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City Council Delays Vote On Landmark:

BULLETIN: Last night, November 1, the Council voted 6-1, with Mayor Pam O’Connor casting the sole nay vote, that the Shotgun house be stored at the Fisher lumber yard, which the City owns, until a permanent site can be found.

After a lengthy discussion Tuesday, October 25, the Santa Monica City Council delayed the vote on whether to continue to provide temporary storage for the shotgun house, until the entire Council was present.

The 400 square-foot 1898 shotgun house was landmarked by the City in 1999 and moved from its site in Ocean Park to the Santa Monica Airport three years ago until a permanent site could be found. As the City is now beginning construction of its new Airport Park, a new temporary storage area for the house must be found.

Attorney Cheryl Kushner told the Council the house had been sold by its owner for $1 to a neighborhood group, Ocean Park Community Organization (OPCO) on June 26, 2002, but OPCO was no longer active. Residents who want the house preserved are willing to pay the costs of moving it to the former Fisher Lumber site that was acquired recently by the City so that a “new organization” can be formed to take responsibility for it.

The Council also heard from resident Mario Fonda Bernardi, an architect, who explained that 16 sites had been investigated as a permanent home for the house by a committee and the Main Street community gardens parking lot was the most likely location. He also said that $250,000 was needed to rehabilitate the house and that sources that had been approached to help fund the rehab wouldn’t commit “until a final location is decided upon” for the house’s home. He also said that private funding for the $6,000- $7,000 proposed move was available now.

Hugh Browning, a community gardener, said that the gardeners did not want the house to be located in the adjacent parking lot.

The former chair of OPCO, Rick Laudatti, stated that his organization was willing to step aside so another entity could become the house’s owner.

Council member Kevin McKeown tried to get his colleagues to agree that the City would continue to provide temporary storage for the house at another location “at no cost to the City,” with the proviso that the City would not guarantee that it would provide a permanent site for the house.

McKeown’s motion failed as of the four other Council members present, Herb Katz and Ken Genser voted with him and Mayor Pam O’Connor and Bob Holbrook voted against him, so he failed to muster the requisite four votes. By the time the question came up, Council member Bobby Shriver had left and Council member Richard Bloom was absent.

O’Connor, a historic preservation consultant, objected strenuously to McKeown’s motion, saying that eventually “it has to be [on] a City site, then it will evolve that the City is the one responsible to rehabilitate it, then it will evolve that ongoing operation and maintenance going into the future is the responsibility of the City. The City is not in the business of being the recipient of historic buildings. We shouldn’t set up the expectation because it will be there despite what we say that it’s our responsibility if we take title of it or if it’s on our property.”

When McKeown’s motion failed, Genser suggested that a decision be delayed until last night so that the matter could be discussed and voted on by a full Council.

In other action, the Council approved a home ownership formula for 40 units of moderate-income units proposed by Community Corporation of Santa Monica (CCSM) for 1943-59 High Place with the proviso that it be based upon the community land-trust model whereby a nonprofit owns the land and individuals own the units. Preference will be given to Santa Monicans since redevelopment funds will be used for the project.

Prior to the approval, the Council heard from several members of CCSM’s board who spoke in support of the model. Paul DeSantos said there was a need for such a project because, “There is a crisis in Santa Monica in that middle income workers here, nurses, teachers, policemen and many City staff employees cannot afford to become homeowners in Santa Monica and they don’t want to be renters the rest of their lives. To keep people who provide valuable services for this community we need to have a new model.”

McKeown stated, “With this action tonight we move into a new, somewhat untested area. I believe this is going work. We have a unique site here where we can do this in a way that can work.”

In other business, the Council decided to delay its decision on an interim ordinance which would modify and add zoning regulations for automobile dealerships and their parking and storage facilities so that dealer needs could be balanced against dealer impacts on nearby neighbors due to the need for more information.Council member McKeown summed up the consensus of the Council when he said, “We have a problem here that I think we’ve made a good faith commitment to solve. We’ve made the commitment to the auto dealers, and we’ve made that commitment to the residents. And yet we just don’t have all the information tonight for me to feel comfortable knowing this would have been the right thing to do.”

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