Council Strife Rises to Surface Over Historic Home Debate

City Hall

Councilwoman Barbara Denny was in yet another dustup with her colleagues Tuesday. Last time it was over her refusal to support the city budget. This time it came during a discussion of a proposed historic district ordinance.

Mayor Casey Tanaka suggested requiring a greater degree of support from neighbors before a block or blocks could be designated as historic, instead of the 51 percent city staff had recommended. 

After deriding his idea, Denny attempted to take credit for his conversion to the cause of historic preservation, saying “I’m pleased that you are joining my side.” 

At that point Councilman Mike Woiwode told her to “stop insulting the mayor. It has no place here.”

When Councilwoman Carrie Downey and Councilman Al Ovrom entered the fray, she took them all on.

“I wish you would show me and the public the same respect you show each other,” Denny complained.

At that point Woiwode and Downey walked out and Tanaka called for a recess.

When they reassembled, Denny was remorseful. She told Tanaka: “I want to apologize. I didn’t mean any offense to you or Mr. Woiwode. Please accept my sincere and heartfelt apology.”

She also apologized to Downey and Ovrom “if I offending them, even though it was said in a civil manner.“

Despite Denny’s claim, Tanaka has long championed historic preservation, said Rita Sarich and Doug St. Denis, who were at the meeting and are ardent preservationists.

Sarich is the executive-director of MainStreet and St. Denis recently served as vice-chair of the Historic Resources Commission.

Before joining the City Council, Tanaka served as the commission’s chair; he currently is the council’s representative to the board of the Coronado Historical Association.

Downey pointed out that Tanaka had tempered her strong commitment to property owner rights.  

Still she and Ovrom opposed the ordinance, which would allow a block where 51 percent of the homes were historic to declare itself a historic district if 60 percent of the homeowners agreed.

The historic commission and the council also would have to approve.

“I left a planned community because I was tired of people of telling me what I could do with my property,” Downey said. “This smells like that.”

The ordinance passed 3-2, with Tanaka, Denny and Woiwode voting in favor. Under its terms, non-historic houses in historic districts would be subject to the same rules as historic homes, whether homeowners supported the designation or not.

The mayor argued that as its stands now, one person can alter a neighborhood’s character if he decided to build a McMansion or a row of cottages.

“Wouldn’t be nice to give a block or several blocks a tool that could make an entire neighborhood charming?” Tanaka asked.