La Jolla’s Yamada House Earns Historic Designation from San Diego Board of Trustees


In exploring the possible criteria by which the Joseph and Elizabeth Yamada House in La Jolla might be designated historic, San Diego city planners and IS Architecture representatives from La Jolla conducted extensive research.

The more they learned, the more evidence of historical status they found.

And on Nov. 17, the San Diego Historic Resources Board chose to nominate the property at 1676 El Camino del Teatro under four of six HRB criteria. The house was due for council review this week following a preliminary review in September.

City of San Diego staffer Alvin Lin previously said the property in the Muirlands area is named after the late San Diego landscape architect Joseph Yamada, who designed for institutions including SeaWorld and UC San Diego. , and Elizabeth Yamada, who worked at landscape architecture firm Wimmer. and Yamada and “led activism and educational efforts for the preservation of Japanese-American history.”

The two lived in the house from 1973 until their deaths within days of each other in May 2020.

A report prepared on the property has determined that the house is historically significant under Criterion B (indicating that a property is identified with significant people or events in local, state, or national history) and Criterion C (which states that a property embodies the distinctive characteristics of a style, type, period or method of construction or is a valid example of the use of natural materials or craftsmanship).

Lin said city staff also found justification for designating the property under Criterion D (indicating that a property is representative of the outstanding work of a master builder, designer, architect, engineer, landscape architect , interior designer, artist or craftsperson) for Yamada’s work as a landscape architect.

“The property features a front yard designed in the Japanese garden style and was designed by the property’s first resident, Joseph Yamada,” Lin said. “It includes a boulder-lined stepping stone walkway that continues to the main entrance.”

He said city staff supported the inclusion of front yard landscaping and “any other contributing landscape features identified as significant” in the designation.

An image presented to the San Diego Board of Historic Resources shows the landscaped facade of the Joseph and Elizabeth Yamada House.

(Screenshot by Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Additionally, HRB administrator Ann Woods wanted the home to be designated under Criterion A, which states that a property “exemplifies or reflects special elements of the city, community or historic district. , archaeological, cultural, social, economic, political, aesthetic, engineering, landscaping or architectural development.

She said the house was built at a time when “a gentlemen’s agreement still excluded black, Jewish and Asian American families from owning property in the area. The Yamada House set a necessary societal precedent for La Jolla and wider areas of the city and is an important part of Japanese-American history in San Diego.

She proposed to support the designation according to criteria A, B, C and D, which were adopted unanimously.

Current owner Troy Wu said: “It means a lot to my wife [Insun] and me, because we love everything that has been done for this property. When we purchased the house, our wish was to restore it, but to learn about the influence, contributions and accomplishments of Joseph and Elizabeth in San Diego. It is a pleasure to continue this legacy.

Other HRB news

The board approved items associated with two other La Jolla homes on the consent agenda, meaning there were no presentations or discussions:

Dorothy and Harriet Cottages: The cottages on the 800 block of Coast Boulevard South were designated historic in 2020 and are affected by a proposed redevelopment of the block. HRB was asked to ratify the findings and mitigation measures associated with the project.

The plan calls for Coastal Development, Site Development and Neighborhood Development Permits and a Provisional Map to consolidate two lots into one. He would demolish five structures at 813-821 Coast Blvd. South; remodel and add to non-historic property at 811 Coast Blvd. South; remodel and add to Harriet Cottage at 825 Coast Blvd. South; move, remodel and add to Dorothy Cottage at 827 Coast Blvd. South; and build six new three-story townhouses above an underground garage. The project would total 23,591 square feet of development.

MacPherson and Theodora Hole Rental House: According to a report associated with a historic designation nomination for the home at 7109 Monte Vista Ave., the two-story single-family residence and detached garage was built in 1930 in the Monterey style.

Since there had been only one alteration to the property since its construction – to remove a brick chimney – the house was designated under Criterion C HRB as an example of the Monterey Revival style.


Benefits of historic designation include the availability of the Mills Act property tax reduction program for homeowners to help maintain, restore and rehabilitate historic properties; use of the more flexible historic building code; the use of the historical conditional use license, which allows flexibility of use; programs that vary according to site conditions and owner objectives; and flexibility in other regulatory requirements. However, houses cannot be significantly altered once they are designated historic.

The San Diego Historic Resources Board meets monthly. To learn more, visit and click on “Public hearings, meetings and summonses”. ◆


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