Mountain View Voice

News - February 1, 2013

Council saves Immigrant House, dumps Pearson House

by Daniel DeBolt

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to save a tiny home once lived in by migrant workers, but left the fate of the home of early Mountain View businessman Charles Pearson in the hands of a developer who's anxious to tear it down.

The council unanimously approved council member Mike Kasperzak's motion at its Jan. 29 meeting to "take no further action on the Pearson house — its final disposition is solely at the discretion of the developer."

The two homes that now stand at the corner of Villa and Bryant streets downtown must make way for a 21,745 square foot, four-story office building the council approved last year. The council agreed to allow developer Roger Burnell move the 400-square-foot "Immigrant House" on Feb. 17 to the city's Municipal Operations Control yard on Whisman Road for temporary storage, budgeting $32,000 for the job. The city would then own it.

Los Altos resident Marina Marinovich, whose family lived in the home in the 1920s and 1930s, said she was forming a nonprofit to raise money to restore the Immigrant House. It could cost as much as $227,000, according to the city, though Marinovich says she has received estimates that are a quarter of that.

"Ms. Marinovich is very good at her ability to excite people," said council member Ronit Bryant. "I have deep trust in your ability to raise funds."

Downtown resident Robert Cox also vouched for Marinovich's efforts.

No one spoke Tuesday in favor of saving the Pearson House, owned by Charles Pearson from 1892 to 1946. In the early 1900s he ran a saloon and then a grocery store on Castro Street.

"In all honesty I don't see a lot of excitement or enthusiasm or interest to save the Pearson house — that's the dilemma I'm facing right now," said council member Margaret Abe-Koga, who asked city staff to explore the possibility of using it as an affordable housing unit.

It appeared likely that the Pearson House would be torn down very soon. Burnell said he was "passionately opposed" to the city's recommendation that a final attempt be made to find someone by March 1 who would willing to relocate the Pearson House.

"It would take three to six months to implement if such a person appeared before March 1," Burnell said. "We would be in a very big loss situation. Steel and concrete contracts would expire. The cost would be enormous."

Council members did not favor spending over $900,000 to relocate and renovate the home as an affordable housing unit on a $500,000 Wright Avenue lot owned by the city, or use it as a dormitory for city employees at the MOC yard. In contrast, a modular home would cost the city only $340,000.

Council to decide location

"If we could determine the place to to put the house, it would make it easier to raise funds," Bryant said.

The council approved a motion by Bryant to decide how much the city might contribute to restoring the Immigrant House and to figure out soon where to locate it.

Marinovich presented a list of possible locations with pros and cons for each. The favorite is a section of downtown's Pioneer Park, as it is a popular park and would keep the house in its original neighborhood. Also on the list is Shoreline Park near the Rengstorff House, a city lot on Villa Street and a pair of city lots on Shoreline Boulevard near Eagle Park.

"Parking houses in parks isn't what I am looking for," Bryant said, representing the opinion of some council members. "I think the open space lots on Shoreline would be an excellent place," she said. She noted that neighborhood residents have requested community gardens there that could be included in a new park with the Immigrant House as a focal point.

"It would be fabulous, she said. "It would give people "something exciting to work towards."

Email Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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