The wait may have seemed as long as a lifetime in Shangri-La, but the 1939 hotel of that name at 1301 Ocean Avenue is now a City Landmark, thanks to a unanimous vote at the November 9 Landmarks Commission meeting.
The Commission’s vote had been delayed by questions about alterations to the downstairs lobby. Over the past two years, the Streamline Moderne hotel has undergone a renovation process that included modernizing the check-in area of the lobby and adding a restaurant and lounge to the space.
Senior Planner Scott Albright noted, in his PowerPoint presentation on the alterations, that the lobby’s curved block glass partition at what used to be the front desk area has been removed to accommodate the creation of the restaurant space. The glass block surrounding the entry is intact, however.
The original linoleum flooring of the lobby deteriorated over the years. It has been replaced with terrazzo, but the design replicates the design of the linoleum.
The Commission felt satisfied that these alterations had been made in a way that did not violate the major character defining features of the hotel. The vote was cast to designate the Shangri-La under four criteria (symbolizes elements of the cultural, social, economic, political, or architectural history of the City; embodies distinguishing architectural characteristics; an example of the work of a notable architect; unique location).
Also on the agenda was a list of demolition permits for ten small cottages in the Pico Neighborhood. Commissioner Nina Fresco had done some Internet research and was intrigued that these cottages, in an assortment of architectural styles, had been moved to the site (High Place and Virginia Avenue) during the 1940s to serve as workers’ homes. “It was a bustling little neighborhood.”
The cottages are owned by Community Corporation, which is planning a new low-cost housing development on the site. According to a representative from Community Corp, the old buildings had been vetted in a series of community meetings and neighbors had not supported their preservation. Furthermore, she pointed out that the Landmarks Commission had had the opportunity to make comments during the EIR period for the project and had not taken action.
So, with regrets, the Commission passed on action regarding the cottages. But Commissioner John Berley noted: “We get demo permits late, after the ARB and Planning approvals.” He thought that a future agenda item would be a discussion on how to improve the review of demolition properties.
A “storybook” English Revival residence at 1303 Georgina Avenue was denied landmark designation. While the owner had pleaded financial hardship in regard to his ability to make the drastic repairs that would be required to restore the 1924 structure, the Commission based its denial on the building’s state of disrepair and the fact that there are better examples of the style in Santa Monica.
The Commission also voted to file an application for designation of a vintage brick apartment house in the downtown area at 1302 2nd Street.