As much as I honor and admire Susan Keith’s work preserving Coronado’s historic homes, I have come to believe it is impossible and impractical to try to save them all. (Forgive me, Susan.)
Without getting into specific properties, the oldest often are in need of serious rehabilitation. Historic Designation can inhibit that process, besides holding down the city’s property tax revenue. Tax reduction is the incentive most owners have for seeking this specific designation. Every case is different, so allow me to discuss this in generalities.
Coronado is a unique, picturesque, certainly historic, beautiful home town. Absolutely. I am more than old enough to testify that this island never looked better than it does today. The Village has come a very long way.
In the ’30s there were seven open blocks filled with weeds, dirt, and giant red ant hills. A number of the old shack-like cottages had bare swept-dirt front yards. No grass. And there were scattered undeveloped lots block after block.
In the 1940s/early 1950s the golf course on the north side (which became Country Club Estates) and those huge open blocks were built out almost over-night with cookie cutter tract houses. Not the best, but many of those very ordinary buildings mercifully have been dealt with over time, so now our streets are filled with spectacular residences. Some way oversize, some on narrow lots, but most very attractive.
When I returned in 1962 with my Navy husband and young family to buy a renovated Craftsman on A Avenue, the Orange Avenue sidewalks were filthy, scarred up and down with discarded chewing gum. Never power washed. I was appalled. Pre 1969 and the opening of the bridge I sold (and bought) some of those shacks as a fledgling residential realtor under the bemused direction of Lee Mather himself. That was before today’s 36 page offer and acceptance contract, which requires a series of pre-closing inspections. Back in the day one little house in the 400 block of Orange was discovered after sale to be dumping kitchen sink wastewater directly on the sand under the building. Probably like that for decades. Probably not the only one.
If I have any regrets about contemporary Coronado it is the lack of parking convenient to Orange Avenue businesses. OK, easy enough for the bicycle crowd, besides the commercial scene has become more directed to visitor interests. Granted, we residents usually just zip across the bay during low traffic times for what we need and want to do.
So, I advocate some restraint with Historic Designation. As for the houses of heroes, with 130 plus years of Naval Aviation, the Army before that, the SEALs now, it would be hard to designate a Coronado block that hasn’t been home at some point to at least one real military hero. The City Council recently moved to save the Victorian scored public sidewalks in the village. I’ll settle for that. And maybe one day soon undergrounding utilities.