The Santa Monica Conservancy recently recognized eight exemplary contributors who excelled in preserving Santa Monica’s architectural and cultural heritage thanks to work related to restoration, adaptive reuse or renovation.
For more than 15 years, the conservancy has awarded residents with various awards for their contributions to preserving Santa Monica during a celebration at its Annual Meeting. And even though Covid-19 forced the postponement of this year’s gathering, the Conservancy chose to move forward with the awards announcement and offer virtual tours of the award-winning properties. They can all be found online at smconservancy.org, according to Executive Director Carol Lemlein, who said Friday that residents should be proud of the preservation currently underway throughout the Westside, particularly at the places that took home the respected President’s and Cultural Landscape awards.
“This year, we gave the President’s Award to the Proper Hotel project, which incorporated a historic building that was underutilized and in very significant need of rehabilitation and seismic work in order to ensure that it was going to survive the next 100 years,” Lemlein said as she described how a 1928 landmark building was rehabilitated and adapted into 55 rooms with ground floor commercial space.
The five-story building was refurbished to include rehabilitated steel windows and storefronts, restored interior circulation spaces and significant seismic improvements, according to the awards page. The historic building has also been linked to a much larger development on the remainder of the block and is a great example of what one can do to bring modernity to a historic building.
“It was a very difficult project from the point of view of getting all of the required approvals,” because it was a project that encompassed the Landmarks Commission and the Architectural Review Board’s interest. “So that project is truly extraordinary in my mind and represents an excellent outcome and a lot of dedication, both from the owners and other people who were supporters of the project at a time when not all development in Santa Monica was necessarily supported by the community.”
Cultural Landscape Award
The Bay Street Beach’s placement on the National Register of Historic Places in 2019 is also a feat to be recognized, according to Lemlein.
“There are very few properties associated with communities of color on the National Register and this is an important one right here in Santa Monica,” Lemlein added before detailing the work of historian Alison Rose Jefferson and Michael Blum.
The Bay Street Beach is a 53-acre district that recognizes and celebrates an intact African American seaside cultural landscape, according to the awards page. During the Jim Crow era, the beach was self-selected by African Americans as a place of recreation and leisure since its visitors felt relatively safe from racist harassment.
Currently, fewer than five percent of the listings in the National Register are associated with communities of color, but the successful nomination exemplifies how hard Blum, the Executive Director of Sea of Clouds — a nonprofit focusing on coastal heritage conservation/historic preservation and environmental conservation — and Jefferson worked to ensure Bay Street Beach was recognized as the important landmark it is.