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Beach House Landmark Designation Hits Snag:

Lynne Bronstein

Mirror Contributing Writer

Landmark designation for a vintage apartment hotel at 1401 Palisades Beach Road ran into a stumbling block at Monday’s meeting of the Landmarks Commission, as a number of speakers presented arguments against designation and the Commission continued the item pending further investigation into the building’s history and status.

Supporters of designation for the Elk Horn Apartments had presented the Commission with evidence that the front structure, which faces Ocean Front Walk, was eligible under four criteria, including its “shingle” style, its historic association with the original Sunset Beach Tract north of Santa Monica Pier and its association with surfer/lifeguard Tom Zahn, regarded by many as a local hero for his work with the California Lifeguard Service.

Opponents asked the commission to postpone a decision pending the submission of “new information” which did not support the evidence for the criteria. Howard Robinson, representing the owner (who wants to convert the front house to a single-family residence), and architectural historian Teresa Grimes presented their case, which included the argument that the architectural style was not a prime example of the “shingle style,” and that there was evidence that Tom Zahn never lived in the house and that he was said to have views on “Aryan supremacy” which might make him unacceptable as a historic figure associated with the property.

Other speakers refuted these arguments, saying that the house was worthy of landmark status, as per the City’s staff report. One speaker said she knew Zahn and his family and could verify that he did live in the Elk Horn.

The Landmarks Commission had already agreed to continue the item because of the new information presented by the opponents, but allowed the various speakers to present their pro and con arguments.

Commissioner Ruthann Lehrer spoke in favor of designation, saying that the building “has real presence – a window into the past.” She also cautioned that the allegations about Tom Zahn’s political beliefs should have no place in the consideration for landmark status.

The Commission considered a proposal of modifications for the metal theme structure at the entrance to Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier. The applicant, Santa Monica Amusements LLC/Pacific Park, wants to remove the roller-coaster sections at each side and restore the octopus sculpture in the center of the entrance. It was decided to ask the applicant to come up with a design scheme to replace the track element with something that would fill in the space without causing a distraction or violating the “fun zone” theme of the park design.

The Commission discussed the question of nominating the vintage house at 2323 5th St., which had previously come before them with a request from the owner, Karl Rydgren, that it be considered for designation. Despite the lack of a City staff recommendation, the Commissioners felt the house was worthy and voted to nominate it.

In other actions, the Commission approved Statements of Official Action for the proposed design changes to the Parkhurst Building at 2940 Main Street, continued action on a Certificate of Appropriateness for the 415 PCH project due to the need for a Commission quorum to vote on the issue, and heard an update on the status of an adaptive reuse project of a landmark façade at 507 Wilshire Blvd.

Two proposed demolitions were put on hold pending more information about the properties: a multi-unit apartment complex at 423-431 Ocean Avenue, and a single-family beach cottage at 2219 Ocean Avenue.

No action was taken on the following demolitions: 422 21st Place, 216 12th St., 1725 Wellesley Dr., 2419 Beverly Ave., 937 20th St. and 941 20th St.

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