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Surprise Ruling Also Prohibits Altering of Building : Injunction Forbids Developer, Owner of Ex-Brewery From Removing Artwork

Times Staff Writer

A San Diego County Superior Court judge issued a surprise preliminary injunction Tuesday against the owners and developers of the old Aztec Brewery in Barrio Logan.

The injunction by Judge James A. Malkus forbids Northern Automotive Co. of Arizona and Ramser Development Co. of Los Angeles from removing any additional artwork from the building and from altering the building itself.

About 2,000 tile and stained-glass works, murals and paintings by the late Spanish artist Jose Moya del Pinto, depicting Mayan and Aztec life, were rediscovered earlier this year after a photograph of the art appeared in a local newspaper. The building itself was designed by Charles and Edward Quayle and originally opened as the Savage Tire Co. in 1933.

The developers planned to tear down the building and replace it with a concrete warehouse. Community and cultural groups want to keep the building to preserve the art in its original setting.

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The injunction “came as a surprise to all of us,” said Denise Moreno Ducheny, who is suing the city of San Diego and the companies on behalf of the Harborview Community Council.

The group claims that the city violated the review process for historic sites by agreeing not to designate the building historic in exchange for the companies’ returning the 1930s artworks they had removed.

The lawsuit also faults the city for allegedly failing to enforce city ordinances the group says should have prevented the artworks’ removal in the first place.

Patrick Sullivan, a lawyer representing Northern Automotive, said the hearing was only supposed to cover a motion for a continuance. “Instead, he chose to rule (on the earlier motion for a preliminary injunction pending a final hearing in November) without a full hearing,” he said.

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“I haven’t seen the actual terms, but we disagree. We will comply with the law, as we always have. . . . I think the chances of appeal are excellent,” Sullivan said.


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