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Bad Economy Could Cost San Diego Its History

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The bad economy could cost San Diego its history. The San Diego Historical Society is letting go of two landmark homes. It says the properties are too expensive to keep up.

They are parts of San Diego's history, but their future is in question. Historic house museums that have been operated by the San Diego Historical Society are now being given back to the city.

"I think the issue is part economic, but it really is one of focus. We're trying to be strategic about who we are, who we serve, and where we're headed in the future," San Diego Historical Society Executive Director David Kahn said.

Kahn took over as the historical society's executive director last summer, and quickly realized the organization needed to change direction before it ran out of money.

"It is true the historical society has been deficit spending for a number of years, so that provides some added inspiration. We really can't be all things to all people," he said.

Between the Marson House, the Villa Montezuma and the Serra Museum, the historical society is over-extended more than $150,000 a year. The Villa Montezuma has actually been closed to the public since 2006, but the historical society still loses about $60,000 a year and gets no revenue.

"It's difficult to let them go but we know that the city will certainly be taking good care of them in the interim," Kahn said.

The one property the society will be holding on to is the Serra Museum, which after this weekend will be open only to school groups, not the public. But Kahn says for that they have plans.

"After we've redone all the experiences, all the exhibits here at the Museum of San Diego History in Balboa Park, then we'll move on to the Serra and redo the visitor experiences there," he said.

Focusing the society's goals he calls it, even if it means giving up some longtime favorites.

"They are definitely worth preserving, and we are sure that they will be preserved," Kahn said.

The Save Our Heritage Organization has offered to help the city with properties, but not to take them over.

The mayor has said he would like to see them preserved.

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