The personal home of a seminal Los Angeles architect has been designated a Santa Monica landmark.

The Landmarks Commission voted unanimously Monday to landmark the estate John Parkinson built in 1920 on Woodacres Road and lived in until his death in 1935. Parkinson designed Los Angeles’ City Hall, Coliseum and Grand Central Market, but his biographer Stephen Gee said the Woodacres estate is the best reflection of his architectural style. The two-story Italian Renaissance-style home is also remarkably unaltered, he said.

“This is the most compelling case for a landmark designation you will ever see,” Gee told the commission.

The owner of the house, Marcia Alphson, is vehemently opposed to landmarking it, however.

She inherited Woodacres from her parents, Howard and Druscilla Alphson, who bought it from the estate of Parkinson’s widow in the 1960s.

Her attorney, Roger Diamond, has appealed the commission’s decision on the grounds that the landmark status will lower the property’s value and prevent Alphson from making necessary renovations to the aging home. Several of Alphson’s friends and neighbors also told the commission they believe maintaining the home will be a burden.

“Financially, Ms. Alphson is not in the position to become the curator of the house,” he said. “There are also electrical and plumbing problems and the house will become dilapidated if it cannot be renovated.”

The commission found that Woodacres meets five out of the six criteria to become a local landmark. Properties are only required to meet one criterion.

“It’s a remarkable property, even if it was by another architect,” said chair Dolores Sloan.

Carol Lemlein, president of the Santa Monica Conservancy, said she feels strongly that the commission made the right decision in approving the Conservancy’s application to landmark Woodacres.

“It’s hard to imagine what you would try to preserve, if not this,” she said.

Lemlein said Alphson’s claim that landmark status would lower the property’s value is unfounded. Buyers are often willing to pay more for a historical house, she said, and the property tax cut on such properties is attractive to potential owners.

Alphson is also free to make changes to the interior of the house, Lemlein said.

Melanie Parkinson Larson, Parkinson’s great-granddaughter, spoke in support of landmarking the estate, comparing it to Frank Lloyd Wright’s personal home in Illinois. The residence of her grandfather Donald Parkinson, Parkinson’s son, was torn down after he died because it was not landmarked, she said. 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,” Parkinson Larson wrote in a letter to the commission.

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1 Comment

  1. If the Parkinson Family and the Santa Monica Conservancy think this property is so important maybe they should buy it instead of taking it from a family that worked their entire careers to be able to live there. It’s easier to use the powers of the City to “Take” a home from the owners without just compensation. These people want the home for their own gain. They have zero respect for the family or what their situation is. Zero. As Ruthann Lehrer , who has served on the Landmarks commission and currently on the Santa Monica Conservancy, has said to me many times, “Your hardships are not my concern.”
    Why didn’t they vote it in while my parents were alive? We have lived here 53 years. Longer than the Parkinson family. They waited until my Mom was dying and landmarked it.
    Thank you all for your concern shown for the citizens of Santa Monica.

    Marcia Alphson

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