Government / Politics

San Juan Historic Resources Board says remove La Casa Rosa balcony to make building safe

Sidewalk under balcony closed since September 2018 due to safety complaint.

The San Juan Bautista Historic Resources Board gave input on how to safely secure the unstable La Casa Rosa building at 107 Third Street at a March 12 meeting. City staff had requested the board’s input on the preferred way to move forward with the project, with the board ultimately suggesting to temporarily remove the balcony until the building is ready to be restored.

Interim City Manager Ed Tewes, filling in following the resignation of Michaele LaForge, said that LaForge asked for the item to be agendized.

“The directive was to make the building safe, it is not the objective to restore it historically,” Tewes said. “That is the responsibility of the property owner. Our job is to simply make it safe. Yet nonetheless because it is in the historic district and it itself is a historic building there is interest in how will it be made safe and what impacts will that have on its potential future restoration.”

Tewes indicated a couple options for the Historic Resources Board (which also functions as the San Juan Bautista Planning Commission):

  • Shoring up the balcony with posts so it does not move;
  • Removing the balcony temporarily while the structure is made safe and bringing it back when the building is ready for restoration.

Tewes said that LaForge had asked contractor Manny Espino to take a look at the structure.

Espino spoke at the meeting and said he is one of the owners of Harry Williams Construction and does planning review for the state of California. He also said he had a background in code enforcement and building inspection.

“Our goal is to safeguard the building so it doesn’t collapse on a family,” he said.

Elements designed to hold up the structure inside the building were removed, he noted, and there was extensive termite damage and natural settling as a result of excavation at the rear of the building. He said the building is “structurally unsound.”

“Time is not on our side, being that it is already failing and getting worse,” Espino continued. He said removing the balcony would be the easiest way to make the structure safer.

“We should be thinking ‘safety first,’” commented Commissioner Yolanda Delgado.

The other board members agreed with the proposal to remove the balcony and put it in storage until the building can be restored.

La Casa Rosa, built in 1870, was purchased in 2016 by Greg and Christin Burda. The building’s interior was demolished for a planned restaurant and apartment, and though the Historic Resources Board and Planning Commission approved a site design for the property in April 2017, no building permits were submitted or approved, according to a Dec. 18 engineering report. According to previous statements from LaForge, the owner received verbal permission from previous city staff, but never obtained a permit.

Work on the building was stopped in April 2018 and the city closed part of the sidewalk in September after receiving a safety complaint.

The City Council declared the La Casa Rosa building a nuisance at a Jan. 22 special meeting, where City Attorney Deborah Mall said the action allowed the city to repair the balcony after holding a public hearing and placing a lien on the property.

Other related BenitoLink articles:

San Juan moves forward with abatement on La Casa Rosa

Historic La Casa Rosa in San Juan Bautista declared a nuisance


Nicholas Preciado

Nicholas Preciado is content manager for BenitoLink, as well as a writer, editor, and journalist. He previously worked at the Hollister Free Lance, Gilroy Dispatch, and Morgan Hill Times newspapers. Nick graduated from Humboldt State University in 2013 with a B.A. in English Writing Practices and a minor in journalism.