At its much-anticipated September 11 meeting, the Santa Monica Landmarks Commission nominated landmark designation the Teriton Apartments at 130-142 San Vicente Blvd.
The nomination was greeted with elation by residents of the Teriton who were present at the meeting and who have been campaigning for the building to be designated a landmark in order to prevent its demolition by the owner, a nonprofit religious organization called Or Khaim Hashalom. The organization claims it needs the property to build a home for Jewish refugees from the Middle East.
Rosario Perry, who represents Or Khaim Hashalom, cited – as he has at previous meetings – the legal entitlement provided by a California state law, passed in 1994, that exempts properties from being landmarked if they are used for religious organizations. He also raised objections to a statement that City Land Use Attorney Barry Rosenbaum had made to the Landmarks Commission earlier in the meeting. Rosenbaum had advised the Commission that, despite the legal question regarding the religious exemption, it was the Commission’s purview to simply proceed with making a “threshold determination” as to whether the Teriton qualified for landmark designation.
“I’m very disappointed with the City Attorney’s statement to you,” Perry told the Commission. ”It puts me in a very bad position.” He stated that if the Commission acted to designate the Teriton, he would have to file a lawsuit in order to protect his client.
The Commission heard from a dozen speakers, most of them residents of the Teriton, who described what they felt were the architectural and cultural merits of the late 1940s-vintage garden apartment house, while also condemning the owner’s plans for the property.
Tenant Bernard Wesson said the Teriton’s style is “an example of upper-middle class life in Santa Monica” and that it is “a gateway to the garden apartment area of San Vicente.”
Recent arrival Sharon Wong thought the owner’s plans were a conflict of interest. “They’re trying to find a home for refugees but they’re also trying to put people out of their homes.”
Other tenants were suspicious of Or Khaim Hashalom, citing the organization’s lack of any contact numbers and refusal to provide the public with specific information about the proposed refugee project.
Kit Snedaker, a longtime resident of the Teriton, offered testimony that information in the report prepared by a consultant hired by Perry himself contradicted his claim that the building had been proposed for designation three times. She said that on each of the occasions cited in the report, it was suggested that the Teriton might “contribute to a historic district” which is not the same as advocating landmark designation. She added: “Perry’s consultants concluded that additional work is necessary to evaluate how the building fits into the work of Stanford Kent [the architect]. And this, it seems to me, has yet to be done.”
The Landmarks Commission was in agreement that the consultant’s report, prepared by EDAW of San Diego, seemed incomplete in its findings. The report stated that the Teriton did not appear to be eligible under any criteria for designation except possibly as the work of Stanford Kent but added that more information on Kent would be needed.
This information, as well as further investigation into the Teriton’s eligibility under the six criteria for landmark designation, was what the Commission felt they needed in order to make a decision. While initially Commission Chair Roger Genser hesitated at the idea of making a nomination, he noted that “the building is not in jeopardy” at this time, since the owner is not prepared to proceed with demolition and construction of the refugee project for a year. The nomination passed unanimously, and a more detailed staff report will be presented when the item comes before the Commission again in 65 days.