Santa Monica’s Planning Commission gave its nod to a text amendment which will allow modification of development standards for projects that include the retention and preservation of a designated Landmark building or Contributing Structure in a Historic District.
If the amendment is approved by the City Council, a 4-unit condominium project at 954 5th St. will go forward. This project would include the retention of a turn-of-the-century (1908) cottage that was designated a City Landmark in 2002 and the construction of three units on the rear of the parcel. In addition, future property owners will be able to secure the necessary entitlements and request development standard modifications that provide the owner with incentives for additional height, number of stories and increasing building volume when developing a Landmark property. However, the Landmarks Commission will have sole design review authority over changes to properties containing a Landmark structure.
Commissioner Hank Koning expressed his support for the text amendment by noting the City wants “to preserve existing courtyard housing” as well as other existing housing. Therefore, having “discretionary flexibility” will make it easier for this to happen.
Commissioner Julie Lopez-Dad was the only “no” vote of the five Commissioners who were present. She objected to the fact that the project called for relocating the cottage closer to the property line because she felt it was “getting moved out of its context.” She also felt it would be “opening the door for Landmark buildings to be moved off-site.” Another concern of hers was “this will start the habit of developers and property owners who have historic buildings on site of moving it around and crowding in units.” She stressed, “I really don’t think this City wants that.”
The Chair Pro Tempore of the Landmarks Commission, Nina Fresco, called the project, designed by Howard Laks Architects, “a model project.” She added that the Landmarks Commission has been working for three years “to come up with a list of incentives of this kind. To us this is moving that timeline ahead.”
In an e-mail to the Mirror, Howard Laks stated this project “exemplifies how a property owner could incorporate a compatible new structure, preserve the adjacent Landmark structure and maintain neighborhood compatibility while preserving economic viability.”