City to Explore Plan to Save Aztec Brewery

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Offering preservationists one last chance to save Barrio Logan's Aztec Brewery buildings, the San Diego City Council agreed Monday to explore a last-minute redevelopment proposal for the two structures before letting them fall to the wrecking ball.

The council voted 6-0 to hold a public hearing on an offer made Monday by Foote Development Inc. to explore rehabilitation of the buildings, at 2301 Main St., before allowing their demolition. Foote is converting the historic Mission Brewery into office space.

But in simultaneously approving demolition of the buildings, the council made it clear that if the Foote or other proposals prove unworkable, the brick buildings now scheduled to be replaced by warehouses could come down as early as May 15.

The council also agreed to temporarily display the striking murals that have been removed from the brewery rathskeller in a nearby building, adjacent to Chuey's Cafe Numero Uno, before finally relocating them to the proposed Mercado Del Barrio redevelopment project along Crosby Street. City staff members have negotiated a three-year lease for display of the artworks.

"There are no perfect solutions to this," said Councilman Bob Filner, who represents the 8th District, where the brewery is located. "Everybody is right. It is a matter of judgment how to work out the competing priorities."

But community groups working to save the buildings, built in 1911 and 1915, noted that Foote had asked for 90 days to explore rehabilitation of the site, and threatened to again sue the city to save the structures.

"They are trying to hang the demolition permit over everybody's head and then say, 'try to negotiate under these conditions,' " said Denise Ducheny, attorney for Harborview Community Council, which wants to preserve the buildings.

"If this is the way the city is going to steward its cultural resources, they've got a problem," said Vonn Marie May, a member of the city Historical Site Board, which declared the buildings and the murals to be historic. "This is a site of major opportunity, and they're just flushing it."

An aide to Filner said that Foote Vice President Dennis Meehan had agreed to a 60-day study period for the redevelopment proposal.

Debate about the brewery's future erupted two years ago, when it became known that a group of barrio artists had discovered murals and paintings created in the 1930s by the late Spanish painter Jose Moya del Pino.

Long forgotten in the brewery's rathskeller, the murals blocked owner Northern Automotive Corp.'s plan to sell the two-block parcel to Ramser Development Co., which intended to demolish the buildings and four adjacent structures to make way for 120,000 square feet of warehouse space.

The Historical Site Board in May, 1988, declared both the murals and the buildings historic. That June, the council upheld the designation for the murals, but rejected the designation for the buildings.

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