Facing the possibility that Mission San Luis Rey might be closed if it isn’t earthquake proofed, the Franciscan friars who own it are mulling the idea that returning the site to its historic roots by planting a vineyard might be a good way to raise additional funds to help pay for a host of long-delayed retrofitting and renovation projects.
“The mission’s executive director (Brother Regan Chapman) and I talked about going back to producing grapes,” said Ed Gabarra, its
administrator. “We’re fortunate enough to have 56 acres.
“It’s just a matter of doing due diligence. We have to make sure we have the right soil.”
California’s 21 historic missions, which draw hundreds of thousands of tourists annually, are considered an important part of the state’s history. But many, including Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, have fallen into disrepair.
Recently, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer and U.S. Rep. Sam Farr, D-Salinas, sponsored legislation that would direct $10 million in preservation funds to help restore the missions. The proposal calls for matching funds to be raised.
Gabarra said he’d welcome any additional funds, but he wouldn’t count on them to take care of all the construction needs at Mission San Luis Rey.
Citing estimates that range as high as $6 million to bring the mission complex, including an adobe church dating back to 1811, into compliance with state statutes on seismic retrofitting, Gabarra said funds currently aren’t available to cover such a tab.
In 1995, the Oceanside City Council gave the mission until 2006 to come into compliance, and there’s a chance another extension might be granted, Gabarra said. But the old buildings, including a wing of administrative offices, a museum and a gift shop, are badly in need of other repairs.
“I don’t want to say we’re falling apart,” he said. “But we have a building that is adobe construction and every day you can see plaster falling off the walls.”
Adding up what the upgrades would cost is impossible, he said, since the complete scope of some of the work hasn’t been determined. For example, the mission just received a grant to study what it will cost to do an adequate job of seismic retrofitting.
“We just received a grant from the Getty Foundation to conduct a study to see what needs to be done to seismic retrofit,” Gabarra said. “So we’re going to spend $75,000 for somebody to tell us what to do.”
During the fiscal year that ended Aug. 31, the mission’s fund-raising events, donations and retreats brought in $1.2 million. Tourism generated an additional $250,000. That same year, the mission spent $1.3 million for upkeep and repairs, yet budgeting such expenses is impossible.
“Nothing here is routine,” Gabarra said. “Everything is an emergency.”
No formula has been set on how the funds from Boxer’s legislation would be distributed if it passes. A group called Americans United for Separation of Church and State opposes it, but preservation supporters insist the funds would be used only to preserve historic buildings not for religious purposes. Three of the missions are state parks and the others, which are run by the Roman Catholic Church and a dwindling number of Franciscan friars, depend on proceeds from tourism, donations and fund-raisers.
Mission San Diego de Alcala, the state’s first mission, which sits atop a hill overlooking Old Town, is in fairly good repair, said its historian, Janet Bartele. She wishes additional funds were available, however, to preserve the remnant of an adobe wall on the property. She said she doesn’t know how much revenue the mission generates from tourism, but she estimated that nearly 100 visitors “walk in every day.” No admission is charged. Donations are accepted.
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Meeting Planners Give San Diego High Marks:
Results of a national survey of meeting planning executives show that San Diego was the top-ranking city in North America for association meetings and conventions.
The study performed in the fall by Orlando, Fla.-based Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russel tracked responses of 904 meeting planners in the United States and Canada, half of whom are planners for trade and professional associations. It focused on what attributes meeting planners consider most important when deciding on a location for a meeting or convention.
In the survey, association meeting planners named San Diego the “most desirable convention destination overall,” followed by New Orleans, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Chicago. Among corporate meeting planners, San Diego was ranked third, behind Orlando and San Francisco.
According to meeting industry estimates, 155,600 association meetings held in the United States in 2003 drew attendance of 15.8 million people and contributed $13.7 billion to the national economy.
Send tourism and hospitality information to Connie Lewis via fax at (858) 571-3628, or by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. She may also be reached at (858) 277-6359.