The personal home of one of Los Angeles’ most formative architects is being considered for landmark status, but its owner says the designation would be a financial burden.

John Parkinson built Los Angeles’ City Hall, Coliseum and Grand Central Market, but he made his home in Santa Monica. In 1921, he built his two-story Italian Renaissance-style home, Woodacres, north of San Vicente Boulevard and lived there until his death in 1935. Stephen Gee, the leading expert on Parkinson, said the remarkably unaltered estate reveals how he would use the full breadth of his architectural experience without the constraints of a client.

“This was his oasis, his escape from the city,” Gee said. “It’s the paradise that really completes the journey of his story.”

The Landmarks Commission will hear Monday an application from the Santa Monica Conservancy to landmark 808 Woodacres Rd. City staff is recommending the commission approve the application because the house satisfies five out of six criteria to become a city landmark and a property must only meet one criterion.

Owner Marcia Alphson is fighting the designation on the basis that the special status would lower the value of the property and prevent her from renovating her home. She inherited Woodacres from her parents, Howard and Druscilla Alphson, who bought it from the estate of Parkinson’s widow in the 1960s.

Alphson said she does not plan to sell the house and is willing to erect a plaque outside explaining its significance, but is very opposed to giving it landmark status.

“Experience has taught us that landmarked property is worth less,” said Alphson’s attorney Roger Diamond. “People don’t want to buy the house if they can’t do anything with it.”

Owners of landmarked properties may make renovations to interior spaces at their discretion, said Conservancy president Carol Lemlein. The designation only restricts changes to the building’s exterior, she said.

Lemlein said she thinks it’s a misconception that landmarked properties are worth less. California state law reduces property taxes on a landmarked structure and that reduction transfers when the property is sold. Landmarked homes are often more attractive to buyers for that reason, she said.

Supporters of the designation include Parkinson’s great-granddaughters, who wrote a letter to the Landmarks Commission explaining the architect’s influence on the region and the value of preserving his home.

“Woodacres stands as a rare and exceptional residential work,” wrote Melanie Parkinson Larson.

Parkinson Larson said the residence of her grandfather Donald Parkinson, Parkinson’s son, was torn down after he died because it was not landmarked. The younger Parkinson was also a prolific architect and designed Santa Monica City Hall.

“I urge you to designate Woodacres as a historical building to protect it from the same fate,” she wrote.

For Gee, Woodacres is the most notable house in Santa Monica. Parkinson’s significance to Southern California cannot be overstated, he said.

“If we can’t protect buildings like this, then what are we ever going to protect?,” Gee said.

madeleine@smdp.com

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