Kate Callen: ‘The Destruction of the Little Red Bungalow in Mission Hills’

by on October 10, 2023 · 29 comments

in San Diego

By Kate Callen

The Little Red Bungalow, a community icon in the heart of Mission Hills, was demolished on Friday, October 6, to make way for an eight-story market-rate housing tower. The Craftsman bungalow was 111 years old. (see before-and-after pictures below). I was invited to speak at Saturday’s vigil at the demolition site. Here are my remarks:

Today, we are mourning two losses.

First, we are mourning the death of a beloved landmark. The Little Red Bungalow was destroyed at the behest of Los Angeles developer Steven Yari. He knew this would hurt the community. He didn’t care.

Second, we are mourning the demise of local democracy, one where elected officials serve all the people and not just the powerful.

Our city government has failed us at every level. The mayor has failed us. Todd Gloria is entirely focused on climbing the political career ladder — governor, senator, president. He needs the rich and powerful to help him climb that ladder. So he puts their interests ahead of ours.

The City Council has failed us. The nine members of the Council are nine rubber stamps. They do whatever the mayor tells them because they need his help to climb their own political career ladders.

The Historic Resources Board has completely failed us. I was at the September 28 hearing where they broke the rules of public deliberation and would not grant historic designation. At last week’s Uptown Planners meeting, we told a City Council representative the HRB committed numerous improprieties. He said the City Council couldn’t do anything because its hands are tied.

Here is the takeaway: When elected officials tell you they can’t do anything because their hands are tied, you tell them: Untie your hands, and find another line of work, because you are not cut out for the job you were elected to do.

Let me end with a message for Mr. Yari: You have badly hurt the Mission Hills community. There is one way you can try to make amends. You can show respect for Mission Hills by installing a marker or a plaque on this site that memorializes the Little Red Bungalow. That is not too much to ask.

I also have a message for Mayor Gloria and Councilmember Whitburn: Stand together with Mission Hills. You have a direct line to the developer. Tell him that he needs to show respect to this community. That is not too much to ask.

It’s time for us to look ahead to the 2024 elections. We have a lot of work to do. We will strengthen our resolve. We will keep up the fight, and we will keep up hope. Thank you all for being here this morning.

Kate Callen is a candidate for the District 3 Council seat.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Ron May October 10, 2023 at 9:01 pm

I read Kate Callen’s editorial regarding The Red Bungalow at 820 Fort Stockton and her read of how Mayor Todd Gloria, City Councilman Stephen Whitburn, and the Historical Resources Board failed the Citizens of San Diego. I came to the Historical Resources Board hearing and tried to read my message as to why I believe the Red Bungalow qualified for historical designation under Criterion A, community history, but was cut off from speaking by Deputy Director Kelly Stancos, who gave me the “stink eye” for trying to complete my message. She cut the speaker for most of the people who tried to talk. And although my colleague Ione Stiegler wrote an outstanding defense showing how the Red Bungalow qualified under Criterion A, Kelly Stancos reduced her speaking time also. The deal was made before the hearing and reducing our speaking time was a corrupt act, in my opinion. The deck was stacked against the taxpayers of San Diego because Mayor Todd Gloria appointed a land developer to the Historical Resources Board and no one on the City Council questioned the ethics of such an outrageous action. I ask everyone reading Kate Callen’s editorial and my message to Vote for someone else for Mayor of San Diego and clean out the City Council.


kh October 17, 2023 at 2:12 pm

How did that transpire? The chair has the authority to adjust public comment time depending on the number of commenters, as long as its done equitably. When I speak at council I always have a 2 minute version and a 1 minute version just in case.


Mateo October 11, 2023 at 8:43 am

The City is out of control, and the San Diego Democratic Party is nothing more than a corrupted morass of self serving sycophants leaching on Californians.

