Court Upholds the Ban on Green Dragon Demolition


Though essentially wrecked already, there should be no more demolition of four turn-of-the-century La Jolla cottages that served as a link to the seaside village's architectural and historical roots, a state appeal court in San Diego has ruled.

In a hollow victory for preservationists, the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled Thursday that the wrecking ball should have been barred from the Green Dragon Colony, a once-thriving artists' haven, to allow appeals of city and state demolition permits.

The four boarded-up cottages were essentially razed July 10, before a routine appeal period on the project had run. A three-judge panel of the court ruled unanimously that the state Coastal Commission--and others with an interest in the site--did not even know that it was time to appeal, or knew but did not have the chance to get to court.

The demolition marked the last turn in a five-year debate over the fate of the ramshackle cottages, situated between Prospect Street and La Jolla Cove, which once offered an internationally famous retreat to writers, painters and other artists.

The owners of the property, a trust tied to retired La Jolla architect Robert Mosher, had contended the cottages were not worth preserving. Mosher declined Friday to comment on the court decision, saying, "I don't like to be that way about it, but I'm apprehensive about it, and I don't like to be that way. I'm sorry."

Preservationists had claimed that the structures were unique historical sites that deserved to be saved. Led by architect Anthony Ciani, they asked San Diego Superior Court Judge Barbara Gamer to stop the destruction as soon as they found out about it.

Neither Ciani nor his attorneys could be reached Friday for comment.

On July 11, Gamer called a halt to any razing. By then, though, most of the cottages had been wrecked the day before. And, on July 31, Gamer reversed herself, saying she did not believe the preservationists had made their case.

In the decision issued Thursday, Judge Charles W. Froehlich Jr. said Gamer should have continued the ban. Judges Richard D. Huffman and Daniel J. Kremer joined in the ruling. In mid-August, meanwhile, preservationists reportedly received approval from the property owners to mark pieces of the site worth preserving--for possible restoration.

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