OCEAN AVENUE — After years of red tape, Santa Monica’s last remaining beach-facing cottage can be enjoyed by moneyed visitors.
The historic yellow cottage at 2219 Ocean Ave. took on its first short-term rental earlier this summer. The owners have another renter lined-up for later this year. They are asking $3,500 per night for the four-bedroom, four-bathroom, 2,000-square-foot cottage.
Local preservationists fought off demolition of the historically-land marked property in 2007.
Over the next several years, various city agencies went back-and-forth in deciding what owners Donna and John Heidt should be allowed to do with the property.
Ultimately, after lengthy appeals by neighbors who feared short-term guests would disrupt the quiet neighborhood, the Planning Commission, in 2011, agreed to let the Heidts, who live in Westwood, rent out the space to guests.
Stipulations required the Heidts to have an on-site manager when guests are there.
They modernized an old non-landmarked shed on the property, turning it into a studio so that the Heidts’ daughter could act as the on-site manager, John Heidt said.
The juxtaposition between the historical cottage and modern studio gives the property a unique look, he said.
Construction was complete in 2012, said Donna Heidt, and required them to jump through all the hoops set forth by the Planning Commission, City Council, the Landmarks Commission, and basic city charter.
“The process was long and laborious, between the conditional-use permit, and outreach to the community,” she said. “Even though we’re between two apartment buildings, they thought it would be a transient occupancy — that we’d have people coming in and out of the building, which is so far from what it’s become. It’s a luxury rental. They come there because they want privacy.”
The Daily Press made repeated calls and sent e-mails to the appellant, a neighbor, but did not hear back by press time.
Councilmember Kevin McKeown, one of those who had some concerns about allowing a bed and breakfast rental in the neighborhood, said the process worked.
“We in Santa Monica make extraordinary efforts to preserve our history,” he said, “and if The Cottage is operated as a legitimate bed and breakfast with a resident manager, protecting the neighborhood and preserving that bit of our past, we’ve all come out winners.”
The asking rate, $3,500 per night, was not of concern for McKeown or Carol Lemlein, the president of the Santa Monica Conservancy.
“Unlike hundred or so residents who are apparently renting their homes, or parts of them, illegally through VRBO and AirBnB, the Heidts are required to pay hotel occupancy taxes,” Lemlein said. “As far as the rental rate goes, that’s determined by the market, and will change over time if they are asking too much.”
Agreements like the one the Heidts reached with City Hall could be a new tool for conservation.
“From a preservation point of view, encouraging new uses for historic properties is a desirable way to encourage their preservation,” Lemlein said, “and many of us in the preservation community support allowing Conditional Use Permits for bed and breakfasts in designated properties.”
As trailblazers in that process, it was a long road to restoration for the Heidts.
“I think that in the end, it’s all been good,” Donna Heidt said. “I think everything could have been better coordinated between the different parts of (City Hall).”
For example, the Heidts had been given stamped approval for their plans and had begun restoring the kitchen when city officials told them that certain aspects needed to be changed in order to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The Heidts had to re-do much of their work, adding six months to the process.
“I don’t disagree with having to do any of that, but it should have been pointed out at an early stage,” she said.
The Heidts have had a few family get-togethers at the cottage. Donna Heidt, who designed all the interiors, loves it.
“Everything is right there. We really like the urban feeling of it while being isolated on the beach, so it’s kind of cool,” she said. “It’s kind of a twist to urban beach.”