If the Landmarks Commission agrees with a staff recommendation at their meeting tonight, a cluster of buildings at the foot of the Santa Monica Pier could be demolished and replaced with the city’s 22nd Starbucks location.

The Commission will meet tonight, May 9, to hear a report regarding a group of buildings from 1601-1615 Ocean Front Walk and the consultants report recommends against landmarking the structures, as significant remodels have compromised their historic significance.

According to the report, the group represents some of the oldest commercial structures along that section of Ocean Front Walk. Built between 1917 and 1924, the buildings are a mix of one or two story buildings of wood or masonry construction. All feature a setback from Ocean Front Walk for a patio, but the structures have each been adapted to meet the needs of multiple tenants over time. Even with the work, officials said much of the original building material is present.

“These older structures collectively are the last vestiges of a bygone era of amusement piers, beach front boardwalks, and grand recreational and social beach activities in this section of Santa Monica,” said a report by Ostashay & Associates Consulting. “All other similar buildings, structures and improvements that once lined Ocean Front Walk north and south of the Santa Monica Municipal Pier have been removed for residential and commercial development.”

The buildings have served primarily as restaurants and gift shops throughout their history with a residential or hotel component above the retail spaces. Some of the units were recently damaged in a fire displacing the residential tenants.

The report said the current landmark application, filed by nearby resident Louise Steiner, is the first time the collection of buildings had been evaluated or surveyed for historic significance, but other structures in the area, such as the Hippodrome and carousel on the Pier, have been recognized for their historic value.

Despite their age, the report concludes the buildings do not qualify as landmarks because they have undergone too many changes over time.

“The application of wood siding, ceramic tile, and stucco over brick walls; the replacement of window frames and entry doors on most of the buildings; the modification of storefront entries have impacted the historical integrity of the properties in terms of workmanship, materials and design. Individually, they do not possess sufficient integrity of materials, design, workmanship, or feeling sufficiently to convey their significance and historical character from there periods of significance (their construction dates),” said the report.

In addition, the exterior elevations have been altered and while not a factor in landmark consideration, the interiors have also been substantially remodeled.

“In summary, based on current research and the above assessment the improvements located at 1601/1615 Ocean Front Walk do not appear to be individual eligible for local landmark designation due to compromised historical integrity,” concludes the report.

The application for landmark status comes after an application has been filed to convert some of the buildings into a new Starbucks. An application is on file with the city to convert the building that currently houses Carousel Cafe and its neighbor into a single storefront. The proposal has been discussed at the city’s Architectural Review Board with staff pushing back against what they described as a generic design.

The proposal is still working its way through the city process, but according to Starbucks’ website, Santa Monica is already home to 21 Starbucks locations with several more located just outside city borders.

The open session of the Landmark’s Commission will meet on Monday, May 9 at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 1685 Main St.

editor@smdp.com

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