Saturday, January 31, 2009

pic of the day

cortez bldg, ca. 1926

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

build it and they will come (maybe)

I saw city council approving the magoffin park villas a mile away. At least the developers conceded a few things to make it fit in to the neighborhood a little better. Brick should be a more dominant material and the windows and height of the roofline will be more inline to what the HLC wanted. I admit I don't find the proposal completely hideous and the arguments for it are compelling. Something tells me one building won't turn the neighborhood around but will hopefully encourage rehabilitation of the buildings that do matter. It'll be nice to bring some life to those dead lots so it should still be positive. I think the developers could have done a little better, but at least it's not some half-assed stucco deal. The thing I worry about is the kind of precedent that has just been set. What's the point of bothering to please the landmark commission when you can just take it to city council and get your development approved?

You can read a little more about it here and here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

magoffin development denied

In an interesting twist, the HLC decided to deny the magoffin park villas I wrote about last week. While I mostly agree with the observations and criticisms by the commission and HPO, I wonder if it was possible to work with the developers before they submitted their plans? I think a superior design would be putting up 2 - 3 family townhomes and keep it old school. I envision something like 1890s to 1910s era rowhouse brick/limestone buildings. Of course, cost is probably a big factor and unlikely to ever happen (until I get around to it that is :)). And where would all these people park? Children included of course -- there must be a parking space for every man, woman, & child in this development. That right there is the biggest problem I have with this proposal. What is the point of putting a large swath of parking lot facing the most prominent street in the historic district? Bad decision.

Seems a waste of everyone's time to come up with designs that seem to not have much of a shot at getting approved. Unless of course city council decides to override the HLC decision. I could very well see that happening since downtown living seems to be what everyone is clamoring about. Little do they realize there are a ton of actual historic buildings in need of love that would be far better investment into the historic neighborhood, but I digress.. Back to the proposal: the design could use a little more work -- something I think could be worked out between people who know what they're talking about (HLC, HPO). Meaning city council shouldn't politicize the issue and greenlight it just because we need downtown residential space.

For all you downtown area peeps -- if you have an opinion, exercise it to you District 8 rep. Decision's tomorrow. More background here.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

mills building

It's amazing what a little TLC can do.

The mills building is really starting to look great with the current renovation. The exterior finish looks much cleaner in the original color. The removal of the cheesy 70's windows helps hint at when the building was actually built (1910). The replacement windows look to be sympathetic to what was originally there. I notice they're also building up an addition in the previous void of this L shaped building (note crane). Should provide significantly more square footage. I'm looking forward to them restoring the porticos on the front and side entrances that had previously been removed.

This is what the building used to look like. More info can be found here.

P.S. stop posting misc crap and get working on the house already!!! :)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

pic of the day

Apartment bldg across the street

Saturday, January 17, 2009

patio nearing completion

I'm ashamed to say it's taken this long to get close to finishing this patio, but I do what I can. The last 6 months have been pretty crazy around here, but I think I'm starting to refocus some attention to the house again. You may recall the last time I touched on this I started by excavating the backyard and demoing a concrete slab. I then got started laying down the beginnings of a new patio.

So this is where I'm at. I'm over 2/3 complete and this backyard is starting to let me know just how huge it is. In fact, it's a double lot so that's probably why there is so much room back here. I love the size of the yard, but it doesn't make it easier trying to maintain and fix it up. Say hello to my beloved weenie dog, Bogie. :)

A big timesuck back here was trying to excavate the slab of concrete around my prized oak tree. This was no easy task as this old school concrete is mixed with chunks of granite and limestone. No jackhammer here -- this is pure sweat and tears with a pickaxe. I still have some more to go, but I figured I'd let the tree get some relax time during the winter. Need those roots to go nuts so I can see some appreciable growth this year.

Back here my plans are to make a small retaining wall that I can put some native plantings in. I also plan to try my hand at being a wannabe mason. This will be in stone like the wall. But first I need to repoint. It's some kind of lime mortar so I'm going to have to research that after finishing the patio.

