By Christine Lampert, Architect, AIA, NCARB
“Sea Cliff” is the name painted on the wall of the imposing four story historic building that can be seen as you drive up the hill from the San Clemente pier on Avenida Victoria. The actual address of the house is 402 Pasadena Court, which is where the main entry is located. When entering the house from there it appears to be a small single story house, giving no clue to the four stories and ½ acre plot holding gardens and fountains that cascade down the hill behind the historic house.
Over the years it has had several names, beginning with ‘Vista de las Olas,’ which means ‘View of the Waves,’ exactly what you see from the living room. Other names include ‘The Wierck House,’ ‘Sea Cliff,’ and the ‘Robison Property.’
Built in 1927 and designed by the famous architect Virgil Westbrook, this historic house sits just above the pier on an unusually large site. The once magnificent gardens are in disrepair today, but hopefully a new owner will one day restore this house and gardens to their former beauty.
Two sisters, Bertha and Emma Wierk, hired Westbrook in 1926 to build a house for them just above the beach. You may recall from past articles that Virgil Westbrook also designed the Ole Hanson Beach Club and the San Clemente Hotel.
Over the years the house has been remodeled and currently is divided into three rental units. The top floor is accessed from Pasadena Court and is the most original part of the house, with spectacular views of the sea from the living and dining rooms. Unfortunately, the kitchen was updated and does not reflect the historic property. The three lower floors are accessed by a narrow stairway that leads down toward the street below and both have been remodeled into two small apartments with a garage at the lowest level on Avenida Victoria.
The most spectacular part of this property is the large garden and fountain that cascades down the slope from the top floor to the lower level of the property. At the bottom of the property are the ruins of a pergola that would have been a delightful spot for previous owners to sit and enjoy the view of the sea.
Years ago, there was a proposal by previous owners to turn the property into seven condominiums. This proposal was denied by the city. Fortunately, the property has been designated historic by the city and is protected from being destroyed. The best use of the property might be as a restored house and gardens. The house has been for sale for over a year and the asking price is over four million dollars. A new owner could restore the house and garden and keep it as rental units, or move into the home and use all three floors as their own.