Will Nati’s Buildings Be Demolished? Historians Scramble to Save ‘Eclectic’ Design of Famous Architect

by on March 16, 2018 · 1 comment

in Ocean Beach

Credit: San Diego Reader

In a brand new article in the San Diego Reader, local writer Julie Stalmer raises the issue of whether the Nati’s shopping center will be demolished.  She also provides some needed history on the original owners and some great old photos – including one of the “original” Nati.

The new Nati’s owner has proposed, Stalmer wrote, to demolish the shopping center.  Stalmer got wind of this when she spoke with Amie Hayes, Historic Resources Specialist, with Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO). SOHO got involved with the issues surrounding Nati’s proposal to demolish the building, when on February 28, as part of the development process, Nati’s submitted a report to the city’s historic resources board for a preliminary historic review of Nati’s parcel.

Hayes told Stalmer, as she recounted, “the process will either clear the building as not historic or, more likely, it will head to the Historical Resources Board in the coming months for a public review.” Hayes said:

“[Their] decision will either designate the resource or clear it for demolition.”

Credit: San Diego Reader

Less than 2 weeks later, SOHO responded. As Julie wrote:

They strongly assert that Nati’s mid-century modern style shopping center, located at 1852-1866 Bacon Street, is historically significant. Demolition plans can only move forward if Nati’s is deemed not to be historically significant by the city.

SOHO – and many OBceans – feel Nati’s has an historical feature that needs to be appreciated. Stalmer:

[SOHO] consider Nati’s, as many locals do, to be a special part of Ocean Beach. Even more so since it was designed by architect (and original owner) Josias Joesler, who is a nationally-known architect with a number of properties on the historic National Register.

And for the first time during the controversy and rumors flying around Nati’s over these last several months, Stalmer provides some history:

Josias Joesler moved with his wife Nati and daughter Margret to Ocean Beach in 1944. In 1955, he designed the shopping center on Bacon where Nati opened Nati’s Import Shop showcasing Mexican folk art and crafts. Joesler died the next year in Tuscon of a heart-attack, making Nati’s one of his last executed designs. …

Originally born in Zurich, Joesler, moved with his wife Nati and daughter Margret to Ocean Beach in 1944, where he built a house in Sunset Cliffs. Nati created ceramics at home while organizing art therapy classes for disabled veterans. Joesler commuted back and forth to Tuscon for his architectural practice.

In 1955, Joesler designed the shopping center on Bacon where Nati opened Nati’s Import Shop showcasing Mexican folk art and crafts. Joesler died the next year in Tuscon of a heart attack, making Nati’s one of his last executed designs. Nati returned to her homeland of Spain circa 1960 where she died in 1963. Nati’s Mexican restaurant opened in 1960.

National Register documentation for Joesler in Tucson mentions Nati’s. “Reaching out to others that document his work, they understand this is the only remaining Joesler building in San Diego,” said Hayes.

On the surface, Nati’s expansion in 1961 and the added-on dining room in 1966 seem not to favor historic designation. Save Our Heritage Organisation argues that the expansions do not hurt Nati’s chances because they were anticipated in the original plans designed by Joesler.

So on March 12th, SOHO sent a letter to the city responding to Nati’s report via their review, research, and site visit. Stalmer explained:

In their letter, they stated that Joesler was considered by many to be an “An Architectural Eclectic,” which is in contrast to Nati’s owner’s stance with the city. Eclecticism is a nineteenth and twentieth century style of architecture where a design incorporates a mix of elements from previous historical styles to create something original.

While the community awaits a decision by the city’s Historic Resource Board, Stalmer checked in with the owners of Pop Pie, rumored to be moving into the space. She reported:

When asked this week if they planned to move into Ocean Beach before or after Nati’s demolition, they replied that they weren’t sure yet.



{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Alex March 18, 2018 at 12:53 pm

Regarding the Historic Nati’s article: One of the architectural elements that gives it style is the wrought iron work. When I was 12 (1958) there was a man who owned property on the east side of Abbot St. between Voltaire and West Point Loma Blvd. He was from Eastern Europe and had made his career as an iron work designer craftsman in Hollywood for the movies. His place on Abbot sported lots of iron work embellishments on the stairs over the windows,etc. I wonder if he might have made the iron work for Nati’s? I wish I could remember more about him. Maybe there is an historic photo of his place somewhere.


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