SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The city's Historical Resources Board Thursday voted down a proposal to designate the Fat City restaurant property as historic, after a developer said he will incorporate part of the structure into his design for an apartment building.

The 5-2 vote against historical designation ended a controversy over the 70-year-old landmark, instantly recognizable for its pink art deco architecture and neon lighting to San Diegans who take Hawthorn Street off Interstate 5 to Lindbergh Field.

Preservationists sought the historic designation to keep the building as is, but the board's staff recommended against such a finding because there had been numerous modifications since it opened about 60 years ago.

Preservationists with the Save Our Heritage Organisation say the current building is an example of streamline moderne architecture, a later stage of art deco. It's the last of a number of such structures that used to line Pacific Highway, according to SOHO.

The building opened in 1941 as Top's Nightclub, hosting Nat King Cole, Shelley Winters, Nelson Eddy and other entertainers.

Developer Jonathan Segal said he would use the 20 percent of the original structure that remains and incorporate it into his design of a 237-unit complex.

"We'll preserve the building and integrate it in a very peaceful and respectful way into our project," Segal said after the hearing.

He said he thinks San Diegans will be happy with what should be "a fantastic" building. Construction could begin by the end of this year, with completion in late 2012 or early 2013, he said.

Segal is buying the land from the family of the late restaurant proprietor Tom Fat. Most of the family's restaurant operations are now around Sacramento.