LAY OF THE LAND: A row of mostly mature coral trees line the median on San Vicente Boulevard near 20th Street. (Photo by Daniel Archuleta)

CITY HALL — City Council is looking undo some changes made in 2003 that made it harder for the Landmarks Commission to create historic districts.

Historic districts are made up of a group of buildings that, together, contribute to an overall historical significance. Once designated, properties within these districts are protected, making it harder for property owners to tear them down.

In 2003, the changes to the Landmark Ordinance allowed a majority of property owners within a proposed historic district to reject its formation. As a result, Mayor Pam O’Connor posited, there hasn’t been a new historic district formed in the city in 14 years.

Carol Lemlein, speaking on behalf of the Santa Monica Conservancy, agreed with this assessment.

Now, there’s fear that a group of mid-century courtyard apartments along San Vicente Boulevard has been sold or is going to be sold and developed.

“A few years ago we saw what could happen there when the apartment complex at 301 Ocean at the corner of San Vicente was sold and people were evicted,” said Councilmember Kevin McKeown. “Now there is at least an indication that some of the other properties along this strip have recently changed hands or are about to change hands.”

Getting wind of this, three council members added one item to the council agenda and two council members added another, with both items addressing preservation of the courtyard apartments.

“There is obviously an obstacle or a barrier (to creating historic districts) and that, we believe, is in the Landmarks Commission requirement for the threshold for participating property owners,” O’Connor said of her item, which she put forth with Councilmember Gleam Davis.

No state or regional laws have this same requirement, said O’Connor, whose day job involves historic preservation.

In a motion made by O’Connor and seconded by McKeown – fierce political rivals each up for reelection on Tuesday – council members agreed to direct city officials to return with pre-2003 Landmark Ordinance language as it pertains to the formation of historical districts.

About a dozen members of the public spoke in favor of preserving the courtyard apartments.

McKeown asked city officials to move quickly.

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