Santa Monica Scores Perfect On Preservation Report Card

Friday, 21 Mar 2014, 7:56:00 AM

Parimal M. Rohit

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.

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


“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


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


Instead, the report card assesses the efforts of each local

government in ensuring the preservation of cultural and historic


“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

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