A cluster of 14 homes and apartments in Ocean Park dating back to the early 20th century will become Santa Monica’s fifth historic district.

The city council voted unanimously Tuesday to landmark the district at Ocean Park Boulevard and 4th Street, overturning last month’s tied Landmarks Commission vote that effectively denied the Santa Monica Conservancy’s application. The Conservancy, a historic preservation nonprofit, applied to designate the predominantly Craftsman and Mediterranean Revival buildings as a historic district after learning that the company XYZ, the owner of more than half the buildings, was using the Ellis Act to evict tenants.

Conservancy president Carol Lemlein said the organization had been planning to landmark the collection of buildings for some time but expedited the process because they believed XYZ’s use of the Ellis Act could mean the company intended to demolish or alter the buildings. The 1985 state law allows property owners to evict tenants if they want to get out of the rental business.

The 14 buildings spread over five lots were built between 1906 and 1936. They vary in style, ranging from Craftsman, Neoclassical and American Colonial Revival bungalows and cottages to small Mediterranean Revival apartments. The buildings have not been substantially changed since they were constructed, Lemlein said.

“Nearly all of (the buildings) were constructed in the years following the extension of Ocean Park Boulevard and … survived the streetscape improvements beginning with the redevelopment era in the late 1960s unscathed,” she said.

The architectural makeup of the district is similar to the Third Street Neighborhood Historic District, which became the city’s first historic district in 1990 and is also in Ocean Park. However, city staff and the three landmarks commissioners who voted against the district said the buildings were too dissimilar to warrant designation.

“This is a hodgepodge of styles,” Commissioner Kenneth Breisch said last month. “Just because these houses have survived doesn’t necessarily raise their level of significance.”

The commission tied 3-3 on the issue, with one commissioner absent from the discussion. When city council heard the Conservancy’s appeal of the decision Tuesday, councilmembers disputed the conclusions of the commission and city staff.

Councilmember Ted Winterer, a former member of the Conservancy, said he thinks the varied styles of the buildings exemplify the manner in which Ocean Park developed. He also noted that all the buildings in the district are historically significant; typically, historic districts incorporate a few buildings that were constructed after its period of significance but must be included for the district to be contiguous.

“This is not Nantucket. This is Santa Monica, and the Ocean Park neighborhood has a history of developing a diversity of architectural styles at the same time,” Winterer said.

Several neighbors and residents told the council they supported landmarking the district.

Jeffrey Sturges, who has lived at 2522 4th St. for 21 years, said he supports creating the historic district because the buildings are familiar features of the Ocean Park neighborhood and have survived the redevelopment of Ocean Park Boulevard in the late 1960s.

“These buildings … have an outsized effect on the perception of the Ocean Park neighborhood for everyone who passes down 4th Street every day,” Sturges said. “(The district) has stuck there like a barnacle through the ages and I think it has a great deal of cohesion, stylistic and otherwise.”

Joseph Solomon, a representative of XYZ, a technology company that provides domain names to individuals and businesses, said the company intended to complete historically sensitive renovations to the 12 buildings it owns in the district. The designation would make the renovations costly and time-consuming, he said, because it would have to go through an extended approval process with the city.

Solomon also said he thinks the cluster of homes is too small and inconsistent to become a historic district.

“Staff was very clear in recommending against the proposed district,” Solomon said. “It goes against the (city of Santa Monica’s) landmark ordinance, the national park service guidelines and the historic resources group report itself.”

The council will vote on an ordinance to finalize the landmark designation at a future meeting.

 

madeleine@smdp.com

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2 Comments

  1. Great news. Poor XYZ Tech…? cry me a river…? Why the hell is a Vegas tech company investing in historic SM real estate? Beware, Snap(Chat) made a real mess in Venice with their real estate acquisitions…buying cherished restaurants to convert to private cafeterias, converting rent controlled apts to private intern housing, raising commercial rents to ridiculous levels, forcing many adjacent long term businesses out…

  2. There is a criminal element in Santa Monica which uses the landmarking of buildings to drive small landlords out of business.

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