Relocation Will Mark a New
Era for Old Home
July 28, 1998

A turn-of-the-century wood frame house with a musical past is about to get a second life. The North Anaheim Boulevard house, with its porch arches and Shingle and Victorian styles, was once the home of Bobby Hatfield of the Righteous Brothers and was reportedly where Lawrence Welk practiced piano.

In recent years, however, the 92-year-old structure has fallen into disrepair, and its owner wants to use the land it sits on to build a new development.

In efforts to save the house, the city plans to move the structure about a mile to a vacant lot at Lincoln Avenue and Rose Street, where redevelopment officials said it will serve as a gateway to the newly established historic district. The relocation, scheduled for just after midnight Wednesday, will cost $32,750.

“It’s worth the extra effort to save the house,” Mayor Tom Daly said. The house has a colorful history. In the 1920s, the Anaheim Business and Professional Women’s Club held its weekly luncheons in the house.

During the 1930s, it was a successful beauty shop by the ’50s it was the Hatfield family residence. In the 1960s, it was turned into a music studio.

Residents in the neighborhood near Rose and Lincoln support the city’s preservation effort, which has saved 30 homes to date. But some have expressed concerns about plans to replace the home with a business center.

“We love the idea of preserving a historic home, but it’s frustrating that a commercial business might go in there,” said Debbie Nance, who grew up in the neighborhood and bought a house next to her parents’ home on Vine Street.

A business would add traffic and possibly increase crime, Nance said. City officials said they expect to select a developer as soon as possible to renovate the house. They said they plan to work with residents on the future use of the house.

“We do understand the neighbors’ concerns, and we hope to come up with a solution that is acceptable to them,” said Lisa Stipkovich, the city’s redevelopment executive director.

The 1,890-square-foot house also was among 150 structures surveyed within the city’s historic district, said Phyllis Mueller, Neighborhood Development coordinator.

Why save the house? “It has great architectural distinction–and it is a contributor to the historic district,” Mueller said.

Tina Boyd always dreamed of living in a Victorian house. She used to spend her free time driving around Pasadena, admiring the turrets and steeply pitched roofs of the “painted ladies.”

A single teacher, Boyd joked that she would have to “marry rich” to afford one of the elaborate homes she treasured.

But she found a way to turn her fantasy into reality.

After learning from a contractor friend about a house slated for demolition, Boyd checked public records and discovered that the Federal Revival style house belonged to Pasadena Christian School. She persuaded the school to give her the house and throw in $7,000, a fraction of the demolition cost.  Boyd moved the house-lock, stock and balustrade-to her lot in Altadena.

Moving a house can save historic structures from the wrecking ball, divert tons of trash from landfills and provide affordable and low-income housing.

But it’s not for everyone.

Michael O’Brien, a Pasadena architect, thought he had won the lottery when he paid $1 for a 1903 Greene and Greene craftsman home in Pasadena.  Developer Greg Yerevanian offered the historic house at the bargain price so he could make way for 17 condominiums.

O’Brien moved the house two miles to a vacant lot in Pasadena’s Garfield Heights neighborhood.  The landmark district was the “perfect home” for a Greene and Greene house except for one factor: The street is lined with century-old oak trees and trimming them was out of the question in a city that treasures its oaks as much as its historic homes.

“A phone or cable wire can be moved, but the trees are immovable objects,” O’Brien said.

To ensure safe passage between and under the trees, the house was cut in half vertically and the entire second story was removed.

“It was such a big job, deconstructing and reconstructing,” O’Brien said. “It would have been cheaper to demolish and build new. But this was no ordinary house.”

Cheryl Clark and Vincent Landay of Santa Monica also discovered the cost of a “free” house. This summer they plan to move into a 1906 American Four-Square home that once sat on a church parking lot.

The Santa Monica Landmarks Commission designated the two-story house a “structure of merit” because Four-Square design, essentially a large no-frills square box of framed construction common on the East Coast, is rare in Southern California.

Clark and Landay, a film producer, have no regrets about moving the house, but they discovered three stumbling blocks that can make the process frustrating: land scarcity, hidden costs and bureaucracy.

“If only we’d known,” Clark said.

Because of the shortage of vacant land in Santa Monica, they had to demolish an existing 1940s ranch home to make room for their historic Four-Square.

