Jeff Smith noon, March 8
- Community Blog
- I've Got Issues
Another Developer Owned Craftsman Mysteriously Catches Fire
Just last week I wrote a piece about my efforts to try and save 1 of only 2 saltbox style buildings in San Diego.
It lies on El Cajon Boulevard, the famed "Boulevard of the Arts". The entire block with the saltbox is going to have to be demolished so developers can take 5 million dollars of your property tax money and build housing.
The only problem....the original demo permit is 5 years old and it is attached to the previously planned project. Since that time the project has changed substantially, thus making a full CEQA review necessary.
There is nothing a developer hates more than a full california environmental quality act review especially when the community knows it is happening and supports saving the buildings.
This is why as I was walking home today along El Cajon Blvd and saw smoke coming from this beloved block of mine I thought ...." this is arson". I stopped and talked to the people standing there. The elderly gentleman that lived next door to the unoccupied craftsman and had sold it to the developer was standing out there with a big smile. He told me the fire started under the house. I really could not make any accusations, I just kept telling the cop..."this building is owned by a developer and they are in the process of trying to get a demo permit which requires a full CEQA review, you better really thoroughly investigate this".
I dont want to make any accusations, but I definitely see a pattern. It seems that whenever there is an obstacle in the way of achieving a demolition permit for an old building the building magically and fortuitously catches fire, just like 4555 Texas Street. The Texas street craftsman caught fire not once, but twice and even then the developer did not have a valid demolition permit. He demolished the building and then applied for and received the demolition permit after he had destroyed it. I presented this information along with my proof on several occasions to code compliance and the city and they refused to enforce any fees on the developer.
Of course no one wants to believe that people could be as malevolent as this, but it would not be unprecedented. The Red Roost and the Red Rest in La jolla have been the victims of arson attempts multiple times under rather suspicious conditions. The owner wanted to demolish them to build a hotel and could not because the buildings are registered as historic. Although they could not make a definite connection between the arsonist and the owner, the circumstances are still very suspect. http://sohosandiego.org/reflections/2002july/reds.htm And I hear story after story of developer owned historic properties where a moving van comes in one day taking everything out and the next day the building goes up in flames.
And from my research it seems that the city does very little to actually investigate a possible arson. The only time arson seems to really be investigated is if someone is injured or if the owner is trying to collect insurance. They love to just write it off to a homeless person lighting a match. It just seems those homeless people always know when a demo permit is in the works and having problems.
IF this is happening it is contemptuous. Not only are these building irreplaceable resources, many of them contain asbestos so lighting them on fire would release tons of asbestos into the air posing a HUGE health risk for neighbors.
This is yet another reason we must vote NO on Prop D. Prop D is being bankrolled by big developers (McMillin for 1 giving $10,000 to the campaign). D will make the trifecta developer/fire/mayor alliance even more powerful and literally accountable to NO ONE.
I hope people will pay attention to things like this and put pressure on the city to investigate these very suspicious fires that result in developers avoiding environmental and historic reviews and us losing these irreplaceable structures. So lets put the heat on them and see what their report says. And please join me in saving this wonderful block.