The City of San Diego is moving closer to selling two potentially historic properties abutting Maple Canyon in San Diego's Bankers Hill neighborhood.
On April 12, city councilmembers are expected to approve setting a $2.7 million sale price for the properties located at 2513/2515 Union Street and 540 West Laurel Street, also known as the Truax House.
Residents in Uptown have spent months pleading to city councilmembers to postpone the Real Estate Assets Department's proposal to sell the property. Open-space advocates say the property is perfect for a small park, which could provide access from the west into Maple Canyon. Historic preservationists say one of the properties, named the Truax House, could potentially qualify as historic not only because it was built in 1912 by entrepreneur Edward A. Kavanagh (as reported by Reader commenter "HonestGovernment" in the comments section to this story), but because in the 1980s the home, dubbed the Truax House, served as San Diego's first AIDS hospice run by Dr. Brad Truax.
Community members appeared to make headway in getting the city to hold off on the sale until a historic survey was completed on the property in February when councilmember Todd Gloria recommended that the survey be completed before any sale was finalized. In addition to the survey, Gloria asked city staff to research whether revenues from the sale of the Truax House could fund a new park and signs, as well as an AIDS memorial.
But residents were surprised to learn that by locking in a price, the city's Real Estate Assets Department is moving forward in their quest to sell the properties.
As for Gloria's recommendations, the requirement to complete a historical analysis remains, however is not needed before the sale of the property; instead, it will need to be done within 12 months of escrow closing. The decision to set the price before a historical analysis is complete has residents believing that Gloria's earlier proposal was little more than window dressing.
"What Gloria is proposing is essentially what any property owner would need to do with an historic property," writes Uptown resident and president of the Friends of Maple Canyon, Roy McMakin. "If a property is over 45 years old they need to do a historic survey for review."
Gloria, on the other hand, says the council still has the final say in the matter.
“The actual sale of the Truax House is not being brought to council on Tuesday [April 12], only a request to sell the house at a specified price. There is no buyer yet identified. In order to address my concerns at committee, city staff is recommending that, as a condition of any potential sale, a Historical Resource Research Report be required to be completed within 12 months by the buyer. It will be up to the City Council whether or not to accept that recommendation.”
Charles Kaminski, until recently the secretary for the Lambda Archives (a group dedicated to preserving and compiling San Diego's LGBT history), considers Gloria's recommendation little more than "wordsmithing."
"It makes no sense to require the buyer to prepare the report after close of escrow," adds Kaminski.
According to the city's Historical Resources Department, a private individual and potential buyer has already paid for a Preliminary Historical Review for the property: Soheil Nakhshab of Nakhshab Development submitted the study in March to the city. And although the document designates the Truax House as historical, it is not a complete historical survey and has little effect on the city's decision.
The council will hear the item during the morning session on April 12.
(corrected 4/12, 2:25 p.m.)