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Santa Monica's Landsmarks Commission can designate a landmark without owner consent, which allowed the city to prevent the demolition of its last ocean-facing cottage (ca. 1905), now a designated Santa Monica landmark.
Courtesy of Santa Monica Conservancy
Santa Monica's Landsmarks Commission can designate a landmark without owner consent, which allowed the city to prevent the demolition of its last ocean-facing cottage (ca. 1905), now a designated Santa Monica landmark.

News, Santa Monica, History

Santa Monica Scores Perfect On Preservation Report Card

Posted Mar. 21, 2014, 7:56 am

Parimal M. Rohit / Staff Writer

For all the recent discussion of whether Santa Monica is developing too fast, the Los Angeles Conservancy believes the city is the standard bearer for preservation of cultural and historic resources. Receiving an A-plus in the non-profit’s annual Preservation Report Card, Santa Monica was the only city in the region to earn a perfect score of 245.

“Santa Monica established its historic preservation ordinance in 1976 and has many programs in place to protect its architectural and cultural heritage,” the report card stated. “The city became a Certified Local Government in 1992, indicating its strong commitment to a professionalized preservation program.”

Adding to the City’s high standing is its Landmarks Commission, which “reviews proposed demolitions to all structures throughout the city that are 40 years of age or older.”

“In addition to the Mills Act property tax abatement program, Santa Monica offers a range of other incentives to owners of historic properties, including priority plan check processing; fee waivers for Certificates of Appropriateness, planning applications, and plan check applications; and exemption from requirements of the city’s construction rate program,” the report cart continued.

The City received perfect scores in all categories, including: historic preservation ordinance (150 points); dedicated preservation staff (15); ability to designate historic districts (15); citywide survey of historical resources (15); owner consent not required for historic designation (10); Mills Act incentive program (10); landmark designation annually active (5); dedicated historic preservation commission (5); historical resources survey updated within the past five years (5); certified local government status (5); historic preservation element or plan (5); and, “additional incentives” (5).

Santa Monica locations featured in the Preservation Report Card included the Annenberg Community Beach House, the Gehry House, the General Telephone Building at the corner of Wilshire and Ocean, Pacific Street Townhouses, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, and Sears Santa Monica.

“The Gehry residence has been hailed as an immensely influential building in the development of Deconstructivism and in changes in modern conceptions of art, architecture, and everyday life,” the Los Angeles Conservancy described of the home on its webpage.

Of the Sears building, the Los Angeles Conservancy stated its “Late Modern design … captures the era’s feeling of optimism and growth, with a large scale and stylish architectural touches that advertised Sears as a forward-looking company.”

Meanwhile, the landmark General Telephone Building at the end of Wilshire Boulevard was touted as a “futuristic building” doubling as a “fitting focal point for Santa Monica.”

Two Santa Monica locations were identified as ongoing issues: Chez Jay and the Santa Monica Post Office.

“The Conservancy believes that Chez Jay is architecturally and culturally significant as a postwar vernacular restaurant structure,” a position by the non-profit organization stated of the restaurant adjacent to Tongva Park on Ocean Avenue.

When the U.S. Postal Service pegged the Santa Monica Post Office for closure in 2012, the Los Angeles Conservancy campaigned to keep the facility open when the City appealed the federal government’s decision.

“The Conservancy believes that the Santa Monica Post Office qualifies as a historical resource,” a statement on the group’s website stated.

Santa Monica’s Civic Auditorium, which is currently dark, is on the Los Angeles Conservancy’s watch list. Though not yet announcing an official position, the Los Angeles Conservancy stated it joined with local advocates in 2001 and 2002 urging the venue be given landmark status.

The Conservancy report card was launched in 2003 to judge each of Los Angeles County’s 89 jurisdictions’ efforts in preserving cultural and historic landmarks through incentive programs, ordinances, and other forms of formalized assistance.

“The nonprofit Los Angeles Conservancy works through advocacy and education to recognize, preserve, and revitalize historic resources throughout L.A. County,” a statement about the report card explained. “As part of this effort, it is important to understand how preservation works in each of the county’s different jurisdictions, help governments create or improve preservation programs, and recognize those with strong protections in place.”

According to the Conservancy, the annual report card is not a “comprehensive assessment of all preservation efforts in L.A. County” nor does it “assess the general state of preservation of the cultural resources.”

Instead, the report card assesses the efforts of each local government in ensuring the preservation of cultural and historic resources.

“It simply seeks to recognize those jurisdictions that actively foster preservation and encourage them to keep up the good work, as well as to offer practical models, best practices, and motivation to those jurisdictions that have fewer protections in place,” the Conservancy stated about the report card.

More information about the Preservation Report Card and the performances of other cities in Los Angeles County can be found at www.laconservancy.org.

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