Santa Monica’s City Council put its final touches on the adaptive reuse project for the 415 PCH project Tuesday by activating phase two of its design-build contract.
The site, which was once the home of publisher William Randolph Hearst’s longtime mistress, actress Marion Davies, is now slated to become the first public beach club in the United States. Funding for the project is being made primarily through a $28 million grant from the Annenberg Foundation, with additional funding coming from the City of Santa Monica and the federal government. The total project cost will be $34,570,000.
Originally, the Annenberg grant was for $21 million, however an additional $6.488 million is being added, according to the City staff report, to ensure that the specified project conditions that were agreed to with the Palisades Beach Road Owners’ Association and a project neighbor could be met. These conditions were negotiated after the parties threatened to halt the project with a lawsuit in 2006.
The director of the City’s Community and Cultural Services, Barbara Stinchfield, told the Council that with the approval of phase two, construction will begin next month with the demolition and hazard abatement phase by Pankow Special Projects. Construction will then begin in early June, and is projected to last 18 months with completion expected in November 2008. It should be open to the public in 2009. She also mentioned that in City staff’s opinion, “No more environmental review was necessary.”
Stinchfield also stressed that there will be an “ongoing need for a subsidy [from the City] initially from the beach fund and later from the General Fund” of approximately $600,000 on an annual basis. The City staff report projects that the beach fund should be adequate through fiscal year 2009-2010, but the General Fund may have to be tapped starting in fiscal year 2010-2011. Councilmember Bobby Shriver felt it was necessary to explain that the Council’s approval of phase two in no way was “giving a hard approval to that number.”
City Manager P. Lamont Ewell expressed the City’s agreement with Shriver’s explanation: “We don’t have any real experience with what the real number will be. We will always come before you to discuss what the number will be to seek your approval or denial.”
The amenities of the club were developed through a community input process and will include a restored, historic swimming pool, changing and locker rooms, volleyball and paddle tennis courts, a snack bar, a 100-person public use event room and a restored North House.
Newspaper mogul Hearst built the five-acre beachfront estate in the late 1920s for Davies. Designed by architect Julia Morgan, who also designed San Simeon for Hearst, the estate had more than 100 rooms, a large and lavish main house, guesthouses, a swimming pool, tennis courts and a dog kennel. Some of the original buildings, including the main house, were demolished in the 1940s, when the property was converted into a hotel. A locker building and cabanas were added.
In 1959, the State of California assumed ownership of the property and assigned its management to the City of Santa Monica. From 1960 to 1990, the Sand and Sea Club leased it, and from 1991 to 1993 it was operated by the City of Santa Monica. Damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, it was shut down, and has remained shuttered for 10 years.