City Council will settle two controversial landmark designations Tuesday.

The appellants are trying to overturn decisions the Landmarks Commission made last month about the personal home of one of Southern California’s most formative architects and a cluster of buildings in Ocean Park built in the early 20th century. The commission granted the home landmark status and tied on whether to define the buildings as a historic district, effectively denying the Santa Monica Conservancy’s application.

The commission voted unanimously June 10 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 in June.

Owner Marcia Alphson inherited Woodacres from her parents, who bought it from the estate of Parkinson’s widow in 1965. She is opposed to landmarking her home and told the commission last month that the designation would reduce its value and prevent her from making necessary renovations.

Alphson’s appeal makes the same points and also argues that the landmark status amounts to unconstitutional seizure of private property. City staff said Alphson’s case is baseless and reiterated that the commission found that the property met five out of the six criteria required to become a landmark under local law. Only one criterion must be met for a property to be landmarked.

The commission wasn’t able to conclude that the proposed district in Ocean Park is historically or architecturally significant, however. The Conservancy, a historic preservation charity, applied to designate 13 adjacent homes and apartments at Ocean Park Boulevard and 4th Street built between 1906 and 1936 in the Late Victorian Cottage, Craftsman and Mission Revival styles as a historic district.

City staff said the buildings varied too much in style to make sense as a district and that similar clusters of early 20th century homes exist throughout the Ocean Park neighborhood. Three landmarks commissioners agreed and another three felt the homes should be protected as a historic district. One commissioner was absent, resulting in a tied vote that denied the Conservancy’s application.

Conservancy president Carol Lemlein said the organization will argue that the three architectural styles represented in the proposed district represent the dominant styles used in the city as a whole during that period.

“They really are a snapshot of what was taking place in residential architecture in Santa Monica during that period,” she said.

Lemlein also rejected staff’s conclusion that the proposed district was too small, noting that two out of the four historic districts that exist in the city are similarly sized.

The way Santa Monica developed makes it difficult to find large, architecturally unified districts that are common elsewhere in the United States, she added.

Ultimately, Lemlein said, giving the buildings landmark status will protect them from being demolished or substantially altered. Property owner XYZ has evicted or is in the process of evicting tenants using the Ellis Act in seven of the 13 buildings, putting them at risk of redevelopment, she said.

“We feel strongly that nominating the district is a way to protect that historic section of Ocean Park,” she said.

City Council will meet Tuesday, July 23 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 1685 Main St.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.