The Los Angeles Times, Santa Monica senior staff and City Council members, and conventional developers have this in common: they’re all at least four clicks behind the curve.
Last week, the Times ran an article in praise of courtyard apartments. Over the years, any number of books have been written about the apartments that once flourished in Los Angeles and have long since become Southern California icons because they are a perfect architectural manifestation of a way of life that was and is unique to this region.
The Times article featured Horatio West Court on Hollister Avenue in Santa Monica. Designed by Irving Gill, one of Southern California’s most important architects and built in 1921, Horatio West was designated a landmark in 1979 by the Santa Monica Landmarks Commission, which has always been ahead of the curve. In 1990, the Commission designated Hollister Court, built in 1910, a landmark.
Last year, the Commission designated Christie Court at 125 Pacific a landmark, but the owner appealed the designation, City stall supported his appeal and a majority of City Council members followed the staff’s lead and upheld the appeal, thus paving the way for its demolition.
Commissioned by a developer, a 1988 inventory showed that there were 236 courtyard apartment complexes in Santa Monica. There are far fewer now, because many of them have been demolished to make way for clumsy conventional apartment buildings.
But, in addition to Horatio West and Hollister Court, there are still any number of sterling courtyard complexes in Santa Monica. Perhaps, now that the Times has seen the light, we can look forward to the day that City staff and Council members finally begin to listen to the Landmarks Commission, and take steps to stop the rush to replace these architectural treasures in which the living is so easy with big blocks of small conventional apartments that for all their connection to the landscape and weather might as well be in Topeka.In the same way, maybe conventional developers will finally realize that there is money as well as merit in the courtyard way of life.