right.”

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