LONG BEACH — A year after their demolition, all that remains of the Pacific Coast Club and Jergins Trust Building along Ocean Boulevard are foundations.
Local preservationists have expressed concern that the buildings, among the city's most unique landmarks, were demolished prematurely.
Now, two heritage groups and Ruthann Lehrer, the city's neighborhood and historical preservation officer, are drafting a proposed ordinance that would require developers to produce detailed plans for a new structure before being allowed to tear down a building that has been designated a local landmark.
The preservationists say they hope also to require developers to submit proof of financing and operating agreements.
"The owner," Lehrer said, "should have to demonstrate there is a replacement project planned and that the financing is in place so that the city knows if it's going to lose one of its landmarks, it will not have a vacant lot."
At present, she said, some developers engage in "speculative demolition," believing the value of a lot is higher if it is cleared of an old building.
Doug Otto, chairman of the Coalition to Preserve Historic Long Beach, said the proposed ordinance could be submitted to the City Council after work on the legal language is completed in about two weeks. He said his group is working with Lehrer and the Long Beach Heritage Foundation.
The proposal was high on a wish list that preservation groups submitted to Mayor Ernie Kell during last year's mayoral campaign, Otto said. The top priority was a historic preservation officer, which resulted in Lehrer's hiring. Next came the proposal for a law requiring developers to be able to show they plan to put in a new building before they tear down a designated landmark.
Kell has embraced the idea. He said he wants to curb developers who tear down landmarks and "leave nothing but a hole in the ground."
The proposal is a direct response to destruction of the two landmarks last year. The Pacific Coast Club, a turreted enclave for wealthy men of the 1920s, was cleared to make way for a yet-to-be-started condominium development. The Jergins, an office and retail building festooned with the faces of cherubs and gargoyles, was torn down to make the site easier to sell.
The city already has passed one new law in response to the outcry over loss of the two buildings. The City Council voted to impose a 60-day waiting period before granting demolition permits on buildings more than 50 years old. The waiting period allows the historic preservation officer and Cultural Heritage Commission to review whether a structure should have been given landmark status.
'Good First Effort'
The measure, passed 7 to 1 by the council, is intended to prevent further destruction of significant buildings while the city undertakes a thorough survey to determine which to try to save as landmarks.
"It's part of it, but it's not enough," Otto said. "It was a good first effort."
As for the Pacific Coast Club and Jergins, the fate of the sites is still undecided.
City planning officials say owner Rob Bellevue is preparing for final demolition of the foundations of the famous old club in preparation for the condominiums. Bellevue could not be reached for comment.
The owners of the Jergins site said they may have found a buyer interested in constructing a luxury hotel. Randy Verrue, executive vice president of Perini Land and Development Co. in San Francisco, would not disclose the name of the prospective buyer or the price, but said an announcement is expected in 60 days. The site had been listed for sale at more than $6 million.