Cottages to be demolished

Four years and about $140,000 later the Third Street cottages will be demolished and cannibalized for materials.

The Laguna Canyon Foundation announced Wednesday that demolition will start in the next three to four weeks, a preliminary step in the restoration of the city-owned property at Big Bend on Laguna Canyon Road, where the cottages were moved in an attempt to save them. Salvaged materials will be sold to help fund the restoration.

"We have been committed to finding a preservation solution to the cottages, but unfortunately that process has run its course," said Max Borella, foundation executive director.

The council voted unanimously Tuesday to authorize the foundation to dispose of the cottages.

"It's time," said Councilman Kelly Boyd, who had predicted the cottages would rot at Big Bend when they were relocated. "Those cottages were C-rated when they were moved. Now they are D-rated for demolish."

C-rated structures are deemed valuable by the city for their contribution to neighborhood character, but lack unique and distinctive qualities. C is the lowest of the three rankings for structures on the city's Historical Inventory.

"All is not lost," said Michael Wilkes, a member of the city's Design Review Board, who originally supported the efforts to find homes for the cottages.

"Right now the Design Review Board is looking at at least two projects that have a total of five cottages, some of them older than the ones sitting on platforms in the canyon and the developers are looking for ways to rid themselves of the cottages."

Wilkes said connecting people interested in acquiring cottages with the property owners who don't want them is motivation for the developers to help with the relocation.

"It is a great idea to incentivize saving cottages," Mayor Toni Iseman said.

The council denied a last-ditch appeal from developer Scott Tinney to research the possibility of moving the best known of the cottages to city-owned property in Bluebird Canyon. Tinney had previously been granted time to evaluate the feasibility of moving one or more of the cottages to property he is developing, a private project he found to be too difficult and too expensive.

"The only cottage worth saving is the Clark cottage," Tinney said. "I estimated it would cost about $500,000, which could be funded as a community center."

Boyd said the use was unlikely to be approved. The city buys property for open space, he said.

"I can't see using those properties," Boyd said. "The thing people want most is inner city open space."

The Laguna Canyon Foundation has council approval to convert Big Bend to its natural state as a wild life corridor and trailhead.

Foundation officials had promised to demolish the cottages if they were not removed to another site within two years, saving the city the expense.

The promise was a fallback position set by the council which had approved developer Ken Fischbeck's April proposal to move two of the cottages to his Arch Street project.

When the Fischbeck proposal fell through, the council directed staff to determine if any other serious plan was proposed to remove the cottages that would allow the foundation to proceed with its restoration.

None was proposed.

"I wish we could have saved the cottages, but the die has been cast," Councilwoman Verna Rollinger said.

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