Arcadia Bandini de Stearns Baker, one of the original Ranchero owners and part of a powerful family, gave the City, then just a few years old, our now iconic Palisades Park. City Hall, designed in the streamline moderne style by Donald Parkinson, was a WPA project. Irving Gill, one of California’s most important architects, designed the Horatio West Courts.
Built in 1919 the Horatio West Courts on Hollister were a forerunner of the modern style in architecture. By the early 1970’s they had fallen into complete disrepair. As a young couple, Margaret and Danilo Bach, had the vision and the courage to move in and begin the restoration of the Courts and by so doing, saved the Courts for all of us.
Santa Monica now has over 90 landmarked buildings. This past Sunday, I joined 25 other Santa Monicans on a Santa Monica Conservancy tour led by Marcelo Vavala, who is an architectural historian and a past president of the Conservancy. Among the 45 we saw: the Strick House on La Mesa, a mid-century modern building, designed by the world famous architect Oscar Neimeyer; the adobe house on 4th and Georgina, designed by John Byers; the Pier, another WPA project; the Georgian and Shangri La hotels; the Lido, an Art Deco hotel; Phillips Church, a cultural monument; the Spanish Colonial Revival Sovereign apartment hotel; and many bungalows and cottages.
A 1901 beach bungalow is now home to Joel Brand, Kristina Deutsch, and their sons. Joel Brand, also a past president of the Conservancy, only learned how important historic preservation was to him after he moved to Santa Monica. “Friends started to point out the importance of older buildings in our urban landscape, I realized that Santa Monica is defined by these historic treasures. This architecture plays a large part in fostering the small town, neighborly sensibilities that makes our community such a wonderful place to call home. I see that play out on my street, in my neighborhood and across the city and it’s the silent foundation upon which is built so much that is wonderful about Santa Monica.”
“Santa Monica is one of California’s most architecturally, culturally, and historically significant communities,” states Conservancy President Carol Lemlein. “The Conservancy is a strong voice for preservation. We train docents for the Beach House, we are working to provide a Preservation Resource Center in the Shotgun house, and, under a Cultural Affairs grant, will offer docent guided tours of Palisades Park this coming spring.”
Importantly, as advocates for preservation, the Conservancy speaks for preservation to be part of the new LUCE (Land Use and Circulation Element). Representing the Conservancy’s 400 members, Carol Lemlein has asked “that historic preservation be clearly articulated as a community value and that the LUCE specifically refers to historic preservation as an essential part of neighborhood preservation.”
In the LUCE workshops it is clear that preservation values have broad support among City residents. Margaret Bach, now a Landmarks Commissioner and the Founding President of the Los Angeles Conservancy, suggests that we join the goals of creating housing with historic preservation, “a rethinking of our existing housing stock to understand how we could express the City’s goals for affordable and work force housing through the preservation of existing buildings – preserving and enhancing a sense of place, landscape and green space as we create more opportunities for affordable and workforce housing at the same time that we protect the character of our neighborhoods.”
“The City is listening.” Francis Phipps, the LUCE consultant on Historic and Neighborhood Preservation, explains “the LUCE treats historic preservation as a central measure to protect the character of Santa Monica as it has evolved over time through preservation of landmark buildings, in a formal process, and through the creation of Conservation Districts, in a neighborhood process.”
Once again, Santa Monicans have spoken in favor of the buildings and places that create our sense of place, our collective past and our desire to carry our values into the future. So what say you? Sunday brunch on the porch of a bungalow, a drink at the Shangri LA, a family afternoon on the Pier, toddler story time at the Ocean Park Library, a run in Palisades Park?