The Landmarks Commission has never designated a property solely on the basis of Criterion Three of its six criteria (identified with historic personages). But on January 12, history was made as the Commission designated the multi-family garden apartment complex at 301 Ocean Avenue as a City Landmark on the basis of its association with former Santa Monica Mayor Clo Hoover.
The post-World War II two-building complex was built and developed by Hoover and her husband, Chester A. Hoover, in 1952 and 1954, with a third story added to the first building in 1958. There is a landscaped courtyard and swimming pool. The building is typical of apartment complexes in north Santa Monica and has been considered for inclusion in a potential historic district.
Hoover and her husband lived in the complex, in two different apartments, during the years she served as a City Council member and mayor. Hoover continued to reside there until her death in 1997.
The Landmarks Commission nominated 301 Ocean for designation after hearing from tenants and other supporters who claimed that Clo Hoover’s historic contributions had taken place while she lived in the complex.
Reports prepared by City staff and by PCR Services concluded that the complex’s architecture did not rise to a level worthy of designation. Nor did they find sufficient evidence that the building was associated with the achievements of Clo Hoover, although the PCR report featured extensive research into Hoover’s career as the second woman to be elected to the City Council and as the first female Mayor of Santa Monica.
Supporters of the designation spoke out at the January 12 meeting.
Ty Wapato, a resident of 301 Ocean Avenue, pointed out that the PCR report’s documentation on Hoover’s career proved that she had been involved in many issues important to Santa Monica.
“Someone with the courage to go against the opinions of her fellow Council members, and to prevail, proves her leadership,” said Wapato. “Without her, Santa Monica would be a different city.”
Wapato was referring to Hoover’s fights, in the 1960s against the development of the Santa Monica causeway, and in the early 1970s, her opposition to the demolition of the Santa Monica Pier.
Steve Dietrich, another resident, gave a PowerPoint presentation showing a map of the planned causeway, as well as a view of the sunset over the ocean – a view that Hoover could see from the window of her 301 Ocean apartment. Dietrich believed that the ocean view influenced Hoover’s politics and was proof that the building was associated with her achievements.
Other supporters said that Hoover often had meetings at her apartment, and that City officials do a lot of their work outside City Hall. A few supporters also spoke in favor of the complex’s architecture, although one non-supporter dismissed the property as “an eyesore.”
Ken Kutcher of the Harding Larmore law firm, representing the owner, Trammell Crow (301 Ocean Development, LLC), gave support for the staff report’s request to deny designation. While he did not deny Hoover’s significance to the City, he noted: “We don’t have her personal diary. We don’t know what inspired her.”
It was a complicated issue for the Landmarks Commission to mull over. Many Commissioners had doubts, although most of them agreed that the complex’s architecture was not a factor that they could use in designation.
After some attempt was made to add other criteria, the only criterion agreed upon by all was Criterion Three. By a 4-3 vote, 301 Ocean was designated a City Landmark and Clo Hoover, to her supporters, was acknowledged.