Tomorrow, Nov 12, the SLO City Council will decide whether an historical structure, the Heyd Adobe, located at 614 Monterey Street will be demolished to make way for a new SLO Repertory Theater and a new parking structure. This is not a binary decision. Both properties can be preserved.
James Papp is an architectural historian, co-owner of a heritage tourism company named SLO Walkabout, and member and former chair of the City of San Luis Obispo’s Cultural Heritage Committee. According to Mr. Papp, the Heyd Adobe, like the Motel Inn, is a San Luis Obispo “first”. The 1939 Heyd Adobe is the world’s first demonstration house of Bitudobe, the revolutionary adobe-bitumen hybrid that made the Adobe Revival accessible to the working and middle classes. According to Mr. Papp, this property qualifies for the National Register of Historic Places.
The good news is that on-site relocation is feasible. In fact it would be cheaper than relocating it elsewhere. Realize that the footprint of the Repertory Theater is currently designed to take up half of the proposed site while the Heyd Adobe currently takes up only one-tenth. And relocating the structure on-site would minimize the impact on both the Heyd’s integrity and the Downtown Historic District’s historic integrity. Why? Because this street is primarily comprised of historically significant residential structures. These structures include 664 Monterey, 642 Monterey (the Hays-Latimer-Leitcher Adobe), 679 Monterey, 667 Monterey, 610 Monterey and 614 Monterey Street.
Preservation of the Heyd Adobe was unanimously supported by both the Cultural Heritage Committee and the Planning Commission. It should be noted that the Palm/Nipomo Parking Structure Project Environmental Impact Report identified one of two “environmentally superior alternatives” (Alternative 4) that was titled “Historic Resource Preservation”. This alternative would include the parking structure and 5,000 square feet of commercial space while retaining the two houses at 610 and 614 Monterey Street (the Heyd Adobe). The theater would not be included as part of this alternative.
However, preserving the Heyd Adobe and building the SLO Repertory Theater would be a win-win.
City staff have stated the following “The preservation of the Heyd Adobe in situ or on site makes the proposed parking structure and SLO Rep Theatre as currently designed totally infeasible. Changing the design to accommodate the Heyd Adobe in situ or onsite would likely delay the project for a year and the City and SLO Rep would incur substantial redesign costs.” Speaking as an architect, this is a patently absurd statement. The architect’s fees for new construction average 5% of construction costs for small repertory theaters. The construction costs for a 17,000 square foot structure at an average of $300 per square foot would be no more than than $5,100,000 and the architect would normally be paid $255,000. However, the architect, Bryce Engstrom, has been almost exclusively involved in the design of residential structures. He has no prior experience in the design of repertory theaters. So it’s highly unlikely that the he would be charging the average 5% commission.
If any of this concerns you, please show up at 6:00pm Tuesday, November 12, as this item, under the heading “PUBLIC HEARING TO INTRODUCE AN ORDINANCE TO REZONE PROPERTIES at 609 & 633 Palm 610, 614 & 630 Monterey, 970 & 972 Nipomo Streets, and REVIEW OF A NEW PERFORMING ARTS FACILITY AND A NEW PARKING STRUCTURE WITHIN THE DOWNTOWN COMMERCIAL ZONE”, will be the first public hearing item to come before the Council.