OCEAN AVENUE — Facing a growing bill to rehab a more than century-old cottage, the owners are looking to rent the historically-landmarked property to bring in some extra cash.

John and Donna Heidt, who purchased the house at 2219 Ocean Ave. last year, recently applied for a bed and breakfast designation for the beachfront cottage, which would allow them to rent it for short-term stays.

While the couple is seeking a bed and breakfast label for the home, the intention is not to run a bustling small hotel where guests would go in and out all day.

“Donna and I have no intention being here cooking eggs and making oatmeal and toast,” John Heidt said. “What we would like to be able to do is rent the cottage for a week or weekend to people that are interested.”

Paul Foley, a senior planner with City Hall, said the bed and breakfast designation is required for temporary lodging of less than 30 days.

The cottage was the subject of a long battle between historic preservationists and its owner, the University of Illinois Foundation, which filed for a demolition permit in 2006, spurring the “Save the Cottage” campaign. The building was deeded to the university following the death of former owner William Hobson in 2005.

The Landmarks Commission designated the cottage, considered the last of its kind facing the beach in Santa Monica, in August 2006. The designation was subsequently appealed by the university but was later upheld by the council.

The Heidts found the property wasn’t in the best of shape when they purchased it last spring.

John Heidt estimates spending about $90,000 on rehabilitation work and believes there could be another $100,000 on the way with the foundation work.

“The only way to supplement our efforts here to preserve the cottage is to create some income,” he said. “A good way to create income is to allow short-term rentals.”

The idea has drawn some interest around the country.

He added that rehabbing such an old home is expensive because it requires custom-made materials to restore it to its original state.

Based on research of vacation rentals for nearby beachside hotels, John Heidt said he is thinking of charging around $7,200 a week.

The couple also maintains a house in Westwood where they raised their children. The cottage will be rented at times when the family is not occupying it.

“We want to be here but in order for us to be here and to preserve the place for generations to come, we have to spend quite a bit of money,” he said. “We could rent it out long term but then it would defeat the purpose and intent of buying this place.”

The couple received the 2009 Santa Monica Conservancy Preservation Award for their rehabilitation efforts.

The conservancy has talked with the property owners about hosting an on-site lecture about the cottage’s history.

Carol Lemlein, the president, said the conservancy has not taken a position about the couple’s plan to rent the cottage.

“Adaptive reuse that preserves a landmark in good condition and makes the ownership of the landmark more economically feasible for the owners is certainly something we would support in general,” she said.

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