Santa Monica City Hall (File photo)

Developers seeking to demolish buildings more than 40 years old will have to request that the City of Santa Monica rule on whether the property qualifies as a landmark.

City Council approved an emergency zoning ordinance Nov. 13 that will require demolition applications for older buildings to include a request for a review to determine if the property meets the criteria for a landmark or structure of merit status. After a developer files a demolition permit application, the Commission and the public will have 75 days to review the status of the building.

The Landmarks Commission previously filed applications to itself requesting that it review buildings marked for demolition. A recent court decision now prevents local government bodies from submitting applications to themselves, so the Commission has had to rely on individual citizens asking for review of potentially historic buildings since June.

“The June suspension of the Commission’s review of demolition permits has caused substantial disruption, given the Commission’s central role in safeguarding potential historic resources,” said Commissioner Barry Rosenbaum.

The city’s neighborhood associations and the Santa Monica Conservancy reviewed demolition permits between June and November, he added.

Staff said the revised demolition process uses the Commission’s expertise to prevent the demolition of historically significant buildings and maintains community input.

The emergency ordinance will be in effect until Jan. 12, 2019, after which the City plans to request a one-year extension to monitor its outcome and make recommendations for permanent revisions to city code.

“We’ll have to see how it works in practice, but I imagine it’s going to work fine and will be the model we want to follow going forward, with perhaps some tweaks to the language in January,” Rosenbaum said.

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