Monday, October 18, 2021

8611 Balboa Ave, San Diego

A godsend found among my many yellow tinged papers is a checkout receipt dated May 1, 1957 from the Lafayette Hotel and Club, 2223 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, together with the paper clipped article about the hotel’s renovation. A quote from the newspaper reads, “Built in 1946, Lafayette offers deluxe guest rooms, including one- and two-bedroom suites with fireplaces, libraries, mini-bars and large terraces. The complex surrounds the original 25-meter swimming pool and patio courtyard”. My receipt was for $8 per night.

I don’t know why this Lafayette Hotel, far from downtown San Diego, was chosen by our travel agent. Surely there were many other hotels located closer to San Diego’s Lindbergh Airport. Perhaps their austere choice was influenced by the fact that our trip was sponsored by a Boston company to conclude a technology assistance agreement, and the Japanese Government had yet to liberalize the yen — so Japanese citizens had no access to purchase U.S. dollars.

I had a free Sunday morning to walk around the Lafayette grounds on El Cajon Blvd. Amusingly, the cross-streets on the left were named Mississippi, Alabama and Texas, Arizona on the right. Jacaranda trees along the streets were in full bloom with purple flowers. They looked so beautiful like the Japanese cherry blossoms.

Never had I dreamed that I would live in San Diego for 20 years. When I had a chance to revisit the Lafayette, I was surprised that the hotel had become the local Immigration Bureau. I had to accompany our family there when they arrived.

Another surprise was the Honeywell Building on Balboa Ave., in Kearny Mesa. In 1957, my boss informed me that Honeywell had agreed, in writing, to show us their plant. We went there only to be detained by their on-site security. Why? They show the plant only to customers. Period. Yes, my employer produced some competitive products, but Honeywell also made many products that were not in competition with goods made by my employer. The misunderstanding was cleared up and we walked through the plant only in the areas for non-competitive products.

In 1973, I joined Kyocera at the Kearny Villa Plant in Kearny Mesa, within walking distance of that Honeywell facility. My primary job, in addition to being the plant controller, was to build a new bigger ceramic plant at a 17-acre site, obtained through the San Diego Economic Development Corp, with the help of construction consultants such as Frank Hope & Associates and Nielsen. Critical was solving the high-tension power transmission line issues involving SDG&E professionals, but we got past them and had final blueprints ready for local bidders. The construction teams were elated.

Then out of blue, the 21-acre land, 288,000 square foot plant facility Honeywell Plant I had walked through 15 years ago, went up for sale! Unbelievable! The dilemma now was either to stick to the construction plan or to make a windfall deal? Kyocera’s decision was a wise one – to buy rather than build. “The greater embraces the less” goes the proverb. In short, Kyocera's diversification requirements and Honeywell's cash requirements matched up perfectly. The address of 8611 Balboa Avenue became the US headquarters for Kyocera International.

Kyocera's purchase included taking over the lease for a number of big tenants, including General Dynamics, Rohr, and San Diego County Office, which assisted with Kyocera’s gradual and flexible future expansion. Added to my job was the impossibly “lucky” role of ‘tenant relations.’ I worked for almost 20 years at 8611 Balboa until my retirement.

P.S. I found out that the Lafayette Hotel is still going strong as per Jay Scovie, Kyocera's Corporate Director for Communication & Education. I owe him the link to the hotel website below:
Lafayette Hotel Website