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 www.laconservancy.org.
Copyright © 2011 by Santa Monica Mirror. All rights reserved.