By Barbara Force Johannes

The Dana Point Historical Society has a new feature on our web site just in time to salute May as National Preservation Month. You should now be able to see a photo and description of each of the 28 historic structures currently on the City of Dana Point Historic Resource Register. The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s theme for May 2010 is “Old is the New Green” and we want to commend the homeowners who have worked to maintain and preserve their historic dwellings. History fans and preservationists are being asked to spread the word and there is no doubt that historic preservation also plays an important role in developing a more environmentally and economically sustainable community. Preservationists and environmentalists are uniting to preserve resources that include building materials, energy and water. A recent preservation article in the Los Angeles Times (March 27, 2010) stated that many building professionals tell us that the greenest home is the one that is already built. The energy costs of demolishing old homes and manufacturing building materials for new houses exceeds the energy use of existing homes or buildings. Author Susan Carpenter reports on the need to conserve energy by better insulating older homes and by using LEDs that use 20% of the energy and last 60 times longer than traditional incandescent light bulbs. Low-flow toilets and water fixtures and drought tolerant plants are also part of historic restorations that can now receive a green evaluation as to water and energy conservation.

It is encouraging to learn that preserving our historic resources as our cultural inheritance also helps conserve our natural resources. Historic rehabilitation can be planned to conserve resources, improve indoor air quality, water conservation and energy efficiency in the community. SCWD/WDOC officials have to be pleased! By supporting historic preservation as a member of the Dana Point Historic Society you appreciate the past and help preserve the environment for our future. When we reinvest in older and historic buildings, preserve historic homes and even patronize businesses located in historic buildings, we help to sustain our local heritage and our environment.

The City of Dana Point officially recognizes the owners of historic structures by honoring them with a bronze plaque that designates their property as a City of Dana Point Historic Home or schooner, as in the case of the recently recognized Curlew, the historic schooner moored in Dana Point Harbor. This historic recognition also provides the owner with other waivers in the event of needed restoration permits and qualifies them to apply for the California Mills Act tax abatement program which helps compensate the maintenance cost of older structures by reducing property taxes.

There is definitely a local trend to restore historic properties in Dana Point and coastal Orange County. The 1914 Dolph House is the best known rehabilitation of Dana Point’s oldest home, formerly used as a hospital administration building, into a luxurious private residence in 2006. Gay and John Fotsch successfully restored a 1930 Woodruff home located at 33872 Valencia Place within the last two years. City Architect John Tilton recommended the historic designation of the Valencia home to the Planning Commission in October, 2008 based on the tremendous improvements made to the property and also stated that he hoped the home would be on a future Dana Point Historical Society Home Tour. Of course, we hope so too! The home was recently sold to new owners and John Fotsch is currently saving a historic home in Laguna Beach, so old is the new green in terms of careers in preservation as well as the environment! In fact, Laguna Beach requires that the owner consults a historic preservationist to evaluate the historic status of a home applying for the Mills Act.

Earlier this year we praised Karen and Fred Scuncio who recently saved a Doheny cottage threatened with demolition. Located at 26822 Vista Del Mar, the Scuncios purchased the property last summer after searching for a beach house as far south as San Clemente. The large lot and neighborhood attracted them to the Doheny Village of Capistrano Beach and they decided to restore the Spanish Colonial Revival casita and, possibly, build another guesthouse, rather than tearing the original structure down to build a much larger home.

Much to the relief of Lantern Village residents, a family from San Clemente has recently purchased and restored a 1928 Woodruff home located at 33771 Street of the Blue Lantern and is taking care to restore the home exactly as designed by Charles A. Hunter for Sidney Woodruff’s development. The two-story home is across the street from another lovely Woodruff home owned by Barbara and Jack Roberts who have returned to their historic home after a decade living in Mexico. The Roberts plan to apply for the Historic Resource Register, a City program begun in 2001 after the Roberts moved to Mexico. Old really does seem to be the new green! The Doheny House has been listed on the Historic Resource Register since 2001 and the community looks forward to this beautiful Capistrano Beach icon becoming the next best example of the current preservation trend. When granted the Mills Act, the owners sign an agreement to uphold the exterior historical attributes of the original architectural style in exchange for development standard flexibility and financial incentives such as waived permit fees for an addition as well as property tax abatement as granted by the Orange County Tax Assessor. Many owners who cherish their historical homes believe that their home does not qualify because the house has had an addition or has been updated in some other way. This is not true and if they read the descriptions of the Historic Register homes on our web site they will note that many have been enlarged. These homes are still eligible for the Historic Register because the alterations or restorations to the home have been done in the original architectural style to maintain the home. There are over 50 structures, both homes and commercial buildings, on the historic survey that have not applied for the Historic Resource Register and are potentially eligible. Other buildings that have reached 50 years of age since the City’s Historic Survey was completed in 1997 may also qualify. Some owners might have to correct inappropriate changes to the building, but the tax savings could make it worthwhile. Old is the new green and the owners of old or historic properties are eligible to apply to the City.

Click here to see some of the historic homes and areas in Dana Point.