The house was most recently known as Hacienda de Vega restaurant
A decision to tear down the historic adobe Paxton house in Escondido has no plan B. And the city needs the 42 condo units that will take its place.
But the house, most recently known as Hacienda de Vega restaurant, is a landmark to those who begged the city council last week not to approve its demolition.
"When I saw the green tarp around the old Paxton adobe home my heart sank," said Maria Weir Werth, whose family built adobe homes, including one right up the street that the city preserved.
Werth said the Charles H. Paxton house inspired a modified Spanish revival building style that spread from Escondido into Poway, Encinitas, Rancho Santa Fe, and beyond. The area is said to have more adobe homes and structures than anywhere in the country outside of New Mexico.
Paxton house in 1949
"Adobe homes are so precious and no longer built."
The condos proposed by Kitchell Development Co., who bought the nearly two-acre property in 2018, would add needed density to the area, though no ballpark price for the homes has been set. There would be eight, three-story buildings, a mix of California and mediterranean styles with a stucco exterior.
A historical report says the house, built in 1946, was a model home for the nearby Longview Acres subdivision of 25 adobes. It was found to be a significant historic resource, potentially eligible for listing on the city's local register of historic places.
But the house at 2608 S. Escondido Boulevard had a life as a favorite local restaurant, a nursery, a glass shop, and along the way, before Hacienda de Vega closed in 2017, many changes were made.
Due to past remodels, and now a frequent target of vandalism, the building was left with only two of seven "original aspects of integrity," according to a historic structures assessment. The planning commission decided preservation wasn't feasible.
Carol Rea, chairman of the historic preservation commission, said she toured the property in February and it appeared structurally sound, which isn't surprising for adobe.
"Paxton reflects our Hispanic culture, not only by its notable adobe block maker and brick mason, but by its later adaptive re-use by popular Mexican restaurants."
Under Escondido zoning code, a non-emergency demolition permit of a historic resource must be reviewed by the historic preservation commission. A noticed public hearing was held in July in which a motion to approve the permit failed due to a tie vote, but one commissioner recused themselves and two were absent.
Bruce Coons, executive director of Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO), said in a letter that the staff report missed the historical significance of the building, and that the city failed to explore alternatives adequately. Noting the potential for a legal challenge, SOHO called for a full environmental impact report, rather than the initial study and "mitigated negative declaration" that was issued.
"The cultural links represent the continuity of building adobe houses throughout the decades within the entire southwestern region," Coons said. SOHO wants the matter sent back to the historic preservation commission for a second vote "to enable more commissioners to participate."
Marne Bouillon, the developer, said they tried to incorporate the house in the center of the project, but that doing so would leave it inaccessible to the public, defeating the purpose of preservation.
As an alternative, they offered to sell the house at market value to its supporters, possibly to have it moved, but received no offers, he said.
Deputy mayor Consuelo Martinez said she was open to proposals to save the house but hadn't received any.
While some supported the demolition, most were against tearing down an important chapter in the city's history, including Alexa Clausen, who researched the history of the house for the annual adobe home tour.
"Decades of its ownership are rooted in Escondido's rich Latino history, which is very under-represented in the city's historic preservation efforts."