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Truax House, San Diego’s First AIDS Hospice, Clears Development Hurdle

Photo by Katie Schoolov

The vacant Truax House, San Diego's first AIDS hospice, Feb. 24, 2016.

San Diego officials on Thursday approved a site development permit for the property that includes the Truax House, easing the development of new housing around the historic home.

The unanimous action by the city's Planning Commission also subdivided the property into three separate parcels: one for the Truax House, one for an adjacent house rented out by the city and one for an adjacent plot of undeveloped land. The Truax House served as San Diego's first AIDS hospice and is named after one of the city's pioneering AIDS activists, Dr. Brad Truax.

The City Council authorized the sale of the property 10 months ago with the blessing of historic preservationists, who had feared the sale could lead to the Truax House's demolition. The buyer, Nakhshab Development & Design, has waited to close escrow until the subdivision of the property and site development permit were approved.

The firm's CEO, Soheil Nakhshab, told the Planning Commission he would stay true to his original development plans. Those include restoring the Truax House, converting its ground floor into a community meeting space, working with neighbors to allow an extension of the Maple Canyon trail, building new housing units around the house and making 10 to 15 percent of those housing units affordable for very-low income residents.

"We plan to incorporate a community space on the property, not just for our future development, our future tenants, but also we welcome community organizations and members to use this space as well," Nakhshab said.

The preservation of the Truax House was written into the purchase agreement, and the City Attorney's Office told planning commissioners that the city has legal recourse to protect the home if the buyer reneged on that agreement.

Planning Commissioner Vicki Granowitz said she was impressed by Nakhshab's willingness to pay for a report detailing the Truax House's historical significance prior to buying the property — something city officials said was unusual, since most developers submit such reports only when required by the city after purchasing a property.

"We've asked developers to save historic structures and do adaptive reuse," Granowitz said. "And I think that this is a really good example of a developer trying to do the kinds of things that we have requested."

Mayor Kevin Faulconer has pledged to use the proceeds from the sale to fund the creation of San Diego's first AIDS memorial. Mayoral spokeswoman Jen Lebron said in an e-mail that Faulconer expected this to happen in the coming fiscal year, and that he supported locating the memorial in a nearby property on Olive Street where the city plans to build a new park.

The San Diego Planning Commission has approved subdividing the property in Bankers Hill into three parcels. The site's buyer says the action will help preserve the historic home.

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