Developer wants to demolish historic home | June 8, 2012 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

News - June 8, 2012

Developer wants to demolish historic home

by Daniel DeBolt

One of the first homes ever built in Mountain View's downtown area would be demolished if developer Roger Burnell's proposal for an office building is approved by the City Council next month.

Following Burnell's unsuccessful attempts to move the 140 year old Pearson House at 902 Villa St., a draft environmental impact report has been created as a first step toward demolition. It finds the "1870s home" to be "locally significant and historic" and the demolition to be a "significant and unavoidable impact."

Zoning Administrator Peter Gilli is set to make a recommendation on Burnell's proposed project at his June 13 meeting, set for at 4 p.m. in City Hall. A City Council decision on the project is expected July 10.

Burnell proposes a 21,750-square-foot building to be called "Bryant Park Plaza" with first-floor retail and parking. The building would be four stories tall, or 61 feet high, with balconies overlooking the surrounding properties. It would be built just 5 feet from the fence line with neighboring gourmet restaurant Chez TJ. Restaurant officials say it would be overshadowed by the four-story building.

"He tried to save the house and was thinking of moving it to Cuesta Annex, but that fell through," said City Planner Scott Plambaeck.

The City Council rejected a plan to include the Pearson House as part of a city history museum, as proposed by Burnell and the Mountain View Historical Association. "He looked at private sites and couldn't find any," Plambaeck said.

Burnell is traveling in Europe and was not available for comment, said an assistant in an email.

The home is known as the Pearson House because the second known owner was Charles Pearson, who owned the house from 1892 to 1946. Pearson was an entrepreneur in early Mountain View, who owned a grocery store from 1905-1918 in a building he built at 220-230 Castro Street. Bbefore that, Pearson briefly ran the Old Haverty Corner Saloon on Castro and Villa. The saloon may have failed because the temperance movement was strong in Mountain View's early days, thanks to a large presence of Seventh Day Adventists, according to an EIR report on the home's history by Leslie Dill of Dill Design Group.

"How significant these businesses were and what role these businesses played as well as the role played by Mr. Pearson himself in the community of Mountain View, is not established ," Dill writes.

Like most of downtown, the home was built on land originally part of "Rancho pastoria de las Borregas," 8,800 acres granted to the family of Mariano Castro by the Mexican government in 1842. The Castros gave 3,300 acres to their attorney Sherman Houghton, in exchange for protecting their claim to the land in state Supreme Court. Houghton named the area "Villa lands," and laid out streets and town near a depot he established on the 1864-built train line. He sold much of Villa Lands to Doctor Bowling Bailey, a state Assemblyman, farmer and school trustee, who developed the area between 1859 and 1888, including the Pearson House.

Dill's report includes a long list of owners and tenants, none of whom appear to be historically important. In 1947, Pacific Telephone used the home as an office. The first known owners were Mathurin and Georgette LeDeit, from 1888 to 1892. Le Deit was a French-born butcher who worked in San Jose.

The now dilapidated, vacant house and two smaller buildings on the property "are not adequately distinctive in character and are not identified with significant persons or events," Dill concludes. "This property does not appear to contribute to the understanding of the broad patterns of history and cultural heritage in the development of Mountain View California or the United States."

The EIR adds that if the house had to be restored, "it is unknown whether the cost of moving and rehabilitating this home would exceed the value of the house to a private party, the Mountain View Historical Association, or the City."

Evidence of some water and pest damage is noted in the report.

Burnell is traveling in Europe and was not available for comment, said an assistant in an email.

The EIR, including site plans and Pearson House history, is available at under the community development page's announcements.

Email Daniel DeBolt at


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