The Santa Monica Landmarks Commission Monday night approved a Certificate of Appropriateness for the proposed rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of the property at 415 Pacific Coast Highway (the former Marion Davies estate).
The design plan for the Davies project has been under fire from property owners in the area, who have concerns about traffic and other environmental problems as a result of the planned adaptive reuse of the estate. A group called Palisades Beach Road Property Owners is appealing to the Santa Monica City Council Planning Commission’s approval of the project. At Monday’s Landmarks meeting, a representative from the homeowners group requested that the Landmarks Commission not act on approving the project plans.
City Land use attorney Barry Rosenbaum said that the City Attorney’s office had received a letter from the firm of Latham and Watkins in which it was stated that because the Planning Commission’s approval of the Environmental Impact Report on the 415 PCH project is being appealed, the Landmarks Commission should not act upon the application without further review of the environmental issues. However, Rosenbaum assured the Commission that Landmarks was not responsible for the environmental review and was free to act upon approving the designs and reuse ideas that fall within the Commission’s purview.
Commission secretary and associate planner Roxanne Tanemori gave a Powerpoint presentation to accompany her staff report on the details of the design and adaptive reuse scheme. The Commission also heard from Karen Ginsberg, assistant director of the City’s Community and Cultural Services department (the applicant), and from representatives from Frederick Fisher and Associates, the design firm attached to the project.
The presentations included schematic drawings and blueprints of the proposed designs for the North House (the surviving building from the old estate which is a designated City Landmark), a planned Events House, restoration of the swimming pool and pool house, construction of an entry pavilion and restroom building, a garden terrace and picnic area and fencing around the property which will attenuate noise from the nearby highway. The Commission also saw samples of materials and color palettes that will be used in the design scheme.
The design scheme has been worked out to preserve historic elements of the original site according to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards. The exterior landscaping will include plants that are native or adaptive to the area and climate, and will be drought-tolerant and water-conserving.
Several speakers gave their views on the project. Apart from the speaker who represented the Palisades Beach Road group, the speakers gave either tentative or enthusiastic approval to the plans. Speaking for the Santa Monica Conservancy, Marcello Bavala said: “It would be a travesty if this project died on the drawing board. This can only benefit Santa Monica.”
The Commission voted unanimously in favor of the Certificate of Approval as consistent with staff report findings, while separately approving a modification of the pedestrian-oriented design requirements for the ground floor street frontage required by SMMC regulations (a minimum of fifty percent of the facade to a height of eight feet shall be visually transparent into the building or provide a minimum depth of three feet for window merchandise display). In this instance, providing less than 20 linear feet of an opaque elevation and also providing visually transparent material for fifty percent of the building facades to 8’-0” would not serve to attenuate noise and would not be practical for the portions of these buildings that serve as rear elevations.
In other actions, the Commission approved Statements of Official Action for designating the Eucalyptus Cornuta Tree at 1407 Hill St. as a City Landmark, and disapproving the application to designate a residence at 941-943 11th St. as a Landmark. The Commission also gave approval to revisions for the proposed design changes for the Parkhurst Building at 2940 Main St.
No action was taken on the following demolition permits: 2517 La Mesa Drive, 2343 29th St., and 1653 20th St. Review of a demolition permit for 422 21st Place revealed that demolition had begun to take place before Landmarks received the item for review. The item was continued to next month’s meeting in order to investigate the reason for the abrupt demolition.