The Santa Monica Landmarks Commission gives designation recommendation.
By Keldine Hull
For Susan Suntree, Co-Chair of Friends of 11th Street, and the other dedicated people involved in the historic preservation of Santa Monica’s 11th Street Bungalows, their years of hard work finally paid off. Following the December 10 hearing at City Hall to the Santa Monica Landmarks Commission meeting, in which they presented their case supporting that the 11th Street Bungalows be designated as a historic landmark, the commissioners voted unanimously in favor 5-0.
“It was a beautifully presented argument; clear, logical, accounted for the arguments on the other side, and responded to them. It made us feel vindicated and appreciated that they recognized the work that the community members had done,” Suntree explains. “The new commissioners took the time to really look into it. They did their homework, and they thought about it. And one commissioner changed her mind after looking at the research her colleagues did. She acknowledged them for that. It was something that I really admired about the civic process.”
Suntree was equally impressed that the commissioners discovered information outside of the information provided. Kenneth Strickfaden, who lived at 1223 11th Street in the early 1900s, was attending Santa Monica High School when he was dubbed “Edison No. 2” due to his many clever electrical inventions.
“He had his workshop in the back and his biographer said that this was where it all started,” Suntree said. “He was at the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition, a major international fair. An article was found in the Santa Monica Bay Outlet from June 13, 1918, calling him a boy genius, an electrical genius, and a sensation at the fair. As a teenager, while he was living here, he also developed prowess as a photographer. He was quite something. He said to his biographer that his time living here was the absolute foundation of his career.”
All the evidence provided during the hearing further proved that the community of people who moved to the 11th Street Bungalows in the early 1900s laid down the foundation for what Santa Monica is today. They were the builders, the carpenters, the teachers-in essence, the very blueprint for today’s society.
After the success at the meeting, there’s still one final step before the 11th Street Bungalows are officially designated as a historical landmark.
“According to Santa Monica’s Preservation Ordinance, the landmark commission recommends to the City Council that a historic district be established and then the City Council creates an ordinance that establishes the historic district,” Suntree explains. “It involves a lot of financial benefit to the owners that involve tax laws, exceptions from Santa Monica laws, and other things. For example, historic housings won’t have the same parking requirements, or the same door dimensions because they’re built over a hundred years ago. Only City Council can pass an ordinance. In their late December meeting, they will put it on the agenda at the January meeting.” Suntree remains hopeful ahead of the final vote. “It would be very rare for them to go against a positive recommendation. We hope the city council is sympathetic to our cause.”
Suntree acknowledges that no one single person could have accomplished what they did as group. It took an entire committee of dedicated people who combined their areas of expertise to work towards the commission’s unanimous vote.
“I really think that we had a dynamite committee,” Suntree continues. “They’ve been wonderful to work with. You don’t do this kind of thing alone. No one person did this.” Suntree adds, “We had the five top historic preservation historians and architects in Southern California write letters in favor of this historic district. We had 65 supporters at the July 30 public hearing, and we had at least 50 people at the last commission hearing.” Overwhelming support within the community also played a vital role. Suntree continues, “The public has written so many emails, and that’s what did it. Our committee did it, but also the public support and all these other people coming forward. This was a true community effort. That made me happy that the community stepped up and said we want this. And we hope City Council will listen to the people.”
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