Palm Craftsman development delayed

February 14, 2013

The attempt by a developer to demolish three Craftsman houses on Palm Avenue got a delay early this month when activists presented the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) with sufficient evidence to fend off what the activists claimed was “misinformation” given the commission by staff.

This is an artist's concept of what might replace three Craftsman homes pictured above.

The meeting came up because David Vayner, the landowner, wants to demolish what he calls the “ugly” houses and replace them with 24 “new, nice” apartment units of four stories at 923, 927, 931 Palm Avenue. Kate Eggert and Krisy Gosney, neighbors on Palm who also live in a Craftsman home, did extensive research into the homes and decided to nominate the three homes for designation as Cultural Resources, which meant holding a public hearing, considering all pertinent testimony, and adopting a resolution to be sent on to the City Council for a final determination.

City staff, recommended a denial, determining that alterations to some of the homes over the years and the lack of enough similar Craftsman style bungalows in the area to create a viable grouping negate historic status. But the commission wanted to give the issue some more thought.

Saying that, "A really important point is that 927 and 931 Palm Avenue are eligible for the National Register according to the state of California," the preservationists believe they have a shot at forcing the preservation and restoration of the three homes.

931 Palm Avenue.

From their point of view, much of the city staff’s report on the homes was allegedly incorrect. (Click here to see that report.) One of the assertions made in the staff report was that “the three homes have been denied historic resource status twice by the HPC.”

The preservationists assert that the statement is untrue. They say that “923 Palm Ave has never come before the HPC.”

Additionally, in the cases of 927 and 931 Palm Ave., in 1990/91 the issue of designating the Sherman Thematic Grouping a historic district came before the HPC. The HPC approved designating the Sherman Thematic Grouping a historic district. Yet according to the Staff Report supplemental materials, City Council denied the designation of the Sherman Thematic Grouping as a historic district. The pair asserts that City Council’s decision does not appear to reflect on the individual historic and cultural criteria and integrity of the homes.

927 Palm Avenue.

Further refuting the staff’s claims that the homes never came before the HPC, the Ms. Eggert and Gosney found mention in city records that show 927 and 931 Palm Ave being granted historic resource status when they came before the HPC., however, the City Council denied historic resource status saying,  ‘They have been altered and lost association with the past.”

The preservationists disagree with that assessment, though, saying, “Our research did not reveal any real evidence or proof that 927 nor 931 have been altered in any way that caused them to lose association with the past.”

While they acknowledge that additions to the “rear of the buildings had been made, the additions to 927 and 931 are both over 100 years old and happened in the official era of Old Sherman.”

Furthermore, the staff’s claim that there exists too few Craftsman homes in the immediate area to make up a viable grouping is negated by the fact the there are three homes side-by-side and within a few blocks of other groupings – containing fewer homes. They say that, “Using the history of Sherman, our application invokes the integrity of location, feeling, workmanship, design etc. enough to highlight the three homes place in history and their connection to important events leading to the settling of California and to the founding of Sherman.”

The HPC will take up the issue again during their regular February 25 meeting. See the staff report on the three homes here.