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'Historic' Label Sought for Part of Bolsa Chica

Preservation: State panel urges that the Indian village location be put on the National Register.


The state Historic Resources Commission unanimously voted Friday to designate an 18-acre piece of the Bolsa Chica mesa a historic site because an ancient Native American village once stood there.

The state panel's vote means that a proposal to place the site on the National Register of Historic Places will be forwarded to the federal government. The 105-acre upper Bolsa Chica mesa where the historic site is located has been the subject of a 30-year-old battle between developers and environmentalists.

"We're thrilled that this site, which has so much significance for our state, was finally recognized," said Flossie Horgan of the environmentalist group Bolsa Chica Land Trust after the commission's meeting at Hearst Castle in San Simeon. "So much is gone in Southern California."

An official with Hearthside Homes, which wants to build 387 houses on the upper bench of the mesa, said Friday's vote would not affect the company's plans.

"It doesn't change our activity at all," said Lucy Dunn, Hearthside's executive vice president. "Just as Native Americans liked being there, so will Orange County families in the future like living there."

Though its ancient past is invisible to the passerby, the land--known as ORA-83--contains remnants of an 8,000-year-old Native American village and burial ground. Excavation has turned up ancient human remains as well as carved, disc-shaped stone artifacts called cogged stones.

Cogged stones, whose purpose is unknown, have been found in only two areas in the Western Hemisphere--coastal Southern California and central Chile. The Bolsa Chica site is the only known place where cogged stones were made.

The site's importance has been documented by officials with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. The state Historic Resources Commission approved a historic designation in 1983, but the nomination was never forwarded to the federal government, and no one knows why.

Though Dunn said the designation would have no effect on development plans, Hearthside attorney Susan K. Hori wrote that there were several reasons not to nominate the site.

A property can be listed on the National Register only if the landowner agrees, she wrote. Landowner Signal Landmark, which is owned by the same parent company as Hearthside, does not agree, and therefore, the site will never be added to the register, Hori wrote.

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