Friday, January 16, 2009

magoffin park villas

There's been talk about developing several empty lots in the magoffin neighborhood into some mixed use residential space. If you recall, this neighborhood is on the other side of downtown from where my neighborhood is situated (to the sountheast). Sounds like an awesome idea, but it's unclear if they're going for apartments or condos. Overall the design looks pretty cool, but I think brick should be the dominant material used in the facade. Everyone loves to use stucco in newer construction around here, but a brick facade is more appropriate. I can appreciate that the architect was trying to design a building that looks like it was organically built what with the various sub-facades jutting out. I think the roof line should be slightly less uniform so it looks like it's not one big apartment building, but aside from that I could dig it. Technically this part of the neighborhood is included in the downtown plan so that's probably why they're trying to do the mixed use thing. Which is awesome -- wish my neighborhood would get more mixed use development on the fringe of downtown.
So what do you think? Is this design worthy of the neighborhood? The current design is recommended for denial. The application to the HLC is here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

it's a good day

Some of you may remember a while back me going off on the city approving the demolition of a house that had seen better days. In my opinion, the city made good on that mistake the other day. The property owner was applying to build a "private residence" that was so out of character for the neighborhood it wasn't even funny. I wonder if they even tried? The curious can check out the thwarted plans here.

What follows is a statement I had put together to read at the meeting, but was unable to make it out to read in person. Thankfully my opinion didn't need to be heard, but I figure what the heck -- I didn't write it for nothing. Enjoy.

Good day members of the historic landmark commission.

It has come to my attention that a request has been made to build on the lot at 1312 El Paso st. I respectfully ask the commission to consider the architectural integrity of the sunset heights historic district and how the design proposed diminishes that integrity. There once was a time when a home of architectural distinction took up residence at that location and over time was neglected and its integrity diminished by insensitive modifications. Despite the potential for a worthy restoration, the HLC voted to tear it down. I did not agree with this decision then nor do I agree with it now. However, I am not here to criticize past decisions. I speak before you today to carefully consider the decision before you today.

Many an architectural style can be found in this wonderful neighborhood. The likes of this city’s most esteemed architect Henry Trost once called this neighborhood home. And so I take it as a bit of an insult that the design brought forward today is completely devoid of any architectural merit in this historic setting. With respect to the architect and design, I do not consider it appropriate to build the typical Mediterranean style home commonly found in the newer developments on the outer fringes of the city. Such a style is completely inappropriate for this neighborhood. One question I have is what is the purpose of the setbacks on this home? Is this truly designed as residential and not commercial? Meaning the setbacks are to make way for a parking lot? I don’t necessarily have an objection to it’s use in a commercial capacity. There are several converted homes nearby that are in use as doctor’s & lawyer's offices. And yet they did not tear down the original structure to build something that can be shoehorned in. They use an adjacent lot or have access through the alley to the rear of the building.

What I would prefer is a design in any of the prevailing styles found in the neighborhood: Victorian, craftsman, Spanish revival, etc. The setbacks should also be inline with the other homes nearby and parking should be limited to the street or accessible from the rear. If this truly is to be a residential home then that should not be an unreasonable request. If not, then perhaps the owner should have looked elsewhere for a double lot or understood the possibility that they wouldn’t be able to build whatever they wanted. Glass box this is not, but that design does not belong in this neighborhood.

I think a lesson can be learned by the commission’s actions taken over a year ago. I ask that new standards be put into place that demolition be a last resort. Most definitely demolition shouldn’t be approved without plans for what will take its place. When a building is structurally sound, there should be no reason to tear it down. There are many dilapidated homes in this neighborhood -- I would prefer to think their days aren’t numbered if someone who isn’t sympathetic to their historic value takes ownership. We should be striving to make the neighborhood better not worse. If you approve these plans today that is exactly what you will be doing.

Thank you for attention.