Unexpected costs, including complete reframing, have inflated the price of their free house to “comparable to building new.”

“But we couldn’t build a house like this new,” Clark said.

Clark and Landay had expected the entire moving process to take nine months to a year, but the permitting process has helped to double that original estimate.

“It was hard to find the right person to move things through,” Clark said. “There’s really no structure in place.”

Amanda Schacter, Santa Monica’s chief planner, acknowledged, “The permit process, for relocations or otherwise, is not a one-stop system, but we are in the process of revising and will move toward that.”

Permitting procedures, notoriously complicated, costly and time-consuming, can be daunting to homeowners and moving companies. In Los Angeles, pieces of the permit puzzle include checking the plans, making arrangements for street use, complying with building and safety codes and checking with the cable companies and utility companies.

“Sometimes you just can’t get to the last piece without having all of the other pieces in place,” said Arnie Corlin of Corlin Co., a house-moving broker.

Consequently, Ted Hollinger of Master House Movers is uncertain about the future of house moving.

“It’s a dying industry. The cost of government. The cost of raw land. The rules and regulations. It all makes it tougher to do this job,” said Hollinger, a house mover for more than five decades.

In the 1920s, house moving was so common in Southern California that the city of Monrovia alone had two companies that took care of the city’s many “mobile” homes. Today, according to Hollinger, only three major players remain in Southern California, an area once considered the house moving capital of the United States.

Corlin also wonders how much longer his business can survive. He specializes in slicing and dicing apartment buildings and moving them to low-income areas of South-Central Los Angeles. He often carves a single, multiunit building into separate duplexes and places them in different locations.

Currently, Corlin is converting a 40-unit apartment building from Van Nuys into a series of 1,400-square-foot townhouses in Watts.

Corlin loves the idea of recycling buildings and meeting housing needs (he’s developed housing for more than 200 people in South-Central L.A.), but it’s getting tougher to financially justify moving buildings.

After the costs of permits, renovations and earthquake compliance, “sometimes it’s just cheaper to build new,” he said.

Corlin said moves to unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, where earthquake regulations are especially rigorous, are the most challenging. For example, stucco must be stripped from relocated buildings and replaced with other materials, because stucco provides little support during an earthquake.

“It’s cost is prohibitive,” Corlin said.

Boyd, who is about to move into her dream house in unincorporated Altadena, knows firsthand the high cost of complying with county earthquake regulations. An ordinance passed last year requiring the installation of a braced interior wall will add thousands of unplanned dollars to her costs.

Boyd’s neighbors, Bob and Doris Coleman, have moved five houses, including their current residence, a 4,200-square-foot Colonial. Eight years ago, many of the current regulations were not in place but, for reasons still unclear, the county required the Colemans to provide underground parking.

When asked why, Coleman said: “I would love somebody to easily explain it to me.”

“That’s why you see the driveway nose diving under the house,” Coleman said.

All five of the Colemans’ houses were donated by Cal Tech. In an agreement between Cal Tech and Pasadena, the school cannot tear down a single-family residence without first making the house available for moving. According to Rick Canny, assistant manager of engineering and physical plant at Cal Tech, houses are given away with an incentive of $16,000 if the house remains in Pasadena and $8,000 if moved outside of the city.

Even with the bonus, the failure rate is high.

“The first year Cal Tech was still learning how to pick people. Out of 15 houses, only four moved successfully,” Coleman said. “I stood crying when the bulldozers came.”

Jimi and Dana Hendrix of Monrovia have also moved several structures and have no qualms about doing it again. Their last move was an 800-square-foot 1880s building. Originally a residence, it was moved once and became a general store, then was moved again in 1998 to become the Hendrixes’ garage. Jimi Hendrix said Monrovia tries to simplify the process.

Bob Castellano, head of the building department, added, “Typically, it takes from 12 to 15 months to build new, but a relocation can happen within seven months.”

“It’s well worth doing, but it’s a labor of love. Sometimes you feel as though you’re tossing thousand-dollar bills at a project. It’s not always the most economical alternative,” Hendrix said.

“The rewards of saving a building from demolition are undeniable and unmistakable. That’s the buzz of this business,” he said.

But, as far as the Hendrixes are concerned, the end result far outweighs the cost.