by Barry E. Hager
The efforts of a group of Mission Hills residents recently paid off when the City of San Diego added 99 homes to the Mission Hills Historic District. The homes are all within the original Mission Hills subdivision, recorded by George W. Marston and others in 1908.
“It was a complex process, frustrating at times, but rewarding in the end,” said Debbie Quillin, who lives in the expansion area and headed up the effort. The expansion area boundaries are Sunset Boulevard on the south, Witherby Street on the west, Hickory Street (both sides) on the north, and St. James on the east (see map).
Mission Hills is recognized for one of the city’s largest, most intact collection of vintage homes from the early 20th century. The expansion area includes homes designed by many recognized master architects and builders, including William Sterling Hebberd, Nathan Ridgon, Morris Irvin, Frank P. Allen, Jr., Fred Jarboe, and Alexander Schrieber. Architectural styles found in the area include Craftsman, Prairie and Spanish Eclectic. Residents have recognized the need to protect the area and its architectural gems for the benefit of present and future generations.
In 2007, the City approved the first portion of the Mission Hills Historic District, which covers 75 homes, and the Fort Stockton Line Historic District, which covers 109 homes. Only part of the original Mission Hills subdivision was covered by these districts. Shortly after their approval, thoughts turned toward expanding the Mission Hills District. With encouragement from Mission Hills Heritage, Debbie Quillin, Jill Limber and other neighbors began work in 2008 on the expansion area. Aiding in the project were Pat Olafson, Mary Dilligan, Rosemary Watson, Margaret Kazmer and others.
Work included researching records at the County Recorder’s office, the city’s water and sewer department and the archives of the San Diego History Center. The team also photographed and prepared a detailed architectural description of each home and documented known alterations. A form was prepared for each home which summarized the information. Ronald V. May and Kiley Wallace of Legacy 106, Inc. provided professional expertise and reviewed the residents’ work. Residents raised funds to support the project by holding holiday home tours in December 2088 and 2009. Mission Hills Heritage also provided financial support with a matching fund.
A completed nomination report was submitted to the city’s Planning Department in September 2011. From then, it took over two years for city staff to begin processing the report. Processing included polling residents within the expansion area, holding a public workshop in May 2014, and culminated with two hearings before the City’s Historical Resources Board (HRB).
At the final hearing on June 26, 2014, the HRB voted unanimously to amend the Mission Hills Historic District boundaries to include the expansion area. Of the 99 homes, the board voted to designate 68 as “contributing resources,” meaning that these homes will be treated as if separately historically designated and can apply for a Mills Act contract with possible property tax benefits. The entire area will benefit from the protection of its community character and property values.
Other areas of the original Mission Hills Subdivision remain to be added to the Mission Hills Historic District, include the Sierra Vista/Valle Vista area to the north. Efforts are also under way for to create a separate historic district for Inspiration Heights, with its iconic entry pillars on Sunset Boulevard.
Barry Hager is a board member of Mission Hills Heritage and has lived with his family in Mission Hills for over fifteen years.