Colleen O’Connor Calls on San Diego City Council to Save Historic ‘Prairie Style’ House in Point Loma

by on June 21, 2019 · 23 comments

in Ocean Beach

Colleen O’Connor, a well-known retired college professor – and the sister of a former mayor of San Diego – has called on the City Council to save the historic “Prairie Style” house on San Fernando Street in Point Loma. O’Connor voiced her argument in a recent Times of San Diego post.

The 1912 house has been the center of attention lately as La Playa and other Point Loma residents are in the process of building a campaign to save it. The Save Our Heritage Organisation and La Playa Trail Association have both weighed in on the side of preservation.

O’Connor’s point of view is that ethnic communities in Point Loma, such as the Portuguese ” have faced an erosion of their heritage and the loss of their single-family residential neighborhoods, historical sites and irreplaceable architecture.”

She cites as a close and recent example the campaign to save 310 San Fernando Street. O’Connor explains why the two-story one hundred year house is an architecturally significant “Prairie Style” home.

The Prairie School of architecture, championed by Chicago’s Frank Lloyd Wright, revolutionized the design of American homes. He believed the prairie style expressed America’s democratic spirit by echoing one of its most distinctive landscapes — the vast prairies of the Midwest — and using native materials.

Wright abhorred the Victorian “boxes within a box” concept of room design and created rooms that merged and blended space in totally new ways. Furnishings, wall treatments, light fixtures, and fireplaces were designed to create beautiful, restful and comfortable interiors.

As the book Prairie Style explains, “The prairie house was forged from ideals that are still highly valued today: love of nature, respect for democratic freedoms, and a renewed focus on home and family.”

The home built at 310 San Fernando in 1912 remains one of those homes. Built on a large lot as is common in the hills above La Playa, the home included a carriage house, and one other external building.

As we earlier reported, the new owner, Thomas Gaeto of BG Consolidated plans to demolish the home and construct three new houses on the existing lot. Gaeto certainly does not want the Historical Resources Board to designate the old place as a structure of historical architectural significance.

As O’Connor says:

Now, it is up to the San Diego City Council to determine the preservation—or loss—of yet another timeless piece of architecture.

 Times of San Diego

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar ZZ June 21, 2019 at 2:07 pm

Let’s save the house, and put 10 other affordable units on the massive 0.7 acre lot!

Here’s an overhead shot:

https://ssl.cdn-redfin.com/photo/48/mbpaddedwide/808/genMid.180045808_6_0.jpg

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Avatar Vern June 21, 2019 at 2:27 pm

Even better…

https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/00000-Dehesa-Rd-0-0-El-Cajon-CA-92019/2083958734_zpid/

… with mountain hillside views, minutes away from freeways, transit , casino jobs and shops, etc.

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Avatar Sam June 21, 2019 at 2:43 pm

I don’t understand the “ethnic” neighborhood argument. Prairie style is specifically American. What does that have to do with the Portuguese influence on Pt. Loma?

Furthermore, this house isn’t really very representative of the Prairie style.

Bulldoze that place and sell the new houses to rich people, perhaps diverting those families from buying in a gentrifying neighborhood.

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Avatar ZZ June 21, 2019 at 4:05 pm

“Furthermore, this house isn’t really very representative of the Prairie style.”

Yep, look at the classic examples online. 320 SF looks a lot like ugly stucco 60s/70s four-plex apartment, of which San Diego has no shortage.

Here’s a list of common features to the style:
One or two-story (Yes, but also describes 95% of SD homes)
One-story projections (No)
Open floor plan (unknown)
Low-pitched roof (looks like a completely standard roof to me)
Broad, overhanging eaves (the eaves again look standard to me)
Strong horizontal lines (no)
Ribbons of windows, often casements emphasize horizontality of overall design (no ribbons of windows, none appear to be casement windows)
Prominent, central chimney (no)
Stylized, built-in cabinetry (unknown)
Wide use of natural materials especially stone and wood (no obvious stone or natural wood, nor red brick that is also common)

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Avatar ZZ June 26, 2019 at 12:15 am

Here’s an actual recognized example of the Prairie Style in Point Loma on Goldsmith St.

Notice from the list above: Low-pitched roof, Broad, overhanging eaves, Strong horizontal lines, Ribbons of windows, casement windows, Prominent central chimney.

