Demolition of historic Paso home could set precedent

March 13, 2014 

The historic home at 1527 Park St. in Paso Robles is approved for demolition.

COURTESY JOE BRENNER

On March 4, I attended a Paso Robles City Council meeting to speak against the proposed demolition of a historic home at 1527 Park St. The home was built of brick in 1893 and had been lived in until the fall of last year. The house survived the last earthquake, and probably many others, in livable condition. It was not red or yellow tagged after the most recent earthquake.

The house was put up for sale in October of last year. A buyer was found who required that the house be demolished before he would close escrow. The house was on the Paso Robles list of Historic Buildings Inventory, compiled by the city in the early 1980s.

The inventory was updated in 2010 and creation of the Historic Preservation Ordinance followed in 2011. As a listed building in this inventory, demolition required the approval of the City Council. The Planning Commission rejected the request to demolish the house.

There is some obvious brick deterioration and cracking evident in the front of the house. There are also many signs of lack of care in keeping up the appearance of the property.

It is my understanding that there was another potential buyer willing to restore the property. (Speakers at the Planning Commission hearing included a couple who said they were interested in purchasing and restoring the home.) With the techniques that have been developed to reinforce older structures and the restoration and renovation techniques available today, consideration should have been given to investigating these possibilities. The council members, some speaking from what appeared to be prepared statements, voted to allow the destruction of this unusual historic home, despite the best efforts of the El Paso de Robles Historical Society.

Society members urged the council to follow the regulations outlined in the Historic Preservation Ordinance for the “demolition of a historic resource,” rather than use the section allowing for the “removal of the property’s historic designation.“ This action will allow the demolition of the property without any further engineering studies or looking at other options for the preservation of the property.

The Historic Building Inventory was created to catalog and preserve the many old buildings in Paso. Owners of properties placed on the inventory were informed that being placed in the inventory imposing some restrictions on how they had to treat the property and that approval was required to demolish a building in the inventory. The owner of this property (Walter Macklin), despite having been on the City Council, stated he did not know his property was on the inventory list. Homeowners on the listing were notified of the pending ordinance and were invited to several workshops held prior to the Council adopting the Ordinance.

This house, which is stated in the Inventory as being unusual because of its brick construction, is one of the older buildings in Paso. My concern is that this decision by the City Council potentially sets a precedent for other buildings on the Historic Registry, many of which create much of the charm of the city.

Joe Brenner lives in Paso Robles and serves on the board of the El Paso de Robles Historical Society. A retired engineer, he owned a small business in Silicon Valley for more than 25 years that dealt primarily with mechanical design relating to manufacturing in the semiconductor industry.

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