A standing-room-only crowd attended a Sept. 27 meeting of the Idyllwild Historic Preservation District board. Contentious issues of permits and historic district guidelines involving two tenants at the Village Lane shopping arcade drew the large crowd. In this photo, Julia Meadows (to right of trifold presentation) and Marc Peterman (far left, standing) discuss their objections to modifications made by Idyllwild Bake Shop and Brew owner Paul White (shown seventh from left, standing).
Photo by Marshall Smith

At a special Thursday, Sept. 27, meeting of the Idyllwild Historic Preservation District board, a packed room of 65 or more voiced support for Village Lane manager and Bake and Brew owner Paul White for, in the words of one supporter, “reviving” Village Lane.

Adjacent Village Lane business owners Julia Meadows and Marc Peterman attended to seek redress for what they believed are White’s violations of historic-district guidelines that they maintained have “destroyed” the quaint and historic shopping arcade, and have reduced revenue of their three businesses.

The meeting was called by Meadows to request the board and county representatives review and consider what she considers are White’s violations.

Meadows and Peterman raised objections to planter boxes installed by White on the walkway, historic benches that he had allegedly removed and destroyed, and his outdoor restaurant seating and perimeter planter boxes they said had “obstructed” shopper traffic on the boardwalk.

White countered by saying installing the planter boxes prevented patrons from moving tables and chairs farther into the boardwalk which would have obstructed traffic. “This modification is directing Lane patrons to walk toward their businesses,” noted White.

At the meeting, White stressed that he had obtained permits through County Planning and Building and Safety, with approvals from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control that allowed conversion of space adjoining his bakery to a restaurant. Approved as part of the conversion was outdoor patron table service on the boardwalk, extending 5 feet from the restaurant’s exterior walls. “All permits were approved,” he said, “and are on record with the county.

Meadows and Peterman believe differently. “[White] falsified his application. I just want things to be done legally and with aesthetic sensibility,” alleged Meadows.

“He took [his modifications] outside,” said Meadows. “Had he not done that, we would have been OK.”

Warren Monroe, chair of the IHPD board, noted at the meeting that White had regularly briefed the board on his progress.

Antone Pierucci, county curator of history, who attended the meeting, said in a subsequent phone conversation, that given the county’s approval of White’s plans, knowing the subject property was a contributing resource within the district, the county apparently saw no reason to require White to complete a historic alteration permit application.

White was at no point required by the county to submit additional applications and his plans were approved for the conversion to restaurant with outdoor space for table service.

At the meeting, and in subsequent interviews with both parties, there were allegations of intimidation of Bake and Brew customers by Meadows and Peterman.

Said Meadows, “We are not leaving, and our supporters and customers are as committed as are his.”

It may be that the Village Lane issues currently before the IHPD board (which is advisory only, with no policy-making ability) are not within its purview. Two businesses with different clienteles and different objectives have collided. That collision may be more about business use than historic-district guideline violations.

One is a business drawing a more meditative and healing arts clientele, where peaceful passage is paramount, and the other is a neighborhood “Cheers”-like establishment where friends and patrons gather outdoors, within earshot of other businesses, to eat and imbibe, talk and laugh.

At the end of the meeting, there seemed no apparent resolution. Neither the IHPD board nor county representatives could immediately answer what the final arbitrator is in a situation such as this.

Meadows said she has contacted Riverside County 3rd District Supervisor Chuck Washington’s office regarding this standoff. She said he had assigned a staff member to review the process by which White’s permits were approved and whether they were in conformance with historic-district guidelines and correct county processes.

Said White, “I just want to be left alone so we can run our business.” Said Meadows, “We want the best for everyone, and we will be at our businesses to answer questions from anyone.”

Monroe and Parks and Open Space District Planner Yun Baird noted the process by which properties within the district are subject to review when a tenant or owner is contemplating renovation. Said Baird, “A building permit is filed with the county showing the owner’s address. If it is an Idyllwild address that falls within the district and is a contributing historical resource [as is the Village Lane] then the application goes to county Planning, to Parks and Open Space District and to the Idyllwild Fire Protection District. Those agencies have 60 days to review the application to determine if the planned renovations do ‘affect’ the historic district’s guidelines and integrity. If they so determine, the application is sent to the IHPD board to review and recommend. Ultimately, county Planning has authority to determine appropriate action.

Editor’s note: The Town Crier will continue to follow this matter and interview the parties involved, as well as county representatives.