A one-story cottage at 1012 2nd Street was designated a landmark by the Santa Monica Landmarks Commission at its September 12 meeting, after impassioned speeches by community members supporting the designation and protests from an attorney representing the property’s owner.
The house, described as a “one-story vernacular cottage,” is a wood-frame building with a slightly bell-cast hipped roof, multi-paned dormer windows on the front elevation, and a recessed front porch. It was built in 1898 and has been identified in the city’s Historic Resources Inventory as a potential contributor to a thematic grouping called the “Turn-of-the-Century Thematic District.”
This potential district and the subject residence were surveyed and recorded as part of the City’s 1985-1986 Phase I survey process. Also on the property is a two-story multiple-family apartment house. Located behind the cottage, it was built in the 1920s, is described as “vaguely Spanish Colonial” in style, and does not appear to have architectural or historical significance.
A City staff report recommended designating the front house under two criteria. Criteria one: exemplifies, symbolizes, or manifests elements of the cultural, social, economic, political or architectural history of the City, and criteria four: embodies distinguishing architectural characteristics valuable to a study of a period, style, method of construction, or the use of indigenous materials or craftsmanship, or is a unique or rare example of an architectural design, detail or historical type valuable to such a study). The staff report did not find the rear building eligible for designation under any criteria.
Michael Klein, Klein and Weiss Attorneys, appeared on behalf of the owner (1012 2nd Street LLC), arguing that the building did not deserve designation as a landmark under the criteria cited in the staff report. He noted problems of structural deterioration, roof leaks, and asbestos, and said that the estimated cost of repair work was $800,000, which the owner feels would be too costly.
Klein’s assertions were backed by the findings of Mary Jo Winder who evaluates historic resources and was brought in by the owner to evaluate 1012 2nd Street.
“I’m concerned about the integrity of preservation programs,” said the South Pasadena resident. “It seems like the purpose of designation is just to stop development. You’ve got to justify your significance.” She added that the cottage did not have enough “distinguishing features” to qualify under criteria one and four and that there “are enough other examples of this type of architecture in the city.”
When Commission chair Roger Genser suggested that Winder might be “painting with a very broad brush” in her description of the cottage’s lack of features, she replied that she found it very difficult to regard the building as a landmark, but conceded that it could be a contributor to a historic district. However, the cottage is one of the few vintage buildings remaining in the neighborhood and Winder doesn’t believe there are enough such buildings to constitute a historic district.
Seven other speakers, who live in the neighborhood around the property, defended the cottage as a potential landmark, and cited the house’s original owner, Leslie C. Brand, who contributed to the development of Santa Monica as well as Glendale, the significance of the cottage as part of the “original town site” in the late 19th century, its significance as an example of the mass-planned vernacular architecture of the period, and the fact that it is the last remaining single-family residence on the 1000 block of Second Street and one of the last examples of its type that has not been altered.
Eva Sokolow, one of the neighbors who spoke in support of the cottage, said “I’m not in favor of standing still but I think we should conserve whatever is possible of the charm of the city.” She also read a statement from her husband who could not be present. Her speech, as well as the speeches of several other speakers, drew applause from the spectators.
The Commissioners sided with the speakers. “I respectfully disagree with Ms. Winder,” said Commissioner Nina Fresco. “We’re here to preserve Santa Monica ’s historic architecture.” She thought the house’s long, thin windows distinguished it from other buildings of its era and type. Commissioner John Berley wanted to see the house designated under Criterion three (identified with historic personages) because of its connection to Leslie Brand. Commissioner Ruthann Lehrer called the cottage “a window into history.”
The Commission voted to designate the front house under criteria 1, three, and four, with mention to be made of the Victorian touches in the architecture. They also agreed to designate 1012 Second Street as a parcel but not to designate the rear building as a landmark. This ruling will allow the owner the option of developing the rear of the property and may also allow flexibility in the future if the owner decides to have the front house moved.
In other actions, the Commission approved a certificate of appropriateness for an addition to the landmarked adobe single-family house at 404 Georgina Avenue. Architect Brian Murphy discussed at length with the Commission the changes being made to the dwelling, which centered on the addition of a second-story master bedroom on a side elevation and a maid’s room on the rear elevation. The Commission was satisfied that Murphy, working with both the City and the owner, Joy Jones, had stayed within the acceptable parameters in remodeling the house, which may be the oldest residence in Santa Monica.
The Commission agreed to hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. on October 10th, prior to the regular Landmarks meeting, to discuss the results of workshops being held on October 1 and 2 at 415 Pacific Coast Highway (the former Marion Davies estate) in regard to plans for the development of 415 PCH. The workshops will be open to the public.
The Commission also approved a recommendation to the City regarding a policy for repair and maintenance of historic street lights on Broadway. Fresco questioned why intersections on Broadway have arm-like “cobra” street lights rather than the more attractive historic lights. Urban designer Stephanie Reich explained that the cobras provide more light but agreed to speak to the City engineers about the possibility of changing the type of lights used.
Commission Chair Genser also volunteered to propose to the Santa Monica Arts Commission a contest to create an art piece to commemorate the original site of the Rand building.
The Commission also approved Statements of Official Action for designating a house at 331 Palisades Avenue as a landmark, and development of temporary landscape elements for the courtyard area of City Hall, and continued an item for landmark designation of 710 Wilshire Blvd pending some suggested changes to language.A multiple-family residence at 1143 11th Street, formerly slated for demolition, was nominated for designation under criteria one and four. Other buildings scheduled for demolition received no action. These included: 739 21st Place, 2019 Delaware Avenue, 3107 Santa Monica Blvd, 2411 Centinela Avenue, and 2423 Centinela Avenue.