The thirty-year effort to save a half-dozen bungalows by establishing a historic district on 11th Street will come before the Landmarks Commission Monday, Jan 8, as the commissioners review a report that found the properties lack architectural merit, association with important people and historical integrity. In fact, a group of historical preservation consultants found just two of the bungalows may qualify as Structures of Merit, a California Craftsman at 1223 11th Street and a cottage at 1107 Arizona Avenue.
“Due to the lack of historical integrity of many of its components and compromised integrity of the neighborhood’s contextual setting, feeling, and association the 1200 Block of 11th Street Cluster does not appear to be a geographically definable area possessing a distinct concentration of historic properties,” the City-commissioned report by Ostashay and Associates Consulting found.
There are currently three historic districts in Santa Monica: a cluster of craftsman buildings on Bay Street, the Third Street Neighborhood and the San Vicente Boulevard Courtyard Apartments. The City Council has the ultimate say on whether an area should be deemed historic, but it is up to the commission to start the process.
The group of neighbors asking for the fourth designation, the Historic 11th Street Coalition, is encouraging Mid-City residents to send letters to the commission and weigh in during the public comment portion of the discussion Monday night. Neighborhood groups have already submitted dozens of letters to try to protect the bungalows.
The small homes are associated with the first decade of the twentieth century, when a building boom brought the middle class to Santa Monica. The quaint and affordable houses filled former empty lots east and south of the downtown area and throughout the southland outside of city limits. It was a time when both blue and white-collar workers could afford a charming home walking distance from the beach, a thriving downtown and good schools. At the time, the stretch of 11th Street between Wilshire Boulevard and Arizona Avenue was no exception.
“By 1918, the block was fully developed with Craftsman bungalows infilling the empty lots,” the report by Ostashay says. “Like much of the surrounding neighborhood, this block of 11th Street was also built for the middle class with moderate incomes. Because of their relative economy, bungalows answered a growing need for affordable housing during the 1910s and 1920s.”
However, after World War II, the block underwent significant redevelopment that focused on large-scale apartment buildings and condominiums. A century later, only a cluster of bungalows remains, many of which have seen significant remodels and upgrades.
“The result is a varied residential development pattern lacking unity, cohesiveness, and a distinct concentration of resources,” says the report. “The extensive loss of historic fabric on some of the older extant homes along the 1200 block of 11th Street have further compromised the collective historical integrity of the small assemblage of properties that were once identified as part a potential thematic grouping.”
However, several neighborhood groups are encouraging the Landmarks Commission to ignore the preliminary assessment and submit an application to designate the district as historic anyway. To them, the bungalows represent a remedy, thought not a cure, to the modernization and mansionization of Santa Monica as property values continue to climb.
“We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to save this cultural and historic treasure by establishing an historic district here that honors and protects for generations to come the architectural expression of affordable, well-built and designed middle class housing,” said Stacy Dalgleish, president of Mid City Neighbors in a letter to the commission.
The influential group Santa Monicans for Renter’s Rights also wrote to encourage the commission to save the bungalows before they are further altered or lost, calling them a “testimony to those in the community who actually did the work it took to create this city.”
The Landmarks Commission will review the report and hear from the public and then direct staff on next steps, which could include reaching out to property owners and having more meetings before ultimately deciding whether to file and application asking for a historic district designation.
The Commission meets Monday, Jan. 8, at 7:00 p.m. inside City Council Chambers, Room 213, 1685 Main Street.