SAN VICENTE BLVD — A state appellate court has rejected an appeal from a Jewish group that for five years has sought to demolish a seaside Santa Monica apartment complex, claiming it should be entitled to an exemption from historic preservation laws because it intends to build a home for Jewish refugees on the site.

The group, Or Khaim Hashalom, in 2005 purchased a 28-unit rent-controlled apartment complex located on San Vicente Boulevard near Ocean Avenue and applied for a permit to demolish the structure.

After a review, City Hall in 2006 decided the building, which was designed by architect Stanford Kent and built in 1949-1950, should be granted landmark status and protected, setting up the legal battle.

Or Khaim, represented by land use attorney Rosario Perry, argued its status as a religious non-profit organization should exempt it from having to follow local historic preservation rules.

But in a unanimous decision issued in November, a three-judge panel from the Second Appellate District, Division Three, disagreed, saying no exemption was warranted because the property had continuously been operated as a for-profit apartment building.

In the decision, Justice Richard D. Aldrich wrote that “to qualify for the exemption from historic preservation … the property must be ‘noncommercial,’ i.e., used for the religious institution’s mission and not for profit, before the religious institution seeks to invoke the exemption.”

The decision upheld an earlier ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant. The City Council also previously denied the group’s attempt to win an exemption.

“I believe this resolves the litigation,” Alan Seltzer, Santa Monica’s chief deputy city attorney, said on Tuesday. “The attempt to exempt the property from historic landmark laws has been rebuffed.”

Perry did not return a call seeking comment by deadline Tuesday, but he earlier told the Metropolitan News-Enterprise that he intended to petition the California Supreme Court for review.

The building in question consists of two- and three-story structures arranged in a pinwheel plan around courtyards. During hearings to determine the building’s landmark status, proponents said it was one of just two remaining buildings in the Los Angeles area that exhibit the unique pinwheel design.

Tenants in the building, including a number of senior citizens who would have been evicted if Or Khaim’s plans had moved ahead, also opposed the demolition.

nickt@www.smdp.com

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