Laguna's oldest home to receive alterations

Mayor Toni Iseman appealed approval of the project that will reconstruct much of the house at 154 Pearl St.

December 17, 2010|By Barbara Diamond,
  • Historical beach cottage at the corner of Pearl and Ocean Avenue.
Historical beach cottage at the corner of Pearl and Ocean… (DON LEACH, Coastline…)

Alterations to Laguna's oldest home, 154 Pearl St., will go forward despite the objections of Mayor Toni Iseman, who appealed the approval of the Design Review Board, and other critics of the project.

A council majority denied Iseman's appeal at the Dec. 7 meeting and voted to support the board and Heritage committee approvals of the removal and reconstruction of much of the existing house — the portions added onto the 117-year-old, two-room, oceanfront cottage in the decades since it was built. Twenty-one members of the public testified at the 1 ½-hour hearing, 14 opposed the project and seven were in favor.

"I voted for the project and I wish I could take my vote back," said Heritage Committee member Anne Frank.

The committee held five hearings on the project and the board held another four before approving the project on Oct. 28.

In her appeal, Iseman stated her belief that the house should be preserved in its entirety. She also stated that the decision-making process for reviewing the proposal and perhaps for other historical structures was flawed. It may have resulted in decisions that do not further the city's historic preservation goals.


She specifically objected to the choice of a consultant by the property owner, rather than city officials, to prepare the historic resource assessment and the impacts analysis required by the California Environmental Quality Act.

"The city should have its own experts," said Councilwoman Verna Rollinger.

Iseman also protested that the declaration of mitigated negative impacts was not adequate and an environmental impact report should have been required.

The mayor further objected to a private meeting between city staff, the owner's representative and consultant, and the consultant hired by the city for peer review.

Iseman was supported by a well-scripted procession of speakers, beginning with former Councilwoman Ann Christoph.

Village Laguna President Ginger Osborne condemned the opinion of the owner's preservation consultant that that the Harper family, who owned the home from 1883 to at least 1940, was not significant in Laguna's history. It was pointed out that Tom Harper is the architect of part of Villa Rockledge, which was accepted on the National Register of Historic Places, and six other homes on the city's inventory.

Harper had also lived in the Pearl Street house, although he did not design it.

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