Piece of Temecula’s modern history goes on the real estate sales block
Friday, August 30th, 2013
Issue 35, Volume 17.
The Meadowview home of Pat and Dick Birdsall, who were key figures in the city’s birth and gestation, has been listed for $460,000. The buyers, when a deal does materialize, will purchase a home that traces its lineage to Temecula’s first unbridled growth spurt and the subsequent backlash that spurred the formation of a new city.
The buyers will also own the home of Temecula’s first female mayor and the only resident who had a park, one of the largest in the city, to be named after them during their lifetime. The home owned by the Birdsalls, who are both deceased, continues to evoke memories of an emerging community and the people who helped shape its future.
The Birdsalls and a few other couples stood out in the early to mid-1980s, which was when a grassroots push to form a city was taking root. That small group of couples gained prominence because both spouses held visible positions in politics, business or both.
"We were some of the early ones," said Jimmy Moore, who together with his wife, Peg, paralleled the course that the Birdsalls had charted in the community.
Pat Birdsall and Peg Moore served on the first City Council after Temecula incorporated in December 1989. But first, the Birdsalls and the Moores emerged as business leaders and community voices. Of the two couples, the Birdsalls were the first to arrive in the Temecula area.
Dick and Pat met at a dance studio in Hawaii, where they subsequently purchased a home in 1959 to raise their growing family. Dick, a Marine, served in Vietnam. They decided to return to the mainland as Dick’s 23-year military career was winding down. They initially moved to Fallbrook, nestled at the eastern edge of Camp Pendleton, about 1970.
Fallbrook had been bypassed by the construction of Interstate 15, but Temecula was about to be split by the thread of concrete that would supplant a meandering state highway that once laced its way from Mexico to Canada.
The freeway’s presence and the sale of the 84,000-acre Vail Ranch spurred Temecula’s growth. Pat Birdsall was hired to manage the Sears catalog store that was built and opened by the development company that had purchased Vail Ranch. The Birdsalls bought the Sears store when the development company began to peel off its commercial interests.
The Sears store was one of the key retailers in Temecula as Meadowview and several other neighborhoods began to sprout. In order to move closer to their Sears store, the Birdsalls purchased their Meadowview home on Avenida Barca in 1976. At that time, Temecula’s population totaled about 5,000 people. Most of those early residents were clustered around Old Town and the new freeway exit at Rancho California Road.
The Birdsalls’ children would frequently work in the family store or help deliver appliances. Pat Birdsall also served as the treasurer of Temecula Town Association, a nonprofit group that for decades served as a coalition of business and community leaders who sponsored community events and weighed in on key local issues.
The Birdsalls were active in association projects and community events, and Dick served as a caller during the group’s popular Bingo games. For many years, Pat owned and operated a bookkeeping company.
An explosive growth boom occurred next, and congestion-weary residents soon began to complain that Riverside County planners were allowing home construction to outpace parks and traffic circulation projects.
Community groups joined forces to grade and open the area’s first sports park, and incorporation proponents began pushing for the formation of a city.
Jimmy Moore was asked to head the incorporation committee after the first attempt sputtered and its leader moved out of state.
Nearly 90 percent of the community voters cast ballots in favor of forming a city. About 80 percent favored Temecula, a derivation of the name of the Luiseno village that once blanketed the area, over Rancho California as the new city’s name.
A crowded field of hopefuls ran for the five council seats, and name recognition played a key role in the campaign. Pat Birdsall’s bid received a financial boost when her son, Mark, plowed some of his lottery winnings into her campaign.
Temecula had about 27,500 residents when it becamea city, and Pat Birdsall, Peg Moore, Ron Parks, J. Sal Munoz and Karel Lindemans were elected to the first council. None of them had served on a council before.
"They were real green," Jimmy Moore recalled of the new council’s lack of municipal experience. "But we said: ‘Let’s get it together and do it right,’ and that’s how it started."
Pat Birdsall and Peg Moore opted not to run for a second term. But Birdsall was returned to the council in July 1995. She was appointed in a 3-1 vote to fill the remainder of the term of J. Sal Munoz, who had resigned due to a divorce and his desire to start a new chapter of his life.
"She enjoyed being of service to the community," Michael Birdsall, one of the couple’s sons, said of his mother during a telephone interview.
Birdsall served on the council until November 1997. She was viewed as a moderate, fiscally-conservative consensus builder who pushed for the rapid expansion of park services. She served as mayor in 1992 and during her final year on the council.
Several key development plans were reviewed during that period, including the politically-charged Zev Buffman proposal that aimed to build a Western-theme entertainment complex in and around Old Town. At times as mayor, Birdsall felt compelled to scold one side or another in the growth debate as public hearings unfolded.
Birdsall seemed to be a natural at politics, and she relished the limelight and the ability to help shape public policy.
"She loved it," recalled Linda Inman, the couple’s daughter.
Meanwhile, the Birdsall home became a popular gathering place for family and friends.
Pat Birdsall, who suffered from breathing problems, was hospitalized for more than a week in October 1999 after returning from a vacation in Hawaii.
The couple slowed down, and the 63-year-old former mayor was the focus of a newspaper profile in January 2000 in which she lamented her declining health and mobility. The story noted that Birdsall was still frequently called upon for advice by city officials and for interviews by local reporters.
In March 2005, Birdsall
appeared before the council to lobby on behalf of a hospital which, at that time, was being proposed for a 35-acre site near Margarita Road and Highway 79 South. Birdsall cited a shortage of acute care beds in the area and she noted that a hospital is "such a critical thing for this community." A hospital was eventually approved by the council, and it has since been constructed and it is expected to open soon at that location.
In April 2005, the council for the first time voted to name a city park after a living person. When it opened about 1˝ years later, the $13.5 million sports park was the first Temecula park or city building to be named after a council member or local government official.
Birdsall was 69 when she died in August 2006 of heart failure associated with the breathing disease that she had suffered for years. She was widely praised during a memorial service that filled much of Rancho Community Church with friends, family members and local residents.
Several family members attended the park’s dedication in December 2006. Dick Birdsall died in January 2009 of an aneurism.
He died amid a recession-fueled drop in real estate prices, and the couple’s four children opted to keep the 1,783-square-foot home off the market for several years. That gave them time to do external and internal renovations that included new tile, carpeting, light fixtures and granite counter tops.
The three-bedroom house features a pool, patio, fruit trees and two-car garage. It was listed in early August by a family friend, Jessica Christopher, a Realtor and notary public.
Christopher said she is not aware of any other property sold in Temecula in recent years that were owned by such "iconic figures." She expects the house to sell soon, as the real estate market has rebounded and Meadowview remains one of Temecula’s most appealing neighborhoods. Christopher has sent postcards to potential customers that note the Birdsall connection to the Avenida Barca property.
And although the Birdsall children say they will miss the house and their link to Temecula, current real estate conditions favor putting it on the market now
"It’s a good time for them – the right time," said Christopher, whose internet site is www.JessicaZChristopher.com.
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