Opinion—Where was the law to protect CCC buildings?
This photo was taken about 1950 when the buildings were used as a fire station. This historical building, one of six bulldozed recently by the school district, was built by the U.S. Works Progress Administration during FDR’s New Deal program of the Great Depression. The WPA brass plaque survived the demolition. This photo was taken in 1950 about 1950 when the buildings were used as a fire station.
April 17, 2013In the wake of the local school district's controversial destruction of six historic wooden buildings -- the Civilian Conservation Corps camp of 1933 —the question has been raised: if these buildings were of true historic value, why weren't they protected by an historic preservation ordinance? Good question. And a good answer follows.
First, some background. A plan to identify local historic sites began 35 years ago with formation of the Local History Committee by the Friends of the Valley Center Library, forerunner to the present-day Historical Society.
To date, some 40 properties and natural resources have been identified as having historic significance. Some have been marked with signage. The owners of these and other sites have been educated about the importance of their properties. Most are protecting their properties without an official ordinance. Some have taken advantage of the Mills Act, which reduces property taxes if the home remains in its original state.
Regarding the demolished CCC buildings, the Historical Society began the process of seeking a protective ordinance in 2007 with a listing on the register of the County Historic Site Board (HSB). Following an initial inquiry, the coordinator of the HSB flagged the property as to its historic potential and sent a memo to multiple County departments: "I would ask that everyone be aware that the building has the potential to be a significant historic structure," she wrote.
Unfortunately, it soon became clear that actual ownership of the CCC site was in question. The County had acquired the property in 1919, but a series of ownership transfers and quitclaim deeds muddled the process. At various time, the property was owned or operated by the County, the State of California or the Federal Government.
By the time the convoluted and confusing ownership mess had been settled, three years had passed and the State had declared the site as surplus. It was in no mood to sign off on preservation.
The question remains: did the school district, which purchased the property in 2011, know the history of the site. Over the course of several years, multiple stories about the historic nature of the buildings had already appeared in The Roadrunner, North County Times and Union-Tribune. The fact that some of the buildings were built by the United States Works Progress Administration should have served as a clue to their historic value.
For the school district to pretend that there was no awareness of historic significance is disingenuous. To demolish an important part of local and American history was trespassing on the history of this community.