Mountain View Voice

News - October 26, 2012

Immigrant House saved, for now

But city has no plan restore larger Pearson House

by Daniel DeBolt

On Tuesday the City Council voted to save what is possibly the city's oldest home still standing in its original location, the tiny house at 166 Bryant Street where countless immigrants have lived, possibly since the 1860s. Saving the larger 1880s home on the property, the Pearson House, has been a more complicated matter.

While its current home is set for an office development in the next three-to-six months, the so-called "immigrant house" is safe for at least the next three years. That is how long City Council members said it could be stored at a municipal yard on Whisman Road, taking up the equivalent of two parking spaces until money can be raised to restore it and move it to a location yet to be determined.

"We saved it, we saved it!" said an elated Marina Marinovich after the meeting. Her grandparents and father had lived in the home after migrating from Croatia in the 1920s and 1930s. She has been working to save the home and offered to raise the restoration and moving costs, estimated by city staff to cost up to $255,000.

"With all of this immigrant bashing and hater-talk these days, why not have this as the monument to say that we love immigrants here?" said Diane Solomon. "I don't think anyone has anything like this."

"It really does stand for what our community grew out of," said council member Jac Siegel.

Mountain View was home to more than just the wealthy, as exemplified by the Rengstorff House, he said. "There were also workers here."

Those working to save the immigrant house favor either relocating it to Shoreline Park, where it would contrast with the Rengstorff House, or Pioneer Park, where it would remain in its original downtown context. City staff say there is little space at Pioneer Park and did not recommend it among numerous potential locations for either home. Locations that council and community members didn't appear to favor include a residential lot on Wright Avenue, open space areas along Shoreline Boulevard near Eagle Park and a lot at the corner of Grant Road and Cuesta Avenue next to St. Timothy's Episcopal church. Downtown resident Robert Cox spoke for saving the immigrant house but was against using one of the city-owned parking lots downtown in place of valuable real estate development.

For the larger Pearson House, once home to early businessman Charles Pearson, the council voted to study several options, including a dormitory for city employees who live far away or a rental facility — though city staff said there was no identifiable need for a rental facility as small as the Pearson House. Council members Tom Means and John Inks were opposed.

Developer Roger Burnell had offered to pay the restoration and moving costs of the Pearson House as part of failed plan to put a city history museum in the Cuesta Annex. He told the city in early October that he would only be willing to pay the city whatever it would cost to demolish both homes, an estimated $50,000 to $70,000, said senior planner Scott Plambaeck. The City Council did not make a requirement of Burnell's office project the costs of moving and restoring the homes, estimated to cost between $855,000 and $930,000 in total.

Email Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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