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Neighborhood residents have been wondering what’s up with the empty Cardiff by the Sea Masonic Lodge at 1401Windsor Road.

The large building from the 1950s was used for decades as a social gathering spot for members of the Freemasons and also a ceremonial hall for the performance of the group’s rituals in conferring degrees of Freemasonry — a tradition dating back to the 16th Century.

Neighbors do not remember seeing a Masonic event in Cardiff in years. A large brass Masonic emblem was recently removed, leaving a gaping hole in the exterior front wall.

LoopNet.com suggests the property was for sale, but the “status” changed about two months ago: the property information just states it is no longer on the market.

County tax records show an extremely low assessed valuation of only $186,000, equivalent to what the property may have been worth in 1978, when Proposition 13 locked in tax rates. Once sold, the property would need to be re-assessed at an estimated value of $1.3 million.

If the Freemasons let go of the property, it would follow the national trend of consolidating lodges around the country. Many other fraternal organizations nationwide, such as the Elks, Moose, Oddfellows, VFW, or the American Legion, appear to be rapidly declining in membership, making it difficult to maintain long-established halls.

In the past decade, the Cardiff lodge building housed a church, pre-school, the Sanderling Waldorf School, and a yoga studio. Most recently the building was an off-site classroom for the San Dieguito High School District’s adult-education program.

According to Todd Mierau, associate planner for the City of Encinitas, his department knows there will probably be a residential subdivision proposed, but nothing has yet been submitted to the city.

Zoned R8, the developers would be able to build about eight single-family homes. If designed properly, some would have ocean views.

LoopNet, however, suggests that a density bonus may be available, allowing perhaps condos or apartments. However, the current make-up of the city council would likely never allow a large property to be up-zoned; such action would also require a vote of the public.

Although the city’s general plan is residential for the area, the 1.13-acre property sits in a two-block area that was intended by county planners, in the 1950s, for buildings of public use. Encinitas’ Elks Lodge #2243 sits next door. Just around the corner from the Elks Lodge, on Grange Hall Road, used to sit the Grange Hall (a fraternal organization associated with agriculture); that dilapidated building was torn down in the mid-‘60s.

Across the street from the Masonic Lodge is the Cardiff School District’s Ada W. Harris Elementary School campus, built in 1959. At the other end of the school, developers in the 1970s built the Park Place community on the site of a former reservoir; they were required to save a large parcel for public use, such as a church, but it was sold years later and six single-family homes were built on what became Windsor Creek Court.

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Comments

Visduh Dec. 2, 2013 @ 8:37 a.m.

From a pure tax saving standpoint, the Masons should retain ownership of the property and put it on a very long term ground lease to a developer. Doing that would yield them a wonderful income stream in near-perpetuity. That approach probably would not work for true single-family homes because most buyers would be uneasy with a ground lease, even if it ran to 99 years. But some sort of townhomes in a condo development would likely be acceptable to most buyers. That value of $186K was probably the assessed value in 1975, because when Prop 13 passed in 1978, the values were rolled back to those of 1975. And the $186K value was for land AND the building. It was a whole different world then, wasn't it?

The trend of declining membership in fraternal organizations, lodges, clubs of all kinds, veterans organizations and a host of other groups is a long term, secular trend that is heart-rending. Why so many people eschew such groups is not clear to me, but does indicate an atomization of society, with a huge number of lonely people. Sounds like the lament in the Beatles song "Eleanor Rigby".

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Dave Rice Dec. 2, 2013 @ 10:01 a.m.

That sounds like a great idea from the Masons' point of view, but any kind of residential development offered for sale would be a non-starter on leased land. Even if a buyer were willing to accept less than full ownership of the property, banks are going to be hesitant to offer a trust deed on shares in a leasehold. It might work if you had a developer who wanted to put in apartments...

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Ponzi Dec. 2, 2013 @ 8:49 a.m.

Social workers have displaced mutual aid societies and self-organized associations. Pop-culture has created a society that connects by smartphone, making conversation and bonding a game. People send pictures of each other instead of spending time with each other.

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