Submitted by Ryan Crane
I was interested to read the recent open letter from the Coronado Historical Association (CHA) in opposition to the Major Special Use Permit (MSUP) for Crown Manor. In their letter, the Historical Association selectively cites some portions of Coronado Municipal Code in the service of their primary goal, which is to exclude any commercial use of an historic property from this residential zone. In the interest of historical preservation, I will attempt to address the main substance of their argument below, and to show how their argument does not align with the relevant Code regarding adaptive reuse of historic resources.
Before proceeding any further, I would like to establish a couple of facts about myself. I am a resident and registered voter in the City of Coronado. I have never met nor spoken to the owner of Crown Manor, nor to anyone from the Hilton Corporation, nor to anyone else with a vested interest in the adaptive reuse of Crown Manor. I write only on behalf of the historic preservation of Crown Manor and in support of the principle of adaptive reuse. I also stand against spurious uses of special protections to advance other private interests, namely the attempt to enshrine exclusionary single-use zoning as somehow essential to the “historic” nature of a neighborhood that is not a designated Historic District. My argument is also in accordance with city staff’s initial recommendation to approve the MSUP with appropriate use restrictions.
Turning now to the conversation around the MSUP, the CHA makes the following claim in their recent letter:
“Approval of this application has the potential to be far ranging to the extent it would open the door for increased commercial uses in the neighborhood by causing nearby owners to seek similar ‘adaptive reuse’ because of the negative impact of the commercial use of this property.”
Unfortunately for the CHA’s argument, this door is already open, as any owner of an historical resource within a residential neighborhood already has such a right, as noted in Municipal Code 84.10.090(B)(1), cited by city staff, which states that “in any Residential Zone, a historic resource may be used as a residential use, a combined residential and commercial use, solely as a commercial use, or any other use permitted by the City Council through a major special use permit.” This avalanche of MSUP applications has yet to materialize. The zoning designation of this neighborhood as R1A is irrelevant as it pertains to the use of an historic resource in this zone, so long as an SUP is properly obtained.
The CHA supports this argument in a way that strains credulity, stating that “the proposed commercial use would render the adjacent and nearby private residences unsuitable for their historic use as private residences.” The idea that the use of the Crown Manor property as a boutique hotel with a total of eight overnight rooms, hosting small events, and governed by the restrictions as outlined in the city staff’s draft resolution would somehow render the surrounding homes unsuitable for human habitation borders on the absurd. This slippery slope argument should be rejected out of hand.
To illustrate my point, I would like to assure both the Historical Association and the City Council that, if the MSUP is approved, I would consider it my civic duty to acquire at least one of these historic homes at an appropriately distressed price and to assume all the attendant risks of living next door to Crown Manor in an historic beachfront property in one of the most desirable zip codes in the country.
Finally, I would like to address the CHA’s contention that this neighborhood deserves special protection as exclusively and permanently residential. They allege that allowing any commercial use in this residential neighborhood, which is not protected as an Historic District,
“would so significantly change the feel and character of this neighborhood which has maintained its residential character for well over 100 years that denial of the application was sufficient based upon the standards provided in section 86.55.060, subparagraph D(2) alone.”
The CHA conveniently ignores Code section 84.10.090(B)(1), referenced above, which explicitly allows commercial uses in residential zones through the MSUP process. Therefore, it seems that it must be a specific commercial use which is injurious, and that the violation of the “feel and character” of the neighborhood as residential by the introduction of any commercial use is not sufficient to satisfy the conditions of subparagraph D(2). Indeed, they argue that
“although the maintenance of historic structures is essential to Coronado’s character, that character is not derived only from the fact that a particular house is maintained, but also from the very nature of those neighborhoods which have been maintained as residential neighborhoods for more than 100 years. In this case, the maintenance of the neighborhood in which 1015 Ocean Blvd. is located is so reflective of the history of Coronado that it is one of a handful of neighborhoods which are critical to the historic integrity of our City.”
Be that as it may, the CHA should not be allowed to unilaterally declare that the neighborhood deserves historical consideration or protection, and no such protection for this neighborhood has been granted by City Council. Ultimately, I will concede that this seems to be a point that would benefit from qualified legal counsel, but I will again note that the City explicitly allows commercial uses of historic properties in residential zones, and the CHA appears to ignore this fact out of convenience.
The CHA’s allegations that Crown Manor’s proposed use would violate subparagraphs D(1) and (3-5) are so weakly argued that it’s not clear that the CHA believes its own argument. To take one example, the argument that noise or this particular commercial use at Crown Manor would somehow result in a “harmful effect … on the environmental quality and natural resources of the City” is left completely unsupported.
Unfortunately, it seems that the Coronado Historical Association is willing to sacrifice the principle of adaptive reuse for the historical preservation of an exemplary Coronado property in the name of a poorly argued claim that the neighborhood must be maintained as exclusively residential for “historic” reasons. The CHA makes primary recourse to subparagraph D2, claiming that any commercial use in an R1A zone is injurious, ignoring the fact that Coronado Municipal Code explicitly allows commercial uses of historic properties in any residential zone, under certain restrictions imposed by the MSUP process.
Having demonstrated the weakness of the CHA’s case, I would like to submit this letter to the consideration of the City Council, in support of the city staff’s draft resolution for a Major Special Use Permit for Crown Manor. This would include the noise ordinance, the Parking Plan, and whatever usage restrictions the Council would deem reasonable. I encourage the ultimate approval of the Major Special Use Permit. It is disappointing, though not entirely surprising, that the CHA has taken a stand against an appropriate adaptive reuse of this historic property.
(These views reflect my opinions as a private citizen, and in no way reflect the views of the Department of Defense or US Navy.)