At the June 23, 2015 City Council meeting the Pearl Chase Society mutually ended its collaboration with the Department of Parks & Recreation for the complete rehabilitation of the Structure of Merit Franceschi House within Franceschi Memorial Park. In spite of a serious joint effort and much public input during the previous decade, neither private nor public funding could be identified to initiate the resulting Franceschi Park Master Plan.
The Society at the June City Council meeting presented the history of its long cooperation with – and financial support of – City projects. Society President Barbara Lowenthal reiterated that any plan to demolish Franceschi House defying the 1931 bequest from donor Alden Freeman would be unacceptable. Nevertheless the Society offered to continue work with the Department of Parks & Recreation to develop new, innovative alternative plans for both the House and Park. The Council accepted and charged the Parks & Recreation department and the Society to return in 6 months with a report.
The Society has focused efforts on collecting and managing public ideas and support for the House and Park. The online petition to save Franceschi House has reached its goal of 1000 signers and we are pleased that they include local residents and also many from other American states and some international signers who have visited the Park and been captivated by its irreplaceable history. An updated petition will be presented to City Council when the report is made.
Many constructive and reasonable suggestions have been submitted for practical stabilization and future public use of Franceschi House. Suggestions include the current structure but some also visualize scaled back versions with ideas for the entire footprint of the House. There are also suggestions for novel and varied uses for the surrounding Park that include increasing the representation of Franceschi-introduced plant species, improving Park trails and signage, acknowledging the original Riviera terrain and increasing the Park’s appeal to City residents.
The Pearl Chase Society continues as the custodian of over $100,000 in private donations from the prior campaign and is actively seeking additional contributions in support of Franceschi House and Park. No amount is too small and there are even suggestions for durable acknowledgments of donor levels within the Park.
The City Department of Parks & Recreation is undertaking independent efforts and will work with the Council to schedule the meeting date for both our reports. The Society looks forward to that date to present the details of its efforts, the full list of petition signers, the specifics of creative plans for the House, new ideas for Park features and improvements in public appeal.
The Pearl Chase Society is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of Santa Barbara’s historic architecture, landscapes and cultural heritage. We encourage readers to become members of the Society, sign the online Save-Franceschi petition, donate to improve Franceschi House and Park, and join our other efforts on behalf of historic Santa Barbara, www.pearlchasesociety.org