San Diego City Council’s Smart Growth and Land Use Committee to build more hospitality houses

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — The San Diego City Council’s Smart Growth and Land Use Committee gave its unanimous blessing Wednesday to a plan to build additional houses of hospitality in Balboa Park.

The plan — which still requires full City Council approval — foresees building five new cottages for international cultural organizations — four duplexes and one stand-alone residence — for a total of nine new units.

The park’s nonprofit House of Pacific Relations, which is raising funds to pay for the project, has more members than available structures to house them, according to Charles Daniels of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

"We will have nine exhibit spaces for nine different cultures,” Daniels said. "Currently, those nine member nations all share the House of Pacific Relations building on a rotating basis.”

He said that leaves them able to display once every few months. One of the new spaces will be set aside for the House of Mexico, he said.

A staff report said one duplex cottage and one single cottage would be added north of the Hall of Nations and House of Iran. The two new buildings would join two existing buildings to form a central courtyard.

Three duplex cottages would be added south of the existing House of the United States and House of Ukraine cottages. The three new buildings and two existing buildings would also form a central courtyard.

The new buildings would be similar to the current cottages in size and design, with enough differences so that they’re not confused with the existing houses, which opened in 1935.

The House of Pacific Relations, which oversees the international cottages, is made up of 34 groups that offer open houses and cultural events on Sunday afternoons. The houses do not represent political entities, only their cultures.

"The House of Pacific Relations, up until more recently, had really only been open for four hours on Sundays,” Daniels said. "As a part of this project, they’ve been encouraged by the Balboa Park Committee to expand their operations and their programs.”

That would allow more visitors, on other days, to explore the cottages and learn more about different cultures around the world, Daniels said.

The House of Pacific Relations was formed in the time leading up to World War II to foster peaceful relations among "many splintered ethnic groups,” including those from opposing Allied and Axis countries, according to a statement from the organization’s president, Eugenie A. King.

"Despite the hostility between the nations before, during and after the war, these cottages were able to peacefully coexist as non-political and non-sectarian cultural organizations,” King said. "Coexisting in this manner in a small corner of the park, volunteering side by side, they shared their cultures — music, dance, art, and food — with each other and the community at large, thereby increasing tolerance mutual trust and respect within and without the organization.”

The council committee members gave their support to environmental and Balboa Park planning documents for the project and forwarded them to the full City Council.

The House of Pacific Relations could begin construction around the beginning of next year, according to city staff.

Categories: Local San Diego News