A national designation would increase chances for the quake-damaged adobe to get donations

Monika Tjia

San Luis Obispo Tribune

Mission San Miguel Arcangel, which has been closed since the December 2003 San Simeon Earthquake, will likely be designated a national historic landmark in January — a move that will boost its chances for donations from large foundations.

The National Park Service and the National Park System Advisory Board unanimously approved the designation earlier this week. Those recommendations will be sent to the Secretary of the Interior, who will make the final decision in January.

Mission officials said they were told by the park service that their recommendation is typically honored and that the final step is a formality.

If the designation is approved, Mission San Miguel would join six other California missions with the title, including Carmel Mission and San Diego Mission Church.

Mission San Miguel sustained about $15 million in damage from the earthquake nearly two years ago. The mission needs about $30 million to fix the quake-related damage and decades of wear and tear.

"We knew that it would be a long process overall to restore the mission," said Kevin Drabinski, director of communications for the Diocese of Monterey, which oversees the mission. "This is an important milestone along that process."

The designation is needed to help the mission secure $325,000 from the Getty Foundation and $300,000 from Save America’s Treasures, an Interior Department program that restores historical buildings. The California Mission Foundation would match the federal funds.

Already, the mission has received $1 million from its insurance company, over $300,000 from local fundraising events and $100,000 from the California Mission Foundation.

Mission officials acknowledge they still have a long way to go.

"We’ve just started," said John Fowler, project manager for the San Miguel mission. "We’re researching now to see what foundations would be receptive to this kind of work."

In the meantime, the mission’s museum and gift shop will open at the end of November following repairs that began in July. The museum will serve as an interim church for the congregation until the main sanctuary is restored.

The next phase is to continue construction on the parish offices and classrooms, which is expected to last six to eight months.