<b>FLIP THE SCRIPT:</b> Adobe owner Katie Hay holds her rebuttal to the Pearl Chase Society appeal.

Paul Wellman

FLIP THE SCRIPT: Adobe owner Katie Hay holds her rebuttal to the Pearl Chase Society appeal.

A Muddy Affair: Historic Home Spared Demolition

Pearl Chase Society Goes to Bat for Montecito’s 174-Year-Old Hosmer Adobe

Thursday, July 3, 2014
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When the brother-and-sister duo behind the development of the Funk Zone started to tear down and rebuild one of the last historic adobes in Montecito, the Pearl Chase Society mobilized. After months of back and forth between the preservationists and owners Katie Hay and Brian Kelly, the Board of Supervisors unanimously followed a move by 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal to “give it a crack” ​— ​and both deny and uphold an appeal filed by the Society. Though the vote was largely over semantics, it indicated a successful persistence on the part of the Society and an end to a six-month squabble: The Juarez-Hosmer Adobe house will be rehabilitated rather than demolished.

Five years ago, Hay and Kelly purchased the 174-year-old sun-dried structure at 461 San Ysidro Road for roughly $700,000. In order to rehabilitate the building, the owners sought approval from the Historic Landmarks Advisory Commission (HLAC), but when the work was about to commence, they found the bricks were in worse condition than they originally thought. So Hay and Kelly returned to the HLAC for a permit to demolish the structure and construct a replica. With a plan provided by engineering firm Taylor & Syfan, the HLAC gave them the green light to reconstruct with a 5-3 vote, and the project began last November.

Thomas Hosmer, circa 1885
Click to enlarge photo

Courtesy Photo

Thomas Hosmer, circa 1885

But the Pearl Chase Society cried foul and likened a reconstruction to a “Disneyland version of history.” Before Montecito was Montecito ​— ​and California was even California ​— ​the structure was constructed by Victor Juarez and his wife, Maria Dominguez. Later in the 19th century, the adobe was passed on to the Hosmers. Thomas Hosmer served as 1st District supervisor from 1885-1893. In January, the preservationists appealed the HLAC decision ​— ​an unprecedented action, they said ​— ​arguing the engineering firm was ill equipped to preserve the adobe. The petition called for a second opinion, contended appropriate peer review was not followed, claimed public notice was inadequate, and the project lacked proper documentation.

On Tuesday, both sides gave presentations, and a cluster of public commenters chimed in. Going first, attorney Marc Chytilo, for the Pearl Chase Society, thanked Hay ​— ​a sentiment reiterated by nearly every speaker ​— ​for her effort to secure a second opinion from Nels Roselund, an expert in 19th-century adobe whom the Society endorsed. Roselund determined that the adobe could not be preserved “in situ” but found some of the bricks were salvageable and could be separated and reused. “This is the best that can be done,” said Hattie Beresford, vice president of the Pearl Chase Society, and added it was much better than a “complete wrecking ball.”

In addition to the remodeled project, Chytilo asked the supervisors to include various conditions ​— ​a more detailed treatment plan, a speedy start to begin work to beat the potential El Niño winter, protection of dismantled bricks from weather, and monitoring of the project.

Representing Hay and Kelly, architect Clay Aurell told the board that when the owners purchased the structure, it had already been exposed to significant water damage and cracking. “We don’t want to wait,” Aurell said, addressing the timing issue. He further said the owners have gone “above and beyond” to address the historic integrity of the site. He expressed concern about adding “unnecessary” steps and briefly mentioned the additional cost. Following questions from Supervisor Doreen Farr as to exactly how the dismantled adobe would be protected given the dirt surroundings, owner Katie Hay approached the podium and gave a detailed description of storing the bricks, a discussion that prompted Supervisor Peter Adam to call such construction conditions “arcane.”

During the public comment, Beresford also addressed the owners’ promise to appropriately handle the bricks and urged the supervisors to “put it in writing.”

Livening up the technical talk was Shakuntala Zakheim, a 39-year-old descendant of the Hosmer family, who said she would often stay with her grandmother in the adobe house as a kid. Now an art conservationist and teacher in Los Angeles, Zakheim said she jumped in her car to drive up to speak at the hearing at the last minute on Tuesday. “There’s a big difference in painting the ‘Mona Lisa’ over rather than fixing a crack,” Zakheim said. “This is a case where we have the ‘Mona Lisa.’ It’s an ugly shack, but it’s important.”

From here, the supervisors tossed the matter to the Planning and Development staff, who will determine if the conditions urged by the Pearl Chase Society will be written into the land-use permit.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Disneyland version of reality is what so much of our community is about. The Presidio being the most blatant example or artifice and nonsense, adulation of a military barracks that suppressed locals and only existed for a few decades. Can we tear it down?

