The rarely used designation “Structure of Merit” has been granted by the Landmarks Commission to a two-story house at 142 Hollister Avenue.
The house, constructed sometime between 1902 and 1909, is listed in the City’s Historic Resource Survey, and represents the American Foursquare style, with a square plan, hipped roof, central hipped dormer, wood clapboard siding, and a front porch (now enclosed). This style can still be found in the South Beach area, but is uncommon in other parts of the City.
The Commission designated the property at 142 Hollister on the basis of two criteria: the structure is representative of a style in the City that is no longer prevalent, and it contributes to a potential Historic District.
The Structure of Merit designation is used for properties that have merit but do not rise to the level of a landmark. This designation does not afford the protection from demolition that a landmark does, but rather postpones demolition of a building.
Even Commission members were unsure of the legal boundaries of the Structure of Merit designation, and Commissioner John Berley suggested that coming up with a clearer definition of the designation should be a future discussion item.
The decision to designate was reached after the Commission had heard a presentation by the applicant, former Mayor Michael Feinstein, who lives in the house, as well as comment from the property owners and a few neighbors.
The owners, who also own the landmarked Horatio West court next door at 140 Hollister, said that they were not against the designation but they wanted to correct what they said were “errors” on Feinstein’s application. Feinstein had checked the box that asked if the subject property was in danger of demolition. The owners said that there was absolutely no danger of this, and that Feinstein had misrepresented them.
At issue was a rear second elevation porch or balcony that the owners said was unsafe. Feinstein had referred to the balcony as a “historic second floor porch” and contended that the owners’ plans to replace the balcony were possibly the beginning of a move to destroy the building.
The Commission sidestepped the balcony issue, however, in their consideration of the building’s merits. They did not believe that the application’s language needed to be changed, as applications represent the viewpoint of the applicant, who may not have all the information involved in the case.
“Disputes between landlords and tenants are horrible,” said Commissioner Nina Fresco. “But disputes often lead to applications. We can only deal with them one way and that way has little to do with disputes.”
In other matters, the Commission approved a Certificate of Appropriateness for a plan to replace several windows on the north wing of City Hall. This is the former jail cell area, where the windows still have bars. Seventeen windows will be replaced with custom-manufactured steel frame windows that will be more energy-efficient and will be more appropriate to the new use of the north wing as office space.
The Commission also continued to the December meeting further discussion of plans for improvements to the Santa Monica Pier, in conjunction with the Pier’s 100th anniversary in 2009. The proposed design improvements include restoration of the original “onion dome” on the Looff Hippodrome Carousel Building, restoration of period painted signage on the Carousel Building, installation of “historic point of interest” plaques at 14 pier locations, installation of ocean-themed seating on the east deck, and a “necklace” of lighting around the Pier deck.
Most of the ideas interested the Commission but they found the City’s presentation skimpy, and many of the plan’s diagrams difficult to read. The Commission asked that the City return with a “very specific” plan, larger drawings, more context, and possibly a consultants’ report.