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A coalition of state and local officials today supported transferring the old Caltrans building in Old Town to state parkland, a move that would allow the excavation and renovation of historical adobe structures.

State Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, called the transfer a rare opportunity.

“It is not very often that an urban park completely surrounded by development can extend its boundaries and in the process enhance and protect significant historical and cultural resources,” Kehoe said.

The transfer would add about two acres to the 13-acre Old Town State Park. Underneath the Caltrans building are historical structures and adobe complexes from the early to mid-1800s that would be recovered and preserved.

Officials estimated a written agreement can be put together within the next two months, although the specifics are still unknown. The first step, officials say, would be an appraisal and the finding of a specific value for the Caltrans land. Pedro Orso-Delgado, Caltrans district director, estimated the land to be anywhere between $10 million and $15 million.

Ronie Clark, district superintendent for California State Parks, said that although the price tag seems high, the organization will continue to look for various ways to cover the land’s acquisition costs.

In addition to city and state officials, San Diego’s Regional Planning Agency, Old Town Community Planning Committee, San Diego Archeological Society, Old Town Chamber of Commerce, Save Our Heritage Organization, and the San Diego River Park Foundation also showed their support for the negotiation process.

“It’s truly an innovative plan that will restore and bolster the cultural history of Old Town as well as provide much needed parkland to San Diego,” Mayor Jerry Sanders said.

MARNETTE FEDERIS

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