Family friend, real estate agent buys piece of Temecula’s modern history
Friday, April 11th, 2014
Issue 15, Volume 18.
That unusual deal – in which an agent purchased a property she had listed about six months earlier – marked the latest chapter for the home of one of the city’s first power couples.
"That doesn’t happen too much," Jessica Christopher, a Realtor and notary public, said of the transaction in which she and her husband purchased a home that she had listed.
It was easy to fall in love with the Meadowview home of Pat and Dick Birdsall, Christopher said, especially since she is a longtime family friend who spent countless hours there over the past few decades.
In August, Christopher listed the 1,783-square-foot, three-bedroom Avenida Barca home for $460,000. The home owned by the Birdsalls, who are both deceased, has evoked memories of an emerging community and the people who helped shape its future.
The Birdsalls, who were key figures in the city’s birth and gestation, were among a handful of couples who stood out in the early to mid-1980s, which was when a grassroots push to form the city of Temecula was taking root. That small group of couples gained prominence because both spouses held visible positions in politics, business or both.
Birdsall was Temecula’s first female mayor and the only resident who has had a park, one of the largest in the city, to be named after her during her lifetime.
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 the Vietnam War. 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 purchased Vail Ranch. The Birdsalls bought the Sears store when the development company began to peel off its commercial interests.
The Sears store was a key retailer in Temecula as new neighborhoods began to sprout. In order to move closer to their Sears store, the Birdsalls purchased their Avenida Barca home 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.
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
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 growthboom 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. Early efforts to form a city sputtered, but support soon mushroomed and Temecula became a city in December 1989.
Temecula had about 27,500 residents when it became a 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.
The Birdsalls’ home became a popular gathering place for family and friends during the heady days of the city’s incorporation and its fledgling steps as a municipality.
Birdsall and 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 Munoz’s term after he resigned due to a divorce and his desire to start a new chapter of his life.
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.
Birdsall, who suffered from breathing problems, was hospitalized for more than a week in October 1999 after returning from a vacation in Hawaii.
In April 2005, the council for the first time voted to name a city park after a living person. When it opened about 1½ years later, the $13.5 million sports park became 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. 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 home off the market for several years. That gave them time to do external and internal repairs and renovations.
Christopher, 50, said there was a wave of interest in the Birdsall house after it was listed. But there were some drawbacks to the property that included all-electric utilities and some narrow doorways that would not permit wheelchair access.
The Birdsall family accepted one purchase offer, but that deal fell apart when the buyer could not obtain a loan, Christopher said. By then, Christopher said she had become enamored with the home’s pool, patio, fruit trees and two-car garage.
Christopher said she and her husband, Jodie, decided to make an offer and rent their existing tract home. She said their purchase offer was in line with the amount offered by the prospective buyer who failed to obtain a loan.
Christopher said she and her husband have embarked upon a series of renovations aimed at further modernizing the home and making it more energy efficient.
That work has included adding insulation, connecting the house to a nearby natural gas line and replacing the heater and some other appliances.
"We really like it here," she said. "We’re making changes."
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