Burnell has promised to pay all restoration costs and pick up the tab for moving the historic structure to the Annex, next to the future home of the Mountain View History Museum. But aside from his interest in saving a historic house, Burnell's motive in making the offer is to remove a major impediment standing in the way of developing an office building at the site to help meet the growing demand.
The deal would meet two goals for the city, to build more office space downtown and to preserve a historic home, without investing a lot of money. But the catch in this case is Burnell's idea that the best place for the Pearson House is Cuesta Park, a 12-acre refuge that is mostly undeveloped and is near and dear to a wide range of residents.
For this and other reasons, Cuesta Annex is probably not the best site for the Pearson House. During the last year, the Annex has become a lightening rod of controversy due to the Santa Clara Valley water agency's plan to turn a wide swath of the park into a flood basin. The idea has been endorsed by the City Council and is moving forward. There is also a plan to locate a history museum there. Park supporters are strongly opposed to placing any buildings in the Annex, and have been particularly incensed about the museum moving in, as well as the plan to excavate much of the park by about 10 feet to construct the flood basin.
Given the already intense pressure on Cuesta Annex, it would be a mistake for the city to dedicate any more of the precious park land at this site for another structure, when neighbors and park supporters are decrying the development planned already.
Instead, we urge the city to sit down with Burnell and find another site for the Pearson House, which is said to be one of the four most historic homes in the city.
No other locations have been mentioned, and we certainly are not suggesting that the city purchase a property for the purpose. But this is a very rare opportunity for the city to help restore a treasured building that belonged to Charles Pearson, who more than 100 years ago owned and operated a general store a few blocks away from the house.
Years ago the city moved the historic Rengstorff House to Shoreline Park, where it has attracted a large docent force and has become a popular focal point for historic programs that draw in many members of the community. Similarly, perhaps the Pearson House could be moved to Shoreline and given a new purpose at a site that would be visible to the hundreds of residents and visitors who visit the park every.
Burnell is a former Mountain View resident and member of the Mountain View Historical Association. He has restored other historic buildings, including the Alliance Land building in San Jose. We can't imagine the city receiving a better offer to restore the Pearson House. Surely there has to be a way to create a "win-win" that will save the house and make way for office space on Villa Street.