The Bay Builders Exchange is the ornately decorated building at the corner of 4th Street and Broadway in downtown Santa Monica. The Santa Monica Doctors’ Building at 2125 Arizona Avenue is a white Streamline Moderne building which houses the non-profit health organization WISE & Healthy Aging. Both buildings were nominated for landmark designation at the Landmarks Commission’s March 9 meeting.The nominations represented only a preliminary review of the properties and their character-defining features, although both properties have already been studied in City staff reports and preliminary consultants’ reports.The Bay Builders’ Exchange has been the subject of research by the Santa Monica Conservancy, which includes the building on their docent walking tours. Constructed in 1927 by a significant local architect, Eugene Durfee (who also designed the Georgian Hotel and the Central Tower downtown), Bay Builders was created to house offices for architects, builders, and designers. It demonstrates the “Churrigueresque” style, with cast stone embellishments, stucco finish, and ornamental ironwork.A representative for the current owner, the Grishow Trust, expressed some concern that designation would lead to difficulty with future plans and might cause financial hardship. But as Commissioner John Berley put it: “When you have such a beautiful building, people will want to rent in that space.”The Commission easily gave the Bay Builders Exchange a nomination, but decided to ask staff for more research into the building’s detailing, as well as information about the décor of the lobby.The nomination for the Doctors Building was suggested by Rory Cunningham of the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles. In his letter to the Commission, he wrote: “The ‘Wedding Cake’ stacking of the architectural elements and the sensuous curves of this building are only the beginning of what makes this structure impressive.”A representative for WISE & Healthy Aging admitted that designation might prove a hardship to the building, as the organization itself is struggling. Commissioners reminded her that the Mills Act, which provides tax relief for owners of designated structures, enables owners to maintain their properties more easily.Mary Jo Winder, a consultant hired by the owner, was skeptical about the building’s eligibility for designation in her report. Her conclusion was that the Commission must undertake a study of the Art Deco style in the context of the City’s historic development.Again, however, the Commission had little trouble making their way to a nomination for the building. But the questions posed in Winder’s report will be followed for the actual assessment.In other actions, the Commission approved a Certificate of Appropriateness for the installation of 14 commemorative plaques on the Santa Monica Pier. These plaques, cast in bronze and featuring a border based on the iconic Santa Monica Pier gateway sign, will be posted on the Pier at sites that are former or current locations of points of interest, including the Carousel, the former site of Sinbad’s and Moby’s Dock restaurants, the Billiards Building (which houses Rusty’s Surf Ranch), and Pacific Park.Several Commissioners expressed concern about the legibility of the text and the positioning of the plaques. The Certificate passed, but with the proviso that staff review the issues of text legibility and position.Other additions and changes to the Pier originally set as part of the Certificate, will be reviewed and voted upon as part of a separate Certificate at a future meeting.
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