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Two new building projects for San Juan Bautista were considered during the Oct. 3 meeting of the city’s Historic Resources Board. The first was a long-anticipated gas station project at the corner of Hwy 156 and The Alameda, which was first proposed in 2016. The second was the demolition of existing buildings at 45 Washington Street to be followed by the construction of four duplex units within two two-story apartment buildings.
The design of the gas station project was initially approved as a fuel island with 12 fuel dispensing stations, 35 on-site parking spaces, a convenience store and a quick-serve restaurant with a dining room. It reflected design elements taken from Mission San Juan Bautista, including a facade inspired by the front of the church and arches over the gas pumps that were similar in concept to the arches of the Mission walkway.
The project was opposed by Frank Leal, owner of the adjacent Hacienda de Leal, and resulted in a lengthy lawsuit that was ultimately decided for the property owners.
Following a change in ownership, Avila and Associates submitted new plans on behalf of SJB Alameda Enterprises, which have significant modifications. The number of gas pumps will remain the same, but an additional eight EV charging stations are proposed. A car wash was intended to be part of the new design but has been withdrawn, as has the quick-serve restaurant, which will now be offered as leased space. Should that space be leased to a restaurant, an additional conditional use permit would be required.
According to the staff report submitted to the commission by Assistant City Manager Brian Foucht, the redesigned project “generally conforms in mass, scale, and overall appearance with the Monterey/Mediterranean revival styles referenced in the San Juan Bautista Design Guidelines” and is consistent with the requirements of the city’s Municipal Code and General Plan.
During public comment, San Juan resident Cara Vonk brought up a few objections to the design and colors but said she was looking forward to seeing the completed submission.
Commissioner Dan DeVries began by complimenting the architects and the current owners, saying he appreciated their attempts to create a great design on what he characterized as a very important piece of property that serves as a gateway to the city.
However, he asked if the applicant would be open to other design suggestions and if any thought has been given as to how the gas station would be accessed by the hotel’s customers at night, with, for example, a lighted path between them.
Foucht said a wall between the two properties existed to observe noise regulations, and any change would have an effect that would have to be considered. He also said that a noise study would have to be done should the car wash be reintroduced.
DeVries then introduced several photographs of what he described as architects doing “something really special and going the extra mile” with similar projects. He said that since there was most likely going to be a continuance in the consideration of this project, he hoped the architect and owners would try to make the project more distinctly reflective of San Juan Bautista.
Chairman Jose Aranda said that DeVries had “nailed it” when he described the location as the gateway to the city and asked if the designers could be persuaded to come up with another revision of the design. The four commissioners then unanimously agreed to table the design and reconsider it at the board’s next meeting in November.
The Washington Street project would demolish a building that served as a Japanese school and is otherwise known as the Velasco House. Historical records indicate that it was built in the mid-19th century and was first used as a school in 1915.
With the construction of a new school in 1930, the building was moved from Fourth Street to its present location and used as a residence. During the 1940s and 1950s, the building was remodeled, and other structures were attached.
According to a report issued by the city planner’s office, for the building to be considered for preservation, it would have to reflect San Juan Bautista’s “architectural, artistic, cultural, engineering, aesthetic, historical, archaeological, natural, geological, scientific, educational, political, social, military, [or] other cultural heritage and possesses integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association.”
The report concluded that, while the building had historical value, it no longer retained the integrity of the original structure and therefore did not meet any of the listing requirements of the San Juan Bautista Register of Historic Resources.
The new Mediterranean revival style buildings would include one two-story duplex with one unit on the first floor and one unit on the second floor, plus an attached two-car garage and one two-story duplex accessory dwelling unit with one three-bedroom apartment on both the first and second floors.
During the comment section of the meeting, commissioners Tony Correia and David Medeiros said they liked the design of the project. With no further comment or objection from Commissioners Aranda and DeVries, the commission voted to refer the project to the San Juan Bautista City Council.
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