Two properties in historic areas were discussed at Monday’s Landmarks Commission meeting, with one property receiving a designation and the other being continued.
The continued item was 2617 1/2 Third Street, a”non-contributing” (i.e., non-historic) structure behind a contributing building in the Third Street Historic District between Ocean Park Boulevard and Hill Street. It was the second delay in two months, as the item was continued last month in order to allow the project’s architect to come up with a design more in context with the visual ambience of the Third Street Historic District.
At last month’s meeting, community members, many of them members of the CPC (Citizens Participation Committee) spoke against the idea of remodeling the non-contributing building in a way that would violate the aesthetics of the Historic District. Architect Michael Folonis agreed to modify his design to scale down the massing, move the roof deck, change the color palette to one in more appropriate “earth tones” and eliminate an 8-foot block wall.
But CPC members were still unsatisfied with the revised plans and submitted a petition of protest with 147 signatures. A number of them also spoke at Monday’s meeting, protesting what one community member characterized as “visual noise” invading their neighborhood.
Ken Kutcher of Harding Larmore Mullen Jakle Kutcher & Kozal, acting on behalf of the applicant, told the Commission, “I feel like we’re going through another first hearing tonight,” and urged them to act on their own responsibility and not allow “neighbors” to make their decision for them.
The Commissioners pondered the dilemma. They felt varying degrees of admiration for the proposed design and agreed that it would be a great project if located somewhere else. The concern they shared with the community members was that somehow, mostly due to size and visibility from the street, the back structure was not appropriate in the context of the Third Street Historic District.
“This is a very small historic district,” observed Commissioner Ruthann Lehrer. “The size of a design can have a huge impact.”
The Commission could see no other option than to continue the item for another month. Folonis asked if he could have more specific guidelines, since he believed he had already received direction from the Commission and had followed their suggestions the first time. Commission chair Nina Fresco urged him to find a creative solution.
Another property, an early 20th century Craftsman cottage at 136 Hart Avenue, was designated a Structure of Merit.
The Structure of Merit designation is established with fewer and different criteria than the Landmark designation. It is of a more temporary nature and allows for more flexibility in remodeling the property. A Structure of Merit designation can be used to temporarily save a building from demolition while the surrounding area is under consideration for designation as a Historic District. Hart Avenue lies within the South Beach area, which is being studied as a potential historic district (South Beach being the area of Ocean Park between Neilson Way and Ocean Avenue/Barward Way north of Ocean Park Boulevard.)
The owner of 136 Hart Avenue, William Graham, said that he had bought the house without any illusions that it was a historic building. He had hoped to remodel the house because he said it was inadequate to his family’s needs.
A neighbor told the Commission that the house should not be designated because there had been alterations to the porch that dated back only to the 1980s. However, the City staff report pointed out that many vintage houses in South Beach have undergone similar renovations.
The Commission felt that the house was a contributor to the beach tract’s potential as a historic district and that it typified an important part of Santa Monica’s history.