It hits basically every single exterior criteria!

https://photos.zillowstatic.com/p_f/ISq9wc37rpc8n90000000000.jpg

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Avatar Peter from South O June 26, 2019 at 6:01 am

Here is a good look inside . . . the interior does not appear to reflect the Prarie style (renovated in the mid-seventies but you can still evaluate the “bones”) in these 27 photos.

https://hotpads.com/310-san-fernando-st-san-diego-ca-92106-1m4pp8c/pad

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Avatar Bart June 27, 2019 at 6:05 pm

ZZ, I can only assume that you are in some way associated with the builder.

This home certainly is a “Prarie Style” home. There is every reason to believe that this 107 year old home could be brought back to its original glory. It could be sold for a hefty profit. Adding more to the uniqueness, is the large lot & winding driveway, along with views of the bay, in a serine setting. This neighborhood, and this street in particular, is filled with history, and is one of the prettiest parts of San Diego.

This area is literally where California began. (Fort Guijarros,Ballast Point) This home has been featured in countless historic photos of San Diego, and is an icon to the area.

Why would anyone tear this house down? Maybe, because they don’t care about history, beauty & charm being around for future generations to see.

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Avatar ZZ June 27, 2019 at 8:43 pm

Bart, what do you think of my compromise of keeping the house, but letting the developer build 10 additional units of affordable housing on the gigantic 0.7 acre lot?

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Avatar Vern June 28, 2019 at 7:05 am

This “prairie-style” home is actually quite charming and should be kept as is and maintained for many years to come. As for the lot, there’d be nothing wrong with planting plenty of Cal natives and creating a really nice environment appropriate for the area.

That said, no one is solving the housing crisis by jamming a handful of homes on a relatively small lot in an area with difficult/tight access and narrow streets. There is no Transit Center even remotely close by. And Point Loma is certainly not a “job-rich” area.

As for the additional affordable housing, that all can be built in and around Santee, La Mesa and El Cajon where there is space, plenty of wide roads, wide sidewalks, freeway access, stores, restaurants, jobs and Transit Centers. MTS is actively working on enhancing and improving these Transit Centers right now. Santee, La Mesa and El Cajon are the exciting density centers of the future in San Diego County. Same with exciting areas like San Marcos in North County – more building permits being issued in San Marcos than any other city in SD County. The area around CSUSM, in and of itself, is a great place to consider for more affordable, high-density housing.

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Avatar ZZ June 28, 2019 at 11:15 am

“I oppose affordable housing near my $2.5 million house because it will not, all by itself, completely solve the issue of affordable housing. It just isn’t ‘appropriate’ to have anything other than huge single family houses on the large lots around where I live.

San Diego proles, get ye to Santee where ye belong!”

So happy to see the real progressives in Sacramento now passing laws that stop this millionaire boomer fauxgressive “activism.”

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Avatar Vern June 28, 2019 at 12:18 pm

Many Cal natives are low water/drought tolerant and produce much needed oxygen. Native trees also add to the shortage of canopy in San Diego county.

The housing crisis is pretty much just BS. STVRs simply remove available housing from existing inventory, raising the cost of available housing.

Beyond that, the total fertility rate for the United States continues to dip below what’s needed for the population to replace itself, which, in turn, should rectify the “housing crisis” in a few years. What will we do with all that extra housing??

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Avatar ZZ June 28, 2019 at 12:51 pm

If you look at the photo I linked to above, you can tell the neighbors really care about water conservation from the fact that 4 out 5 of the neighboring properties have large uncovered swimming pools.

The house right next door to 310 San Fernando is 306 San Fernando. It is 4 bed, 6 bath, and 7535 square feet (the house, not the lot, which is .76 acres). From the zillow description, it appears it has at least 4 separate fridges.

Such a commitment to environmentally responsible development the neighbors have!

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Avatar Vern June 28, 2019 at 1:18 pm

So then why increase human density?
Environmentally responsible development in this area would mean adding more trees and flora, not more cars and fridges.

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Avatar Bart June 28, 2019 at 8:37 am

ZZ, I would not like to see any changes to the property, except restoration, & the carriage house rebuilt.

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Avatar ZZ June 28, 2019 at 11:09 am

I’ve got some great news for you. You can do anything you want with the property if you purchase it!

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Avatar ZZ June 27, 2019 at 8:46 pm

“I can only assume that you are in some way associated with the builder.”

My opposition to reactionary millionaire-boomer fuddyduddy NIMBYism has also got me accused of working for AirBNB and Bird the e-scooter company. I wish I had the energy!

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Avatar Vern June 28, 2019 at 7:16 am

Remember that the dockless e-scooter rental supply chain is entirely petro-chemical based.

