October 25, 2020 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Designation for Moderne Building Just What Doctor Ordered:

A Streamline Moderne two-story doctors’ office building is Santa Monica’s newest landmark.

2125 Arizona Avenue, built in 1952, features a white stucco exterior, curvilinear walls, casement windows, a flat roof, terrazzo-floored entrance, and a lobby with a unique octagonal terrazzo floor.  City Staff and PCR reports described it as having a high level of integrity and being eligible for designation under criteria 1 (exemplifying elements of the cultural, social, economic, political, or architectural history of the city), and 4 (embodies distinguishing characteristics of a particular architectural style). The designation was endorsed by the Santa Monica Conservancy and by the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles, one of whose members, Rory Cunningham, had written to the Commission to recommend designation.

2125 Arizona is currently owned by WISE & Healthy Aging, a non-profit public benefit corporation that serves older adults.a In a letter addressed to the Commission, Thomas Larmore of Harding Larmore, representing WISE, cautioned that designation might mean financial hardship for WISE because landmarking a building can potentially decrease its value for sale. “WISE & Healthy Aging must consider the manner in which the building can be used most effectively to provide financial support,” wrote Larmore, who also attended and spoke at the Commission’s July 13 meeting.

Mary Jo Winder, a preservation consultant, told the Commission that the Doctors’ Building, as it is called, had “a weak case” for designation under both the cited criteria. She noted that there was not enough information to support the claim that the building exemplifies any cultural history of the city, while a few alterations and the fact that the building was constructed in 1952 rather than in the heyday of Art Deco and Moderne (1920s-1940s) would seem to defeat its claim to exemplify a good example of the style.

Cunningham argued that to the contrary, “styles don’t have a specific time frame” and that the building’s original plan was conceived in 1946. The white “hygienic” aesthetic of the building was meant to coordinate with the style of St. John’s Hospital across the street.

“Our role is to tell the story of Santa Monica in a lot of different ways,” said Commissioner Nina Fresco. “[Historic buildings] reinforce the history of the city like pictures in a book.” She believed the Doctors’ Building had historic value as an example of Moderne style “even if it trailed at the end.”

The Commission’s vote was 6-0 in favor of designation, with the parcel of land also being designated. Although Larmore had asked that the lobby be left out of the designation to provide WISE with some flexibility should they have to remodel, the Commission included it as a public place of significant design.

The Commission also designated a Craftsman-style residence at 405 Palisades Avenue. The owner, Scott Cohen, was also the applicant and was present at the hearing. The house was designated as a structure and as a landmark parcel, except for its garage and retaining wall.

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