Toni Atkins will undoubtedly skulk back to Virginia after terming out because she won’t be able to tolerate residing in the sh%#ole she legislatively created. Through her support of eminent domain laws, eliminating public input, refusing to represent the interests of her constituents, Stumping the ultimate betrayals SB9 and SB10 into law to benefit her own personal ambitions Toni Atkins has taught us that no California Democratic Party backed candidate possesses integrity, has any decency, or the slightest intention of representing San Diegans.


Paul Krueger October 11, 2023 at 11:36 am

Thanks much Kate for sharing this insight on the process by which this property was denied historic designation and then destroyed before proponents could file an appeal. More importantly, thanks for listening to all the district 3 residents who feel left out of decision making involving their neighborhoods. You can expect full support for many of them for your campaign to be the next district 3 council representative.


Mateo October 12, 2023 at 8:33 am

Gentrification is an act of genocide. 8 story luxury apartment building; is yet another homeless factory whose sole purpose is to keep manipulating the real estate market and keep already unaffordable rents exponentially increasing; until the market crashes; again.

If there are only thousands of Rolls Royces available, what does that do to the cost of an economy car?


FranF October 13, 2023 at 8:50 am

In the early 60s I would spend my allowance to buy tropical fish from the lady who owned a pet shop that was in the Red Bungalow. Even today, 50 years later I clearly remember the lady and the inside of that wonderful old house.

But this house getting demolished is your fault. We have a one party system in California, from the Sacramento to San Diego. You keep electing one party based on your emotions and forgetting that a two party system provides checks and balances against one party going crazy and power tripping. It doesn’t matter if you have a supermajority of democrats or republicans, absolute power corrupts.

Think about that the next time you vote. Vote your head, not your heart.


Ron May October 17, 2023 at 3:59 pm

The Little Red Bungalow is symbolic of the change in City Council policy concerning the commitment to protect the taxpaying property owners’ residential neighborhoods and beloved historic past. We invested our money, took loans from banks with the belief the Mayor and City Council would protect the places we live. We did not elect public officials to make deals with out of town developers to mow down residential neighborhoods and build ugly high rises like those that destroyed Los Angeles. And now the City Budget Analyst is playing into the hands of out of town developers using the totally bogus argument that building high rise condos and apartments with zero parking will provide a home for homeless people. I highly recommend everyone read the Budget Analyst’s Report on Historical Designation and start asking questions.

Ron May
7486 La Jolla Boulevard #175
La Jolla, CA 92037


Amos October 23, 2023 at 11:19 pm

if it was a historical landmark it couldn’t have legally been demolished. Just another old shack bungalow, like all of North Park, when the dirt is more valuable then the 100 year old cottage. People complain about houses being removed while also complaining about not building housing to meet demand. And urban sprawl. Home owners complain about condos and they also want to be able to sell their property. News flash- if you want affordable housing whole neighborhoods need to be leveled and replaced, Manhattan style.


Vern October 24, 2023 at 3:14 pm

“… Manhattan rentals average $3,494 for a studio rental to $7,500 for a 4-bedroom rental. The median price of all currently available listings is $4,365, or roughly $81 per square feet….”

San Diego is closing in, Amos… be patient!


Vern October 24, 2023 at 3:22 pm

Be real patient Amos…
San Diego – Median Income – $38,503
Manhattan – Median Income – $52,409


Amos October 24, 2023 at 3:42 pm

That’s ten year old data and missed the point. There are far more units of housing to house the people in density . Level mission hills and put up townhouses and apartments if you want more affordable housing . And it’s not OB.


Vern October 24, 2023 at 3:56 pm

sleep it off, Amos.


Amos October 24, 2023 at 6:31 pm

Red paint does not special make. Or immune to the wrecker


Amos October 24, 2023 at 4:02 pm

Wealthy homeowner NIMBYS don’t want more housing . It’s the story of the world.


Vern October 24, 2023 at 4:24 pm

YIMBY rentals average $3,494 for a studio rental… easy street!


