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Cultural Heritage Commission Praises New Mission Gatehouse Plan

Project awaits approval from San Juan Capistrano's Planning Commission.

Plans to were commended Tuesday by the city's Cultural Heritage Commission, whose chairwoman called it a "beautiful project."

Subject to approval of the Planning Commission, the Cultural Heritage Commission on Tuesday gave the OK to modify the historic landmark. Although a new entryway would be built out farther into the sidewalk along Ortega Highway than city code allows, city staffers say they believe that shouldn't be an issue.

"The mission is a unique site, it already encroaches into the setback, but more importantly, its location places it within the context of the tourist commercial zone, which actually encourages buildings to engage with pedestrians and the public sidewalk," said historic-preservation manager Teri Delcamp.

The remodel will include removing the existing entry gate that was built in the mid-1950s, as well as a ticket area that was built about the same time. A new entry gate and arch that will "evoke the appearance" of the original arch entry from the 1920s will be built along with a new, 15-foot-high, 1,750-square-foot gift shop. The gift shop is being relocated from the historic La Sala building that was once home to .

"The whole project really does sound exciting for the mission and the community," said Commissioner Jan Siegel."The place where the gift shop is now is a disservice to the history of the ."

The project also includes a new entry gate for group admissions, the removal of three trees, rehabilitation of the existing 1916-gate house, the removal of about 126 linear feet of wall built in 1952, and the addition of planters, seat walls and benches.

Since the project involves a designated historic site and rises above the threshold of "minor" improvements, the city's code required the Cultural Heritage Commission's approval.

The mission has a long history of adapting and modifying the entry area, Delcamp said in a report to the commission. The entryway, she said, is "the most logical place" to make changes without affecting the most historic areas of the mission grounds.

Prior to the 20th century, there was a more open feel to the pueblo's plaza, and later to the downtown, when only a picket fence separated the mission grounds from the dirt in front of it, Delcamp said.

The existing gatehouse was built in 1916, when the concept of admissions and curio sales sprouted up. A second gatehouse, entry gate and arch were constructed in the 1920s; all of these elements and the affected sections of the perimeter walls were reconstructed and/or modified in the 1950s through the 1990s and later.

The remodel has the potential to affect whatever artifacts that may exist belowground in that area, as up to 114 cubic yards of existing soil will be exported from the site.

Richard N. Stapler Sr. May 27, 2011 at 11:46 AM
What if the Mission only used Native American Indians that are original descendant's of Mission San Juan Capistrano, I am sure that the BIA could furnish this Information if the Mission misplace that. Buy the way don't forget to pay them for their services this time

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