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Landmark or “Teardown?”:

It has become a familiar Santa Monica scene.

A property owner applies for a demolition permit to tear down a vintage apartment building in order to replace it, and people who live in building rally to oppose it. 

If the building in question was built 40 or more years ago, the demolition permit application must be heard  by the Santa Monica Landmarks Commission, which then has 60 days to approve or deny the permit.

A building that has sufficient historic or architectural significance may qualify for designation as a City landmark, and the application may be denied.

In the most recent instance, last week the Landmarks Commission heard an application for a demolition permit from the owner of an apartment building at 130-140 San Vicente Boulevard, and some of the building’s tenants and neighbors appeared to ask the Commission to deny the application.  

As the Mirror reported last week, the appeal made by the inhabitants of the 1950s-vintage apartment complex prompted the Commission to ask for further information on the building.

The building, known as the Teriton Apartments, was constructed in 1949 as a three-story multi-family residence. Designed in the Modern Vernacular style by architect Sanford Kent, it is U- shaped, has a central courtyard, rounded corners, and louvers above the entranceways.

Speaking for the owner, a contractor told the Landmarks Commission that the building had “structural problems and access problems.” He quoted the owners as saying that the building had no architectural significance and was merely a “box-shaped building,” adding that it had sustained considerable damage in the 1994 Northridge earthquake and was “not up to code.”

Eight tenants and neighbors of the Teriton presented evidence that the complex is in excellent condition, has historic significance, is part of a potential historic district, and is the envy of visitors.

Tenant Dwayne Howard, who helped prepare much of the information about the Teriton that was contained in a packet handed to Commission members, said, “My lifelong passion for architecture and design and my involvement with historic preservation   are the very reasons I call the Teriton home.” He disagreed with the owner’s statement that the building was is in a deteriorated condition: “It is without a doubt one of the finest buildings from this period still intact,” he said, adding that the tenants don’t know who the present owner is.

Tenant Virginia Sharpe confirmed that the tenants aren’t sure of the identity of the building’s owner, saying,. “I pay my rent to ‘Teriton Investors.’ ” As for the “significant structural damage” cited by the owner, she said, “If there is [damage], none of us have been informed about it.”

Tenants were also upset that a notice of demolition, dated October 27, was posted in front of the building on November 10, four days before the scheduled  Commission meeting, and that the sign was removed a few hours later, leading some tenants to assume that the demo permit had been withdrawn. Only after someone made a phone call to the City was the demolition application verified and the sign re-posted.

The packet prepared by the tenants included a detailed description of the architectural characteristics and amenities of the Teriton; a review of the work of its architect, Sanford Kent, “ a local master of the Modern style,” who was apparently influenced by European Modernists, such as Walter Gropius and Mies Van Der Rohe; mention of other historic buildings in the northwest area of the city on San Vicente Boulevard; mention of noted personalities connected with the building (writer Mickey Spillane once lived there); and a petition signed by nineteen tenants and neighbors.Impressed by the case made by the tenants, the Commission postponed its decision on the demolition and asked City Staff to look into the matter for a future hearing.

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