December 17, 2015
Santa Monica has its first new historic district in fifteen years. The City Council, on the recommendation of the Landmarks Commission, voted unanimously on December 15, 2015 to designate the iconic courtyard housing on San Vicente Boulevard from Seventh Street west. (Read the City’s staff report here.) Through the grassroots efforts of the Historic San Vicente Coalition, assisted by the Conservancy and endorsed by many local community organizations, this district will be the third historic district in our city, joining the Third Street Neighborhood District and the Bay Street Craftsman Cluster.
The next step is for staff to draft an ordinance with input from stakeholders regarding guidelines for changes to the properties within the district. Interiors are not subject to restrictions.
Congratulations to all those who worked hard to successfully shepherd this designation through the landmarking procedures!
The San Vicente Historic District Moves Ahead (November 2015)
The proposed San Vicente Courtyard Apartments Historic District moved a step closer to designation at the November 9 Landmarks Commission Meeting when, after a public hearing, the Commission voted to recommend district formation to the City Council. The Council hearing to make a final determination on the formation of the district will be held on December 15.
The Conservancy, in collaboration with the Historic San Vicente Coalition, offered a series of free walking tours to educate residents and the public about the proposed district, which stretches from Ocean Avenue to Seventh Street. Each of the three tour dates was quickly filled to capacity, attracting more than 200 people interested in learning about the proposed district and its distinct form of housing. The San Vicente Courtyard Apartments are characterized by multi-unit buildings configured around lawns and gardens set back from the street, and comprise the most significant and cohesive concentration of courtyard housing in Santa Monica.
More than half of the buildings in the corridor, constructed between 1937 and 1953, are considered significant contributors to the potential historic district. The neighborhood’s architectural character, harmonious scale and abundant landscaped green spaces have generated both public appreciation and concern that this important collection of courtyard housing might be lost to redevelopment. If designated, the San Vicente Historic District would be the third in the city, joining the Third Street Neighborhood District (formed in 1990) and the Bay Street Craftsman Cluster (2000).
The San Vicente Courtyard Corridor (September 2015)
Characterized by buildings configured around lawns and gardens set back from the street, the San Vicente Courtyard Apartments between Ocean Avenue and 7th Street are the most significant and cohesive concentration of courtyard housing in Santa Monica. Rapidly increasing in its public appreciation and value, this distinctive neighborhood possesses a harmonious scale, architectural character, and abundant landscaped green spaces. More than half of the buildings in the corridor, constructed between 1937 and 1953, are considered significant as contributors to a potential historic district.
How Historic District Designation Works
While an application for a historic district may be submitted by anyone, the application for the San Vicente district is being initiated by the Landmarks Commission. It has requested consultant and staff reports, expected in May or June, to determine if the San Vicente corridor courtyards meet the City’s criteria for designation. The procedures require property owner and neighborhood noticing, a public meeting, and public hearings before the Landmarks Commission and City Council. If the Landmarks Commission finds it justified, it will make a recommendation to City Council, which may then adopt an ordinance to create the district, and establish design standards and district guidelines concerning permissible alterations and maintenance.
Historic District designation is the strongest tool that exists to conserve the unique character of a neighborhood. If Historic Designation is approved, it would protect the scale and plan of the courtyards, the open landscaped spaces, the distinctive architecture, and the multi-family housing from demolition or significant change. Official recognition of these special qualities typically enhances property values, highlighting those neighborhood amenities that make the San Vicente corridor an attractive place to live.
Benefits and Incentives for Restoration and Renovation
The Landmarks Ordinance defines certain benefits for owners of contributing properties. These include eligibility for Mills Act contracts, which provide reduced property taxes in exchange for a written plan for preservation, restoration and/or maintenance of a historic property; fee waivers for applications; priority permit processing; and professional expertise from staff to advise applicants on issues related to their historic properties. The Zoning Ordinance allows many exemptions and waivers for designated historic properties so that nonconforming conditions may continue to exist. Owners may also request use of the State Historic Building Code, a tangible benefit that can result in considerable cost savings when remodeling or renovating.
For more about individual properties in the proposed district, view the San Vicente Courtyard Historic District assessment.