The property at 1401 Palisades Beach Road, which includes a Craftsman-style front and back house, was nominated for landmark designation at the Landmarks Commission meeting on Monday, February 13.The owner had previously applied for a permit to convert the buildings, which have been rented as apartments, to a single-family house. At Monday’s meeting, Howard Robinson, who appeared on owner David Weiner’s behalf, said that while Weiner still wants to go forward with the conversion plan, he has “had a change of heart,” due to the efforts of neighbors to obtain landmark status for the structures, and no longer opposes the designation. Several neighbors spoke to the Commission, citing the historical value of the buildings. They noted that the houses date back to 1909 and were among the first houses built on the Sunset Beach tract, that their rooms were rented to tourists, and that the front house is notable for being the longtime residence of Tom Zahn, surfer and member of the first Bay Watch lifeguard team. Zahn’s association with “Bay Watch” is memorialized by life preservers that decorate the front façade of the house.Megan Welch said that during a renovation of the house several bags and boxes were discovered within the walls of the building. These bags and boxes contained books, check stubs, and other papers dating from the 1930s to the 1960s. Some of the literature was of a left-wing nature (i.e. socialist pamphlets) which led Welch to wonder if the papers were hidden away during the McCarthy era. Welch added that all the papers have been donated to the Santa Monica Historical Society.After hearing the various speakers, the Commission moved to nominate both the front and back buildings, as it was pointed out that the buildings were virtually inseparable, although one faces the beach and the other Pacific Coast Highway.Also nominated was a series of three Streamline Moderne apartment buildings at 1920-34 Montana Avenue. The buildings were on the list of properties scheduled for demolition, and during review of proposed demolitions, it was noted by the Commission that immediate action would have to be taken on the landmark designation process because the Commission’s next meeting would take place after the deadline for a stay of demolition had run out.The Commission heard from neighborhood resident Don Lahr and Santa Monica Conservancy member Marcello Bavala, both of whom described the Montana complex’s Moderne style, its unique asymmetrical shape and setback from the sidewalk, and its contribution to the Montana neighborhood. The Commissioners agreed that the buildings had a “clean look” and that the south-of- Montana area contains a mix of single-family homes and apartment complexes that have historic value.A hacienda-style house at 315 Palisades Avenue was also given a stay of demolition after several speakers pled its case. Despite testimony that the house has undergone “significant remodeling” and that the owner wants to sell the building, the Commission voted to obtain more information on the house’s history and analysis of its architectural characteristics.The fate of a Spanish “eclectic” style house at 943 11th Street, which had been discussed at several previous Landmarks meetings, was finally determined, when the Commission decided against nominating it as a landmark. The house was described in a city staff report as a “good example” of the Spanish Eclectic Style, with Moorish influences and unique trefoil windows. However, the report also concluded that the house did not seem to “rise above” the average level of quality for houses of this type. It also noted that the Spanish style is not yet endangered, as there are other examples of the style throughout Santa Monica.Tom Moeller, who owns the house, stated that his family had owned it since 1939, that he had maintained it for his parents until their deaths, and that he had always appreciated the house but that he now wanted to build something new on the site, something that would maintain the high aesthetic standards of the original. “I think this house has had a full life and now its life is over,” he explained.Commission Chair Roger Genser noted that the decision was not an easy one for any member of the Commission to make. In the end, most Commission members sided with Moeller and with the staff report, citing the difficulty of finding the house truly memorable, the owner’s compassionate attitude, and the fact that other houses in this style are still extant in Santa Monica.The Commission voted 6-1 to deny the house an application for landmark designation. The only vote in favor of designation was by Nina Fresco who reminded the Commission that they should keep in mind that houses of this kind may not be rare yet but that they could become endangered very soon.In other actions, the Commission for the second month in a row, was unable to approve proposed changes to the Planet Blue store on the ground floor of the landmark Parkhurst Building at 2940 Main Street.It heard a staff report that analyzed in detail the proposed modifications, which included window signs, a new front door design, awnings on the building’s south exposure, and signs or banners hung from the flagpoles above the entrance. The staff report declared that the proposed flagpole signs were too big and that City staff suggestions for compatible design solutions had been met by the applicant with the reply that the original designs were “still preferred.”Several Commissioners had problems with the proposed designs and expressed their views, despite statements from designer Melinda Gray of Gray Matter Architects, who insisted that the signs had been designed to “be seen from a pedestrian viewpoint.”In the end, the Commission decided to approve the proposed window signs but not to approve the proposed awning, door, and flagpole designs, and asked that the applicant make changes that the Commission would be able to approve. Also, the Commission discussed a proposed plan by the Santa Monica Conservancy to present monthly walking tours of the historic sites in the downtown Santa Monica area. The Conservancy is planning to have brochures with maps printed for the tours, as well as a promotional folder, which will be available at local hotels and tourist agencies. The Conservancy wanted the Landmarks Commission to make a recommendation to the City Council for allotment of funds to pay for the printing of the brochures. The Commission itself cannot allocate funds nor can it demand a specific amount of funding for a project, according to City Council liaison Kevin McKeown. It was decided that the Commission would send a letter of recommendation to the Council asking for support for the Conservancy project.No action was taken on the following demolitions: 1931 22nd Street; 1730 Maple Street; 1502 Broadway; 1507 20th Street; 565 15th Street; 528 24th Street.
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