RHS (anonymous profile)
July 3, 2014 at 8:51 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Wonderful news this historic adobe has been spared. If SB is DisneyLand , then RHS is Goofy. It's not as if the Presidio is still a military barracks, you're the type who'd join the Taliban in destroying antiquities simply because they don't fit your narrow world view.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 3, 2014 at 8:57 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I live nearby the Hosmer & have spent many a good time there as the guest of former tenants for many years. Having grown up in an adobe & also lived in another Historic Santa Barbara Landmark one, this issue has been of particular note to me around here as a long time local. The sad part is, about 75% of the property, including historic water tower (partially still standing), the charming 1930's Guest House and the circa 1850 addition which was directly attached and part of the Adobe have been destroyed by the owners, the same ones we can now thank for the complete Gentrification of the Funk Zone, another historic neighborhood suddenly almost completely devoid of 'Funk', working local artisans or craftspeople. We have the same aforementioned owners and soul-less Builders & Architects who push Local Historic Landmarks aside like this to thank for this. THANK YOU to the Pearl Chase Society for coming to the rescue, albeit Better Late than Never. Perhaps all of us Locals, City & County Planning Departents can be a little more Forthright in the Future to Babysit these Devoid of Soul Developers that in the end, only rob our Long-Standing Local Culture for personal greed & gratifiction ~ Cheers, F

Federico (anonymous profile)
July 3, 2014 at 9:35 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Not all adobe is salvageable, and some reconstructions are so well done you do keep the original integrity. Has anyone here ever seen the German town of Rothenburg on the Tauber? A medieval town partially destroyed by bombing in WWll, and rebuilt so well that you can't tell the medieval from the modern. Going to all this effort to keep a few of the original bricks seems over the top to me, and I'm an avid preservationist. Lots of buildings get remodeled and rebuilt over the years and that's part of their history.

By the way RHS the Presidio project is way better now than it was in the early 90s when I moved here. Then, the Trust for Historic Preservation was proposing to rebuild the entire Presidio, demolishing the few remnants of SB's Chinatown (including Jimmy's Oriental Gardens) and even part of our landmark post office. They have since taken a much more inclusive view of what constitutes SB history. I toured the Presidio recently with my daughter's class and the reconstruction there isn't Disneylandish at all; in fact it's thoroughly grim and accurate! The kids liked mixing adobe with their feet. --Nitz's wife

Nitz (anonymous profile)
July 3, 2014 at 9:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm glad to see that Salud Carbajal and the rest of the board corrected the mistakes the HLAC made by giving the current owners permission to demolish. Unfortunately, as Federico says above, there are still a lot of unknowns still to be resolved. The owners tore down and claim to have stored more than 3/4 of the historic structures on the property, all of which are landmarked and legally merit preservation. I hope the County Staff will follow through with protecting all the historic structures and not merely the one-room adobe.

It's a very special place and I feel blessed to have lived there for a few years.

AndrewRice (anonymous profile)
July 3, 2014 at 11:03 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Calling this a "rehabilitation" and not a "demolition" is misleading and a semantic manipulation of the facts to misrepresent what is really happening here. The plan is to demolish an important historic Landmark, then rebuild it as a completely new replica incorporating some blocks from the original building to justify calling it "historic". The new structure will not be "historic" in any sense of the word. The original historic building will be gone forever and the replica that replaces it will no longer qualify as a Landmark. This sets a tragic precedent for historic preservation in the County of Santa Barbara. A developer may now demolish an official Landmark to increase his profits, with the County's blessing. In this case the developer intentionally allowed the building to deteriorate so they could claim it was beyong saving, falsely blaming the previous owner. The County Historic Landmarks Commission has failed miserably in its duty to protect and preserve what few historic landmarks survive.

zorro (anonymous profile)
July 3, 2014 at 8:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

As a long time Montecito resident, I have watched this cherished Landmark decay for the last 40 years (Hosmer/Dinsmore decendants owned it for over 150 years). The Zakheim family was to restore it when they sold off the majority of the land to build the Quinta Isabella Condominiums in the 1990's. Where was Pearl Chase Society during that time or when it was made a Landmark? Perhaps PCS could have saved the Adobe intact if THEY had acted at that time to require the original owner to protect the Landmark! It seems that the Pearl Chase Society has acted in such a fashion that they deserve the blue ribbon AND gold medal for hypocrisy. Their credibility as preservationists has evaporated in a cloud of double talk and duplicity as they rise up with objections after the damage has long been done.
It appears that the new owners have bent over backwards to accommodate PCS concerns, and comply with national standards for historic preservation. Their only mistake was to forget that no "good deed goes unpunished".

Stormysb (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2014 at 11:16 a.m. (Suggest removal)

With all these old homes getting snatched-up by the wealthy, these people's first call Pearl Chase Society, to verify the correct method of restoration especially if these home hold Landmark Status...

dou4now (anonymous profile)
July 7, 2014 at 9:59 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Pearl Chase Society was created at the time of the last major Art Museum expansion. It may not have even been in existence when you demanded they they should have taken action.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
July 7, 2014 at 11:14 a.m. (Suggest removal)

If you buy a landmark you are taking on the responsibility of preserving and protecting an important historical structure regardless of the cost and work necessary to do so. Replace what's damaged beyond repair and ensure what's left that is original can withstand a 500 year storm. Thank you for your selfless effort.

SB_North (anonymous profile)
July 7, 2014 at 12:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"The Zakheim family was to restore it when they sold off the majority of the land to build the Quinta Isabella Condominiums in the 1990's. Where was Pearl Chase Society during that time or when it was made a Landmark?"

You raise a valid point, but not really about PCS. It was also my understanding that Nathan Zakheim agreed to preserve and restore the historic structures at the time of the subdivision and sale of the 3/4 of the land area that became the condos. However, if Zakheim were capable of that sort of thing the structures would never have fallen into disrepair in the first place. Which brings us back to the very idea that it's nonsense to landmark buildings without some sort of oversight and enforcement structure in place that actually sees that they are preserved properly.

And, just out of curiosity, we're just commenting about a land-use dispute here, why all the pseudonyms? You really can't bear to put your name to your own words?

AndrewRice (anonymous profile)
July 8, 2014 at 11:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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