Santa Paula | Final Tract Map for Historic Hardison House

By Sheryl Hamlin

At the September 19, 2018 Santa Paula City Council meeting, the tract map for the Hardison House remainder parcel surrounded by 36 units from Williams Homes was approved 3-0 with Council Member Procter recusing and Council Member Hernandez resigned.


Williams Homes bought this property in January 2014. The Ciyty’s planning consultant Dr. Chris Williamson conceived a very dense plan of 52 units giving Williams Homes credit for the “undevelopable” hillside essentially doubling the units on the flat side of the property. Although the Planning Commission noted this “sleight-of-hand”, the 52 unit plan was approved.

Please see these articles which were written about the Hardison property over the past few years:

Public Comments

Noel Kiesewetter observed that with the recent annexation to the Ventura County Fire, the city has already lost 79% of the property taxes. Mary Kane, who lives across Ojai Road, brought up the issue of new slides since the fire. Note that the original set of conditions included a GHAD for the row of homes on the western border next to the hill, but this requirement appears to have disappeared. Sheryl Hamlin spoke about the need for a reconceptulization of the historic process in Santa Paula.

Mr. Dillon, attorney for Williams Homes, addressed the slides saying there had been a new study and the hillside is safe.

Santa Paula Historic Ordinance Never Invoked

Santa Paula’s Historic Ordinance describes a virtual Historic Preservation Commission simply by convening the Planning Commission morphed into the Preservation Commission. However, there is nothing in the Historic Ordinance that triggers the convening of the Historic Preservation Commission. This Historic Commission is resurrected soley at the whim of the staff, presumably at the direction of management.

There is another committee described in The Historic Ordinance called “The Design Assistance Committee”, which is also convened at the will of the staff. The DAC committee is charged with historic reviews, relevance and approvals of designation.

Since 2012, the DAC has only been convened a handful of times and once for the Hardison house after the lawsuit. This Historic Commission has never been convened. In the last five years.

The simple solution would be to elevate the DAC to become the Historic Preservation Commission, which would meet regularly and hear all matters involving renovations and demolitions of historic or possibly historic properties, designations of historic properties and creation of historic districts or any other items, such as a historic plaque program. The DAC has the skillset for preservation, whereas the Planning Commission does not.

There would be triggers in a new ordinance that automatically calendared such items with the Historic Preservation Commission. The Historic Commission would be independent of the Planning Commission. Preservation appeals would be adjudicated by council much like Planning Commission appeals are adjudicated by council. Most cities follow this model.

Final Tract Map with Remainder Parcel

Pyrrhic victory for Preservation?

The good news is that the historic Home with its 2.2 acre remainder parcel is in escow. The sale is dependent on Williams Homes obtaining historic designation for the remainder parcel, which of course means the DAC must be convened with this item on the agenda. The other good news is that if all goes well, there will be preservation-minded owner in Santa Paula.

The historic barn was not moved, which would have put stress on this old structure, so there is a chance it can be rehabilitated and several of the out structures have been moved into the new “farmstead”.

Much of the landscape has been removed by Williams Homes. Jean Guy Tanner Dubé, an architectural historian, has studied the property extensively. In a recent lecture at the Oil Museum his photographs of the original landscape fit into the “eclectic” style of the turn of the century.

Citizens will get to enjoy the old home from Ojai Road as they have done since it was built in 1883 thanks to the efforts of the Santa Paula Conservancy, The San Buenaventura Conservancy and the citizens who defended the property.

To watch the meeting, click here.

For more information on author click sherylhamlin dot com

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