China is no longer accepting US trash, meaning these short-lived and otherwise filthy dockless e-scooters find their way to US landfills.

“… Between August and December the average lifespan of a dockless e-scooter is 28 days…”.

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Avatar Cholly June 23, 2019 at 3:01 pm

ZZ,
If you take a drive up Talbot Street, about 2 blocks west of Rosecrans; you’ll appreciate what three houses squeezed into a single lot can look like. A quick trip to Miami might offer the same perspective. The same thing will keep repeating itself as long as there is buildable land. Quite aside from a dialogue on one definition of Prairie Style, the Dr. and Mrs. McKay was built in 1912 by the chief doctor of the U. S. Quarantine Station and was concurrent with the completion of the Panama Canal, which was, and continues to be a big deal, as manifest in the Bertram Goodhue buildings inBalboa Park The McKay House exudes the same feeling of the American Empire

Really feel elated that a dialogue is being created. Let’ keep it up. Hope more people chime in By the way I feel as if San Diego had more young women of the caliber of Colleen O’Conner, San Diego would be a much better and more livable city

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Avatar The Mu June 28, 2019 at 1:18 am

ZZ,
The classical Midwestern Prairie style homes (of which San Diego has just a few) are very different than the San Diego or Vernacular versions of the Prairie Architectural style seen in San Diego which were influenced by the local climate, locally obtained materials and the influential more modern simplified approach of early San Diego modernist Irving Gill and others.
These differences between
San Diego and Midwestern Prairie include
Chicago’s enclosed porches were replaced with open balconies and porches in San Diego.
San Diego versions often utilize upper level balconies.
-Usually more simplified in San Diego.
-Integrated pergolas and porte-cochères with climbing wisteria and other vines replaced the built-in planter boxes seen in the colder Midwest climate.
-Most San Diego examples utilize common brick instead of the longer Roman (narrow gauge) fired bricks.
-Full ribbon windows also rare in San Diego.
-Most San Diego examples lack the repeating Sullivanesque or Whiritian ornamentation seen on entrances and stained glass windows.

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Avatar ZZ June 28, 2019 at 1:06 pm

Mu, the Goldsmith house I linked to looks exactly like any of the many examples of Prairie style. “San Diego Prairie” appears to be something that was just made up.

310 SF looks like… an ugly white stucco box.

As I said though, if the neighborhood will support 10 affordable units on the property, I will completely support preserving that “historical” dump.

Another idea: people who want to dictate what is built there should just buy it themselves. The one neighbor has a house worth 6.5 million, another is a corporate bond senior law firm partner.

The reality: this is all about rich NIMBY snobs.

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Avatar Bart June 28, 2019 at 5:01 pm

Vern, I totally agree with you. We need more open space, more trees, more beauty.

ZZ, You asked me a question & I answered in one sentence. It’s only my opinion. Then you GO OFF with the “millionaire, baby boomer fuddyduddy NIMBYism” stuff. You left out “first world problem”. Anyway, I understand that we just disagree.

Cholly, I like your reference to the 3 condo style homes, on Talbot. That was a beautiful property before these things were squeezed in. Is that the front door on the corner house, facing Evergreen? Hard to tell.

If you want more & lower cost housing, you aren’t going to get it in the older parts of PL, PB, La Jolla, Bel Air, Santa Barbara, to name a few. Go inland & there are lots of options. It’s not rocket science.

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Avatar Bart June 28, 2019 at 5:06 pm

Vern, I totally agree with you. We need more open space, more trees, more beauty.

ZZ, You asked me a question & I answered in one sentence. It’s only my opinion. Then you GO OFF with the “millionaire, baby boomer fuddyduddy NIMBYism” then NIMBY snobs”. You left out “first world problem”. Anyway, I understand that we just disagree.

Cholly, I like your reference to the 3 condo style homes, on Talbot. That was a beautiful property before these things were squeezed in. Is that the front door on the corner house, facing Evergreen? Hard to tell.

If you want more & lower cost housing, you aren’t going to get it in the older parts of PL, PB, La Jolla, Bel Air, Santa Barbara, to name a few. Go inland & there are lots of options. It’s not rocket science.

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Avatar Cholly June 30, 2019 at 6:35 am

Bart,
You’re just so very, very right on. Thanks for keeping the debate going. Here’s a high five for ya! Remember there’s another Godzilla peeking over the horizon: The Kellogg Beach Condos From Hell. Yikes! And all this is stuff that absolutely nobody wants. You Bart are a credit to the community. Thanks again.

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