Amos October 24, 2023 at 6:50 pm

Not everywhere . Post data


Ron May October 24, 2023 at 8:49 pm


Perhaps you failed to read the part about Todd Gloria appointing the land developer who has zero training in architectural styles, federal or State of California standards or definitions of what qualifies an old building as historical, and who has a vested interest in blocking historical designation. That man made the motion not to designate the Red Bungalow, which was seconded by a man who works in an office that produces reports for City of San Diego review. The killer vote was by an architect who argued there had been too many architectural changes, even though they had all voted for a house earlier in the day with far more changes. Those three people neutralized the other 5 votes in favor of designation because it takes 6 votes to designate. As to Manhattan, the State of New York also designates old properties as historical and does a far better job of protecting their history than the City of San Diego.


Chris October 24, 2023 at 12:15 pm

Since “Manhattan” style hasn’t brought affordability to NYC, kind of an odd example to give. Is this a real opinion of yours?


Amos October 24, 2023 at 3:43 pm

What’s cheaper? A single family home or apartment in manhattan or elsewhere?


Chris October 24, 2023 at 4:17 pm

You’re evading the question, or just expressing and opinion you don’t really hold.


Amos October 24, 2023 at 6:28 pm

What’s cheaper per unit? Multi million dollar house or apartment in multi story building. Will wait evasionsit


Chris October 24, 2023 at 6:46 pm

Completely an irrelevant comparison. Manhattan style density will not bring the cost of living down for renters. Nobody, including you Amos hold the opinion that it will. If you counter that , you’ll be lying. I don’t have any issues with more housing and quite honestly I don’t care about the red bungalow. Bit “Manhattan” style will make it even more expensive.


Amos October 24, 2023 at 6:49 pm

So rent for one $3000 house is less then a single unit in a building in the sma spot? You’re wrong and know it.


Chris October 24, 2023 at 7:07 pm

I’m not wrong and you don’t hold the opinion that I am


Zack October 27, 2023 at 8:17 pm


People do hold Amos’s opinion! I know I do. You can believe all day that people like Amos and I are lying but we’re not. In fact I’d go as far as to say that the emerging consensus appears to be that building more housing can help stabilize prices!


retired botanist October 24, 2023 at 5:19 pm

wow, what a storyboard! I don’t have even any remote dog in this discourse, as I was priced out of (OB) San Diego rentals back in 2017, and relocated to the east coast, where I still hang by my fingernails. But this arc is sooo familiar– pit the (blameless, and rightly so) historical preservation folks against the “build housing that (will not) benefit those in need of such… sorry but Manhattan is not equivalent. Can’t think of LESS equivalent fruit- apples and oranges. Um, so many alternatives (looking at you, Midway…)


Sam October 24, 2023 at 6:53 pm

Historical designation is a tax dodge that lets the city decide what color you can paint. Like an HOA. And it keeps housing expensive .


Ron May October 26, 2023 at 1:03 am

I read with interest Sam’s incorrect statement that “historical designation is a tax dodge.” In truth, very few of my 250 clients that retained me to research and write nominations obtained Mills Act contracts. That is even more true for the houses designated in historical districts. Why then, would someone get their house designated if not for a Mills Act contract? The answer is that on the day of designation, the property rises 3.8% in value and that translates as a very good investment. In some areas of San Diego, property rose 8% to 16% and brokers are known to add a 30% premium on houses that are designated. But now let’s address those who are designated and get the Mills Act contract. California law allows a Mills Act Contract with the City to reduce property by 20% to 70%, but this is offset by the Historical Designation “Halo Effect,” which also increased property values as much as 500-feet out from the designated house and all those houses within the Halo increase in value 3.8%, so as they sell with the increased value, the new owner pays higher property tax and the State of California, County of San Diego, and City of San Diego reap higher property tax that far makes up for the Mills Act contracts. The City of San Diego has been making far more money than it loses on those Mills Act contracts. So, Sam, for these reasons you are incorrect in what you wrote.


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