The Landmarks Commission has recommend that City Council designate a strip of bungalows along 11th Street as Santa Monica’s fourth historic district.

The commission voted Monday night to support creating a historic district from ten buildings on 11th Street between Wilshire Boulevard and Arizona Avenue, seven of which are houses in California bungalow, Craftsman and Spanish revival styles built between 1905 and 1925. It will be the city’s first historic district east of 7th Street and is intended to preserve a style of architecture built for the working class as Santa Monica expanded east from the beach in the early 20th century.

Local groups Mid-City Neighbors and Friends of 11th Street have been trying to protect the bungalows from demolition or alteration since 1989, when one of the bungalows was demolished to make room for a three-story apartment building. Members say homes in California bungalow and Craftsman styles once abounded in Santa Monica but have been demolished at the rate of about two per year since the late 1980s.

The commission voted against recognizing 11th Street as a historic district in 1989, but the two groups decided to initiate the process again this past January.

The commission considered the proposal at its Nov. 12 meeting but decided to continue its discussion to Dec. 10. In November, some commissioners indicated they did not think the proposed district contained enough historical buildings to justify creating a district but voted unanimously in favor of the proposal on Monday.

“The commission considered this district in 1989 and it failed on a four to three vote, but I don’t believe that necessitates the same result today,” said Commissioner Barry Rosenbaum. “With the passage of time, resources can gain significance when fewer of their type remain … a shrinking number of residences survive from this important historical period.”

Rosenbaum preliminary voted against the proposal based on his concern that more than 50 percent of the structures in a district should contribute to its historic designation. (Five of the bungalows exist in their original states and two have been altered. Two 1950s apartment buildings and a 1992 condominium comprise the rest of the district.)

But the City Attorney reaffirmed that local requirements do not stipulate that more than half of the buildings in a district must be contributors, and commissioners agreed that the 1950s apartment buildings do not diminish the district’s integrity because they “extend the vernacular, working class nature of the neighborhood and maintain its low scale,” according to a report prepared by Rosenbaum, Chair Dolores Sloan and Commissioner Roger Genser.

At the previous meeting, several commissioners also expressed doubts that the original owners, builders and inhabitants of the bungalows were significant to Santa Monica’s history. Advocates for the district said local builders Waldo Cowan and Joseph Rowe, who constructed three of the homes, were active in civic life. Kenneth Strickfaden, a special effects pioneer who worked on Frankenstein and The Wizard of Oz, also lived in one of the bungalows as a teenager.

Sloane said she was initially unsure that Strickfaden was an important figure in early 20th century Santa Monica, but changed her mind after viewing a collection of photos he took of the city as a teenager and learned in a 1918 edition of The Evening Lookout that he was considered an electronics prodigy and exhibited his work at the 1915 Panama Pacific Exhibition.

Sloane also said the district creates the distinct sense of time and place necessary to qualify it as a historic area.

“I’ve walked that street so many times … even the altered buildings have a feeling of the period,” she said. “You’re definitely taken back to a time.”

About 30 people attended the Monday meeting and the room erupted into applause when the commission voted in support of the district. Mid-City Neighbors vice president Andrew Hoyer, who signed the application to create the district, said the vote creates the basis to landmark more buildings of a similar type in the area and incorporate them into the district.

One owner of a property in the proposed district, however, said historical designation places a burden on property owners, a sentiment another homeowner expressed at the Nov. 12 meeting.

“Our mother is 96 years old and we want the freedom to do what we want with the property,” said the owner’s son, Jamie Lennon.

Commissioner Ruth Shari, who initially opposed the proposal, said she empathizes with property owners but believes the bungalows should be preserved.

“I want to remind owners who may not be in sync with this move that they are free to develop the rear of the property, as it’s just the front of the buildings that convey historical significance,” Shari said.

The tax breaks on historical properties will also increase the bungalows’ value, Hoyer said.

“The tax break stays with the property,” he said. “Someone who buys it gets that tax break, thereby greatly increasing the value of the property for sale.”

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