MAIN STREET — Change, whether people like it or not, appears well on its way to a street corner richly steeped in the history of the local surfing and skateboarding scene.

A nearly three-year-old proposal to build housing at 2001 Main St. reached a major milestone recently when the Planning Commission granted a development review permit for the project, setting it on track to break ground in about a year.

The project includes rehabilitating the building on the Main Street side of the property, which currently houses Horizons West Surf Shop and is the only landmarked portion of the parcel, recognized as a cultural landmark for its role in the development of modern skateboarding. Behind it will be 14 rental apartment units spread out over three stories and a subterranean garage.

“The proposed design and restoration of the landmark building will further enhance and elevate the ‘cultural significance’ of the site as a local landmark, while respecting the scale and character of Main Street,” Howard Laks, the architect for the project, said.

The mixed-use project is now slated to go before the Landmarks Commission, which designated the building for preservation in 2007, for a hearing on the certificate of appropriateness application, which is necessary to make changes on landmarked properties. Laks said he expects a building permit to be granted in June 2010 and construction to take about 16-18 months.

It was at the property where Zephyr and Jeff Ho Productions, a small shop that operated in the same space now occupied by Horizons, sponsored and trained a skateboarding team made up of unknown street kids from Dogtown.

Calling themselves the Z-Boys, the team went on to introduce a more aggressive style of the sport during a historic competition in 1975, inspiring movies and documentaries and firmly establishing the Main Street address as a must stop for skateboarding fanatics all over the world.

So it came as a surprise to many when a proposal was submitted in the fall of 2006 to demolish the entire structure and create a mixed-use development, leading to a number of hearings before the Landmarks Commission and meetings between the community and property owner, who fairly early on expressed a willingness to compromise.

The project has changed significantly since its first iteration, working around the preserved portion of the property, which will be restored to its state in the 1970s, a process that includes repainting the building the original color found in 1972, recovering the original brick planters and flagstone bulkhead, and keeping the exterior signage brand, Laks said. The project will also involve seismic upgrades and ADA compliance features.

“The proposed residential building is differentiated from the landmark building through the use of concrete and glass and will recall the former light industrial use of the site and the cutting edge skateboard culture,” Laks said.

The property owner has made an offer to Randy Wright, who owns Horizons West, to return after construction is over, though it remains unclear whether there has been discussion about temporary relocation. Wright could not be reached for comment.

“They owner has been committed in today’s economic market to working with Randy … to make sure the economics work for Randy at the moment,” Ken Kutcher, the attorney representing the property owner, said.

The project will also include several green elements, such as solar panels and a roof that will have planted vegetation, which reduces the solar heat gain coefficient, said Ryan McEvoy, the LEED consultant for the project.

The project is expected to meet the qualifications to achieve silver LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] status at the least, though McEvoy said he is going for the gold.

Other green features include natural ventilation and a system that allows shower and bathroom water to be recycled and used for landscaping.

Development has been a sensitive issue in the city as of late, particularly in the Ocean Park neighborhood where a number of mixed-use projects have popped up along Main Street over the past few years, including the Archstone properties near the intersection of Main and Bay streets. Some long-time residents have complained that the developments have changed the character of the neighborhood.

Jacob Samuel, a long-time Ocean Park resident who also owns a business on Main Street, said he has some concerns with the scale of the project, likening it to a “concrete bunker.”

Samuel added that he had some issue with the changes to the surf shop, questioning the need for the earthquake retrofit and pointing out that his nearly 100-year-old home has been through two big ones and sustained little damage. He also noted that while some argue the project does not affect the scale because it’s pulled back from Main Street, parts of the development will hover over the building where the surf shop sits.

“What’s a real concern to myself and my neighbors is that the scale is just changing so drastically at our end of Main Street,” he said.

melodyh@smdp.com

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