To the surprise of council members and some residents, a 1930s-era Spanish-style landmark on Pacific Coast Highway was demolished this week.
Demolition crews Tuesday quickly leveled the 15-room building at 34185 Pacific Coast Highway that had long housed Straight Ahead, an alcohol and drug treatment center. Only a piece of the complex remains.
The facility was closed last July by the state Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs. The complex was built as a motel in 1936.
Jim Hayton, owner of the Dana Point Car Wash a block north of complex, said he was shocked to see the demolition work. He asked the council Tuesday night why the complex could not have been saved despite its state of disrepair.
“Shouldn’t a significant building like that come before the council before it is destroyed?” Hayton asked the council. “That was a building that added character to the city.”
To Councilman Mike Eggers, the former motel should have been destroyed long ago. Eggers, who said he had toured the facility, called it “a disaster waiting to happen.”
“I think if you would have taken a hose to that building, it would have fallen down anyway,” said Eggers, adding that it was infested with termites.
City Manager Stephen B. Julian said the city staff had been notified and had granted a demolition permit to the building’s owner, who asked that it be destroyed rather than be repaired to city code. Julian said he notified the city’s historical society, which sent a member to take pictures of the complex.
Councilwoman Karen Lloreda pointed out that this was the second such incident and suggested that the city staff move forward on a survey of historic structures in the city.
In May, 1991, the South Orange County Board of Realtors demolished the 63-year-old Louise Leyden house before anyone could stop it.
Councilman William L. Ossenmacher supported Lloreda’s suggestion.
“I think we need to proceed cautiously in the future so buildings of historical interest are not demolished before anyone knows what’s going on,” Ossenmacher said.