Landmark Pierpont Inn remodeling without the required permits and Historic Preservation approvals

Portion of the Pierpont Inn “red tagged” by the City.

The city of Ventura has declared a portion of the historic Pierpont Inn not safe to enter and has “red tagged” it. This includes the lobby, restaurant and bar. The Inn has done un-permitted renovation work in these areas and in some of the guest rooms.

This letter by Stephen Schafer, of the San Buenaventura Conservancy tells it all.

Open Letter to City of San Buenaventura Historic Preservation Committee
San Buenaventura, California. Feb 22, 2016.

It has come to the attention of the San Buenaventura Conservancy that the Pierpont Inn lobby has been demolished without permits and without Historic Preservation Committee review or any kind of public process.

stuff pierpont insetThe Pierpont Hotel is City of San Buenaventura Landmark Number: 80 (Address: 550 San Jon Road, designated on February 1, 1993).

In 1910 architect Sumner P. Hunt designed this craftsman bungalow-style hotel for wealthy Ojai socialite Mrs. Pierpont-Ginn. Herson, Austen Pierpont, managed the hotel and later became a notable local architect himself; he added guestrooms and English Tudor cottages to the inn over the years. It served the motoring public along the Pacific Coast Highway long before Interstate 101 came through Ventura in the 1960s. Since 1928, two branches of the Vickers family have owned the inn.

The Gleichmanns operated and expanded the property for seven decades. Then in 1999, the Garretts purchased and operated the inn. In 2003, The Pierpont was accepted into the Historic Hotels of America by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Pierpont is historic for its strong association to thePeirpont-Ginn, Vickers and Gleichmann families.It appears eligible for the California Register and National Register of Historic Places as well as being listed locally.

The lobby has now been stripped bare. There are rumors that alterations have also happened on various guest rooms. While the lobby may not have dated back to the original construction, the lobby was a compatible and viable addition to the inn that was built with city and HPC oversight which met the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.

No further work should proceed on the Pierpont Inn property without proper permits, review and oversight from the Historic Preservation Committee (HPC). The city should set up an HPC tour of the site and the damage. Since this would be a public meeting, representatives from the San Buenaventura Conservancy would like to attend and comment. Members of our board have deep and specialized knowledge about the Pierpont Inn and the history of the spaces. The upstairs rooms, where administrative offices were located until recently are the most precious and were still in original 1910 condition last time we toured the site. The original fireplace, if salvageable, should be restored. Original beams and brickwork may also be visible and should be integrated into the compliant rehabilitation plan. The current owners have damaged and defiled an important part of Ventura’s legacy for their personal (or corporate) profit. They know it is a landmark.

They know permits are required. Were they assuming nobody cared? We do! In light of current events, there should be stringent oversight every step of the way on any new work at the inn. The lobby rehabilitation should adhere to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards just like the lobby that was destroyed. Anything less is a CEQA environmental impact and a local travesty.

Regards,
Stephen Schafer,
San Buenaventura Conservancy Advocacy Committee Member.

Even though the Inn owner’s, Irvine-based DKN Hotels met with the City in advance, they stated that it would just be doing minor cosmetic work.

In addition to what might be considered cosmetic work, the contractor – since removed from the project – actually removed posts and beams that were supporting the second floor because of dry-rot.

The owners could face fines or other penalties and the project will be held up for some time.

Lani Farm, Assistant General Manager of the Inn, told the Breeze, “Rest assured that we are open for business! The only areas affected is the Historic Main Lobby area. Our lobby and restaurant have been functioning out of temporary spaces since December when the construction began and both are fully functional. DKN Hotels is working closely with the city to resolve the situation.”

 

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