DOWNEY − A Downey-based organization dedicated to preserving the city's cultural resources is gearing up for another fight this month as plans move forward to replace a house some are calling historic.
Members of The Downey Conservancy say they will petition the city to investigate the historical value of the Savage/Grace home, a Victorian-style estate on 9306 Gallatin Road, which they believe is in jeopardy of demolition.
"It would be an absolute shame to lose such a beautiful part of our city," said George Redfox, president of The Downey Conservancy. "We encourage the community along with other preservation groups to join in our efforts to save this home so that it may be enjoyed by many generations to come."
Built in 1909, you may recognize the 3,560-sq.-ft. house, which sits on the corner of Gallatin Road and Lemoran Avenue. Surrounded by tall palm trees, the white-washed home features a red brick stairway and veranda porch with a fan.
Redfox said not much is known about the home's history, but it was at one time owned by a Downey civil engineer according to a 1914 phone book. Just two families lived on the street at that time.
"If there's a prominent house in Downey, that's it," said Redfox who recalls driving past it growing up. "You feel like you're not in Downey when you hit that spot."
Redfox said the conservancy's concern for the home grew when the owner put it up for sale on June 16.
According to a listing on the online real estate database Zillow, the four-bedroom, 4.5-bathroom home is selling for $2.7 million. It features family, dining, and living rooms each with fireplaces and a kitchen with breakfast nook.
However, the listing also indicates that the 30,050-sq.-ft. has been subdivided into three parcels.
"We're afraid the new owners will demolish the house and put new homes in its place," said Redfox.
David Bluementhal is a senior planner for the city of Downey. He confirms that the property owner Aidee Lopez successfully sought approval from the planning commission in 2013 to subdivide the land into three lots -- two 10,000-sq.-ft. parcels facing Gallatin Road and one 10,000-sq.-ft. parcel facing Lemoran Avenue.
Contrary to the conservancy's claims, Bluementhal said the city finds no historic basis to protect the home from future development.
"We don't think it's historic," he said. "It's not connected to any person or event in history and the architecture is not unique enough."
Bluementhal said the homeowner is currently undergoing plan checks for three new homes that would be constructed on the property. However, the city requires the current home to be relocated or demolished before any new construction begins.
"It could be one or two months before the property owners can do anything," Bluementhal said.
Lopez could not be reached for comment on the proposed plans for the property.
Nonetheless, The Downey Conservancy is hopeful that city officials will look into the potential historic nature of the house and push for its relocation to another property in Downey if possible.
"The Savage/Grace home is a perfect example of what the National Trust for Historic Preservation calls, 'This Place Matters,'" Redfox said. "The city's preeminent preservation organization hopes this beautiful home will matter for many years into our future."