Some Compromise Made on Proposed Home

There was a modicum of compromise at the recent City Council meeting regarding the long-contested demolition of a home to make way for a new one.
Thanks to a unanimous vote at the Dec. 14 meeting, the property owners of 1470 Virginia Road will be able to file papers with the city for their proposed new home, which will allow evaluators to use the state’s 2016 energy requirements for new homes. However, the ultimate decision as to whether they will be allowed to move forward will tentatively be made at the City Council’s meeting on Jan. 11.
The move precludes the homeowners, William and Madeline Chan, from having to invest in redesigns to conform to the state’s 2017 energy codes but will allow the city to essentially hold the paperwork until the City Council concludes an appeal concerning the current home’s historic value. Councilman Steve Talt helped to broker the deal at the meeting.
“They’d either have no project or one grandfathered in by the 2016 code,” observed city attorney Steve Dorsey.
The home presently at the location is not listed as historic in any registry, but some residents believe it should be so considered and are lobbying for that designation to preserve the building. Shirley Jagels has led that effort and filed the initial appeal to the Planning Commission’s approval of the project in July.
“I’m a stakeholder in the community representing all the people that have been concerned about the demolition of our historic resources in San Marino,” Jagels said at this meeting, defending herself against the observation that she has no direct ties to the home.
In October, Jagels successfully lobbied for the City Council to commission a third-party study to determine the home’s historic value. The fact that the home was designed by noted local architect Theodore Pletsch, that it housed the local Stathatos family and is an example of Tudor-Revival architecture should protect it’s historic status, she argues.
The property also apparently contains a portion of an old Native American trail, although the Chans’ lawyer, Richard McDonald, has emphatically said none of the planned work will affect that area.
The city’s own evaluation determined the home was not eligible for national or state historic registries nor did it qualify for any local historical designations that would protect it. That did not stop Jagels from filing her appeal, however, or the city from investing $5,000 in an independent study at her request.
That investment has resulted in City Council members hesitating to finalize a ruling, even though the report was expected to have been completed by this meeting.
“We agreed and paid for a report,” Talt said. “I think we need to see it before we make a decision.”
McDonald fiercely balked at that notion, criticising the City Council for having allowed this appeal to extend from July to the present when hearings are supposed to be concluded in a timely fashion. He then pointed out the Chans would have to spend probably $50,000 to have the architect redesign their house if they were required to file plans after the New Year.
“Now you’re at a point where it’s six months later and there are serious consequences to this,” he said. “Serious, five-figure consequences.”
McDonald argued Jagels should have brought up the study at the first appeal hearing in September, as opposed to October, and also challenged the City Council having justified a hearing continuance based on viewing architectural plans that were inconsistent with those reviewed by the Planning Commission.
“There’s a point where integrity of process matters,” he said.
Eventually, the sides worked out the compromise that was approved. McDonald even conceded that if the home was determined to be historic and protected from demolition, he and his clients would have to consider new options.
“If you decide it is historic, we may very well have to move the whole project, which is a perfectly valid option,” he said.

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