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Publication Date: Friday, September 05, 2003

Despite owners' protests, house still deemed historic Despite owners' protests, house still deemed historic (September 05, 2003)

Council refuses to take house of preservation list

By Candice Shih

On Monday, there were 94 buildings on the city's list of historic resources. Despite the efforts of one Mountain View family, there were still 94 by the end of Tuesday night.

The first property owners to request removal of a property from the city's Register of Historical Resources, the Spencer family believes its home at 696 California St. is not historic, and is even in disrepair.

They professed no plans to demolish, modify or sell the home, but wanted the option to do so. Inclusion of the house on the list was "punitive" and decreased its sale value, said Paulette Spencer, the head of the trust that owns the property.

But, citing the current process in place to review the city's historic preservation policy, the council voted 6-1 to deny its removal on Tuesday.

"All I'm asking is that we bottle this decision," said Council member Rosemary Stasek, expecting to consider the house in context with other historical resources at a later date.

Vice Mayor Matt Pear expressed concern over the property owners' rights and was the sole voice of dissent.

Spencer was disappointed by the decision, but perhaps accomplished one of her goals. "We didn't want people to continue to think we agreed that it's historic because we were silent," she said.

Given the council's decision, she added that she would have no choice but to participate in future discussions of the city's historic preservation policy.

In 2002, 94 properties were selected for the Register. An interim ordinance, which expires in April 2004, protects the historical aspects of the properties.

Property owners wishing to make significant changes to them or otherwise compromise their historical attributes must seek council approval.

The Spencers were the first homeowners to request removal of their property from the Register, although another family's plans to demolish their historic home on Palo Alto Avenue was thwarted by the ordinance earlier.

Known as the McDonald house for its first inhabitants, the Spencers' home was built in 1906 in the Queen Anne/Craftsman style.

When Richard and Emaline Atwood McDonald died, their nephew Austin Spencer became a part owner of the property. His daughters Paulette and Suzette grew up in the home, but it has been a rental property for about 20 years.

Another property may find itself in the same situation in two weeks. Like the Spencers, Kent Taylor has applied to have his property removed from the Register.

He argued that his duplex at 439-441 Palo Alto not historic since it has been modified greatly from the original property. Zoning administrator Whitney McNair agreed and said she would recommend that the council remove the property from the list.

The council will hold a public hearing on the removal of Taylor's duplex during its Sept. 16 meeting.

E-mail Candice Shih at


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