(photo by Kevin Herrera)

PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY — Parts of the Annenberg Community Beach House date to the 1920s, but when it comes to environmental sustainability, the public club is very much of the 21st century.

The beach house on Tuesday received recognition from the U.S. Green Building Council for meeting the organization’s Gold LEED standard — the body’s second highest rating for environmentally friendly buildings — joining the Main Library as the only other City Hall-operated building to attain the distinction.

The project earned praise from environmentalists both for cleaning up a contaminated site and for incorporating many of the latest energy efficiency technologies into its design.

Before Council members Richard Bloom and Gleam Davis accepted the award, Bloom said the beach house project was an example of how preservation and sustainability can go hand in hand.

“Cleaning up wasn’t only the responsible thing to do, it also allowed us to restore the site to a productive use,” he said. “Not only was the site re-used for the new beach house, but materials and history were conserved by preserving and reusing the guest house.”

The beach house occupies the former site of a sprawling mansion built by magnate William Randolph Hearst for his mistress, actress Marion Davies, in the 1920s. The main mansion became a luxury hotel before being demolished in 1956. The city of Santa Monica operated the remaining structures under the name 415 PCH in the 1990s until they were badly damaged in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and fell out of use.

The Annenberg Foundation provided a $27.5 million grant to rehabilitate the site — a process that included cleaning up contamination from asbestos and lead, among other chemicals. The new facility, which includes a public pool, deck and recreation space, opened last spring. An original guest house from the property now serves as a mini-museum devoted to the site’s history and also contains meeting space.

The LEED program, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, evaluates buildings for their energy efficiency, water conservation and use of sustainable materials.

The beach house attained the Gold rating with a wide range of environmentally friendly features, said Brenden McEneaney, City Hall’s green building program advisor.

The main public gathering room has floor-to-ceiling windows and light-filtering shades aimed at maximizing the use of natural light, and the facility’s ventilation system saves energy by gauging carbon dioxide levels and adjusting air flow accordingly.

Outside there’s a water efficient landscape design, a partially solar-heated pool and a storm runoff system that directs water into underground reservoirs, instead of into the ocean. The wood flooring came from sustainable forests and some of the tiles were re-used from the original estate.

The beach house is “such an incredible testament to our need to make public spaces both healthy and viable as a way of life,” said Lance Williams, the executive director of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Los Angeles Chapter, who presented the Gold designation plaque.


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