Three bungalows slated for demolition were nominated by the Landmarks Commission for protection last week.

The houses on the 500 block of Hill Street in the Ocean Park neighborhood were built in 1912.

The grouping of three single-family Craftsman-style bungalows with a high level of physical integrity has become a rare occurrence in the neighborhood, consultants said in a report to the commission.

Over the first half of the last century, clerks, cooks, laundrymen, barbers, and photographers occupied the homes.

Construction picked-up in the area in the early 1920s, the consultants said.

“The full-court, half-court, duplex, and properties with granny flats became the prominent multi-family building types in the area,” they said. “The subject property and its neighbor at 240 Hill Street appear to be so-to-speak trailblazers as they were built prior to this popular multi-family trend.”

For this reason, the properties warranted consideration as a designated City Landmark, the consultant’s report says.

The commission largely agreed, voting 5-1 to nominate the buildings. Chair Margaret Bach was the lone dissenting vote — she preferred it be nominated for Structure of Merit status.

Robert Chattel, a preservation architect, spoke on behalf of the landowners during the public input portion of the meeting.

“There are prominent features and I would say limited really to the nested gable of the porch,” he said. “The two properties that face the street are mirror images and there’s a narrow walkway in between them. There are multiple, which I think is probably why we’re here tonight.”

Commissioner Dolores Sloan, who lived in the neighborhood, said that the symmetry of the two street-facing bungalows always arrested her.
“I would walk sometimes two and three times a day past those two buildings in the front and to me they were always a significant part of my walk,” she told the commission.

Commissioner Barbara Kaplan expressed interest in the fact that all three houses were built on the 42-foot by 161-foot property in the same year.

“I thought it was pretty unusual when I first saw it,” she said. “There are other cluster courts like this in the neighborhood but not as … pristine or as symmetrical.”

Some commissioners expressed less interest in the third, non-front facing home but they decided to nominate the trio, giving them the greatest flexibility at a later date.

The three properties will come back for consideration as landmarks later this year. If approved, the building owner will have an opportunity to appeal the decision. If that happens, City Council would make the final call.

Landmarked buildings, or those designated Structures of Merit, are harder to demolish or replace. Changes need to be approved by the commission although there are exemptions, like financial hardship, which can be claimed by the owners of landmarked buildings.

At least 114 structures have been designated as City Landmarks since landmarking began in 1975. At least three of those were demolished. Another seven building have been designated as Structures of Merit, with one designation nullified months later.

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