New Historical Addition to Old Town San Diego Planned
(San Diego) The former CalTrans headquarters near Old Town State Park in San Diego has been officially transferred to the state parks system with the recording of the transaction with the County of San Diego today. This move will ensure the preservation of historic structures and artifacts known to be below the building’s foundation and that the site will remain in the public’s hands.
Today’s transfer was the culmination of a process which began nearly seven years ago when CalTrans moved to a new headquarters and State Parks expressed interest in acquiring the property. The transaction was slowed down by the high value of the property and state restrictions on making a gift of taxpayer-owned property, even to another state agency. Earlier this year, Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins persuaded the Legislative Joint Budget Committee to approve the transfer.
“Today’s transaction begins the process of integrating the CalTrans site into Old Town San Diego and will create a fuller experience of our San Diego heritage,” says Majority Leader Atkins. “It is a win for San Diego, for state government and, most important, for future generations of residents and visitors who will have the opportunity to see how San Diego began.”
“It was a challenging process, but with the determination of several key people and the state legislation, this exchange marks the end of an era for Caltrans and the start of a new era for State Parks and the community of Old Town San Diego,” said Caltrans District Director Laurie Berman.
“This is a property State Parks has been interested in for several years, and it is a logical addition to State Parks for its archeological cultural value. We believe it will contribute significantly to the overall history of the area and the visitor experience in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park,” said Major General Anthony L. Jackson, USMC (Ret.), Director of California State Parks.
The old CalTrans building sits on the location of the first permanent European settlement in California and of a Kumeyaay Native American village dating back to AD 500. Under the site are Fitch’s, California’s first store; a Bowling Saloon owned by Ab Lyon, who would later become sheriff; and several adobes and homes.
$762,000 in Parks funds have been set aside since 2009 for planning and design for the site. $7.1 million in bond funds have also been designated for this project. This year’s budget actions secured those allocations. There is no additional cost to taxpayers to transfer the site.
Following today’s transaction, planning can begin on a new display of early San Diego life. Working with the San Diego River Conservancy, the San Diego River Park Foundation, and other stakeholders, a new entry will be created for Old Town that ties together San Diego’s early history, the river, and the state park. The new installation will restore the history of the San Diego River, which originally ran past the old CalTrans building, including a representation of Kumeyaay Native American life along the river.