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Two New Landmarks Ring Out the Old Year:

The Landmarks Commission’s last meeting of 2009 saw the designation of two residential properties, one an easy call and the other a tough one.

The designation of three bungalow-type units at 1047 9th Street was reached after over an hour of debate. Constructed around 1923, the units are early examples of a prefabricated style of building made by Pacific Ready-Cut and listed in the 1925 Ready-Cut Catalogue. These “pre-fab” houses were manufactured and sold with assembly instructions, to be constructed at any available site.

City staff had recommended that the bungalows be designated under Criteria 1, 4, and 5 (they exemplify elements of the City’s architectural history; they have distinguishing architectural characteristics; they are a significant example of the work of a notable builder). The City also recommended that the parcel of land be designated because of the probable difficulty in finding land to use if the buildings were to be relocated.

The owner’s representative, Steve Kaplan, of the firm Luna and Glushon, argued against designation, noting that the owners had bought the property in order to build condos on the site. The Landmarks Commission had reviewed the proposed demolition of the bungalows in September 2009 and had stalled the demolition in order to file an application and receive an assessment.

Kaplan stated that the owners had not been told by the City that the buildings were listed on the Historic Resources Inventory Survey. He also had hired an independent consultant who determined that the bungalows did not qualify under any of the City’s cited criteria. In addition, Kaplan claimed that his clients would suffer economic hardship if they were unable to proceed with their development.

The commissioners agreed that their purview was simply to assess the buildings. The issues of hardship and proper procedure were not part of their responsibility.

Although John Berley and Roger Genser admitted that they were “struggling” with the idea of designation, the four other commissioners who were present were able to overcome their doubts. The vote was 4-2 in favor of designation for the buildings only, not for the parcel. This would allow for a possible relocation of the buildings.

The designation of the Mar Vista Apartments at 1305 2nd Street was a slam-dunk by comparison. The 49-unit brick apartment complex, built in 1914, is considered a fine example of the Renaissance Revival style. It features varicolored brown bricks, some with speckling, on three elevations; a u-shaped configuration with two wings and a central courtyard; metal fire escapes; decorative columns and panels; and a “ghost sign” on the rear elevation that can faintly be seen to read “Mar Vista Apartments. Steam Heat. Modern.”

Staff had recommended designation under Criteria 1 and 4, but RuthAnn Lehrer asked that Criterion 2 (aesthetic or artistic interest or value) be added because she believed that the materials used, as well as the building’s use of design to allow for free flow of air and light, qualified it under Criterion 2.

The apartments at the Mar Vista are currently rented to “a great group of people” according to owner Franklin “Skip” Brownell, whose family bought the building in 1967. Brownell supported the designation, describing the building as “beautiful.”

Contact Lynne Bronstein


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