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City Hosts Open House At 415 PCH: as planning for restoration gets underway

The City of Santa Monica hosted an open house last Thursday with the design team for 415 PCH, the former Marion Davies beachfront estate, to give residents an opportunity to make suggestions for and comments on the restoration of the historic property.

Built by publisher William Randolph Hearst for his mistress, film star Davies, in 1929, the 5.5-acre estate included a 100-room mansion, an Italian marble swimming pool, tennis courts, dog kennels and guest houses. It was the largest and most elaborate estate ever built on the Southern California coast and a favored Hollywood watering hole. Only remnants of the original estate, including the north guest house and the pool, remain on the site today.

Davies sold the property in 1957. It became a hotel, Oceanhouse, and then the Sand and Sea, a popular beach club.

The property is owned by the State of California and managed by the City. In 1989, the City cancelled the Sand and Sea lease and opened the property to the public, but, after it was damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, it was shut down.

Subsequently, the City Council appointed a 415 Working Group, whose members included Council members Ken Genser and Michael Feinstein. The Group and its consultant developed a reuse plan for the property’s rehab in 1998. For several years, the City tried, but failed to raise funds to restore the property. Late last year, the Annenberg Foundation awarded a $21 million grant to the City for its restoration.

Barbara Grey, Communications consultant for the Annenberg Foundation’s Los Angeles Office, told the Mirror that Wallis Annenberg made the grant because she is interested in ”preserving and transforming historic buildings for 21st century use” and liked the “community input” process that the City employs in designing public projects.

On June 28, the City signed a design/build contract with the team of Pankow Special Projects and Fred Fisher and Partners Architects. Rick Stupin, a Senior Project Manager with Pankow Special Projects, told the Mirror the projected hard costs for the restoration are estimated at $12 million and that it is anticipated that it will take 2 1/2 to 3 years to complete the rehab and restoration.

Barbara Stinchfield, the City’s Director of Cultural and Community Affairs, said the City decided to have an open house and site tour prior to a more structured two-day workshop in September to provide an “opportunity for the community members to freely associate” and come up with their own ideas for the restoration rather than an “over facilitated and over summarized” workshop.

An initial design concept will be developed based on the ideas expressed at the open house, the City’s adaptive reuse plans and historic documentation of the site. That design concept will then be presented on the first day of the two-day workshop in September for the community’s critique.

Among the comments made by the 90-plus people who attended the open house in response to the City statement “When I think of going to the beach at 415 PCH, I envision …” “some shade would be nice, swimming is very desirable, but keep costs reasonable. There needs to be good public transportation to it. There should be native vegetation and bicycle taxis could bring guests from the pool entrance down to the water on a small circular bike path.”

Others suggested a “glorious public space with mixed indoor and outdoor spaces. The pool restored as a water feature, the locker building removed to make way for an open plaza with tables, places to meet, music concerts and maybe some canoeing, kayaks or other facilities. 40s-style swing bands with paper lanterns. Summer dance series, a pavilion that looks out over the pool. A museum gallery, café, bar and an evening artist lecture series. A historic site for locals and tourists to visit. A swim club that would exist on a pay as you go basis so that tourists could visit as well. Plays and concerts on the site could produce revenue to maintain and restore the site. Movie stars from the 20s (in costume) walking around (& Marion Davies) to add authenticity. A 415 as a place that will keep the class of the past, while lending the convenience of the public enjoying a Beach Club. I hope for everyone to enjoy this new establishment, yet there should always be standards that are upheld – no overcrowding, dress codes, etc.”

The other statement participants responded to was “if nothing else, the new public beach facility at 415 PCH must have:” “gymnastic equipment outside, educational features, concerts, cheap and plentiful parking! Free public access to the pool. Restoration of the beautiful pool with a café adjacent, public performances like plays, festivals, concerts, etc. and the proceeds used for Santa Monica projects and needs. A juried art gallery for local artists. Tables and big umbrellas, BBQs for public use, a café for those who don’t want to cook. Parking – not $15, shuttle service, pool, good food, open for dinner, great food, surfing groups and skate ramps for all ages.”For more information, or to sign up for the 415 PCH interest list, please visit 415pch.smgov.net or call Community and Cultural Services at (310) 458-8310.

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