The one-story building located at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Palm Street in Banker’s Hill is more than a dermatology office. It’s a window into the feud between preservationists and developers in 2021.
The dispute over the site’s historic designation ended last year when the City Council intervened to remove he site’s historic designation. San Diego government officials are incentivizing taller, denser buildings to reduce living costs and achieve climate and mobility goals. However, many areas targeted for development are older and often older. Housing advocates argue that the historic review process needs reform, focusing on standards and tax breaks for historic structures.
“Some of the stuff we’re saving has nothing to do with history,” said Marcela Escobar-Eck, a landscape architect, planner and former city official. “It’s just about trying to stop development.”
Less than two years ago, she was part of a working group for Mayor Todd Gloria that included developers and labor leaders. They concluded “existing historic preservation criteria are generous and slow the pace of middle-income housing development.” Gloria’s staff agreed to “evaluate all historic regulations and develop a historic resources regulation reform program.”
Escobar-Eck and others contend the Historic Resources Board is prevented from weighing the current use of a property against its long-term use, meaning the number of units the land could one day hold.
“I’m not saying let’s tear everything down. I’d be the first one to stop that,” she said. “But there’s got to be some balance.”