In Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Councilmembers will discuss two controversial landmark designations and decide whether they should be upheld.
City staff believe they should not. In reports on both buildings, staff concludes that neither structure meets the criteria to be designated as a landmark under the Landmark and Historic District Ordinance of the Santa Monica Municipal Code.
Demolition permits have been filed for both buildings, so City Council’s decision may very much mean the difference between preservation and destruction for these structures.
The first building is a 1914 multi-unit residential structure located at 1665 Appian Way on the border of the Downtown and Ocean Park neighborhoods. In February 2021, the property owner submitted an application for a demolition permit and in March 2021, Santa Monica resident Shawn Hugus submitted an application to designate the property as a landmark or structure of merit.
Two historical resource assessments were completed on the property. A report contracted by the owner with GPA Consultants found that the building did not meet any of the City of Santa Monica criteria to be a landmark or structure of merit. A report contracted by the City with Architectural Resource Group (ARG) found that the property appears eligible for Santa Monica Landmark designation as an example of Santa Monica’s economic history as associated with multi-family development and its relative rarity in this neighborhood.
The Landmarks Commission agreed with ARG’s conclusion and designated the building as a landmark following a public hearing in November 2021. The owner then appealed that decision and when City staff reviewed the building they sided with the owner.
“Staff believes that the area studied for its rarity may be too narrowly focused within the vicinity of the subject property and may therefore establish a false sense of rarity. Other properties in nearby neighborhoods appear to be more exemplary of multi-family development in this era,” states the staff report.
The second recently designated landmark is the former office building of Bay Films located at 631 Colorado Ave. From 1937 to 1955 the building was home to the Aztec Brewing Company.
The current owner of that property is seeking to demolish it and filed for a permit in March 2021. In May 2021, Nina Fresco, on behalf of the Santa Monica Conservancy, submitted a historic resource designation application for the property.
The main building was built in 1937 as an industrial vernacular warehouse with Streamline Moderne influences, while the auxiliary building is one-story rectangular building with a flat, composition roof.
Although a GPA study commissioned by the City concluded that the building did not qualify as a landmark, the Landmark Commission voted 4-2 to approve it as a landmark in a January 2022 meeting. Their reasoning included the fact that it was the first light industrial commercial building in the south-east portion of Santa Monica’s downtown; its Art Deco/Streamline Moderne style; its use of Groutlock bricks; and the fact that a prominent leader in the African American Women’s Club movement lived on the site prior to the building’s construction.
City staff also recommend that council overturn this designation.
“Staff remains in agreement with GPA that the property does not appear eligible for designation. The property, while one of the first industrial buildings built in this area of Downtown, does not appear to be a significant aspect of the larger trend of industrial development in Downtown or in Santa Monica as a whole,” states the staff report.
Late Friday afternoon several additional items were added to the Council agenda.
Although not yet mandated by the state, staff are recommending that Santa Monica limit outdoor watering to two days a week to align with neighboring water agencies’ conservation efforts. Drought conditions are currently worsening across California, and at the end of April, several municipalities were required to limit outdoor watering to one day a week as outdoor watering accounts for nearly 70 percent of the water use in Southern California.
Additionally, several council member discussion items were added covering a wide range of topics. These include preparing a tax on potential recreational marijuana sales, preparing a diversity report on city staff, offering free beach parking for residents with street parking permits, hiring independent legal counsel for legal matters involving councilmembers and adding a tax measure to the November ballot.
The regularly scheduled City Council meeting will be held on June 14.
The meeting will begin in closed session at 5:30 p.m. and can be streamed live at youtube.com/user/Citytv16santamonica.