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The Santa Monica Conservancy Announces 2017 Preservation Awards

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The Santa Monica Conservancy recognized eight exemplary contributions to the preservation of Santa Monica’s architectural and cultural heritage by honoring individuals, building owners and architectural firms at its recent Annual Meeting.

This year, for the first time since 2010, the Conservancy presented its David G. Cameron Award. Cameron was instrumental in the establishment of the City’s first Landmarks Ordinance and a passionate advocate for the preservation of its heritage.

David G. Cameron Award: Alison Rose Jefferson, PhD

For over a decade, Jefferson has researched the history of African-Americans in Santa Monica and has educated the public on this subject, creating many projects and activities recognizing this history. These include her work on designating the Phillips Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church at 4th and Bay Streets as a Santa Monica Landmark and authorship of the text on the monument at the “Inkwell,” the historical Jim Crow era, African-American beach site adjacent to the Casa del Mar which remained an important gathering place long after racial restrictions at public beaches were abandoned in 1927. Her involvement with Heal the Bay, Black surfing organizations, the Conservancy and others in various programs and events continues to share more diverse stories about our heritage with younger and broader audiences.


President’s Award: Santa Monica Public Library

Photo credit Santa Monica Public Library.

Recognized for their great historic and artistic value, the murals were restored and re-installed at the new Main Library in 2005. The Santa Monica Public Library played a key role in facilitating their return and restoration. Created in 1934-35 for our former Carnegie Library, these murals were the precursor of many other artworks placed in public buildings under Federal patronage during the Depression. Stanton Macdonald-Wright, an internationally acclaimed artist, created this mural cycle on wood panels, depicting technology and imagination in human development. When the library was demolished in the 1960s to make way for a new library building, the panels were removed and stored at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. Several decades later, City leaders, library staff and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art initiated efforts to retrieve the murals for incorporation into our new modern library. The mural paintings have been restored and an informative website has been created to enable the public to once again experience Macdonald-Wright’s creative legacy.


Stewardship Award: City of Santa Monica, Department of Public Works

Photo credit City of Santa Monica.

The California Incline is significant as a contributing element to Palisades Park, a Santa Monica Landmark. The original connector between the bluffs of Linda Vista Park (now Palisades Park) and the beach was a dirt trail for horses and wagons. Paved over and made into an automobile roadway in the 1930s, the California Incline replacement project that was completed in 2016 maintains the historic pathway linking the city with the coastline. With pedestrian and bicycle use enhancements, the railing and the neon sign continue to be emblems from the past.


Stewardship Award: Shugi and Alexander Cassini

For over 20 years, this Mediterranean Revival style house at 2433 2nd Street was the principal residence of nationally-famed cosmetics entrepreneur Merle Norman. Designed by architect Ellis Martin in 1936, it features original wood windows, tiled patios, and a sweeping interior staircase. It also has some Streamline Moderne elements including original decorative tiling and fixtures in the bathrooms as well as a beautiful mirrored dressing room. The Cassinis have been stewards of the property, incorporating new design elements that reflect their own sense of style. Additionally, they have been generous in opening their home for Conservancy events, sharing its beauty and historic significance.


Restoration and Renovation Award: Anitra and Alan Escovitz

Photo credit deasy/penner & partners.

This Landmark Aeroplane Bungalow at 315 Tenth Street was originally built in 1912. By 2013, when Alan and Anitra Escovitz purchased the property, it was in great need of structural and infrastructure upgrades. They spent one year restoring the main rooms, replicating original moldings, restoring the front door, and recreating the wood dining buffet. A new back porch was added that replicates the depth, materials and design of the original front porch. This couple is an inspiring example of devotion to Craftsman homes and the willingness to do what it takes for a house to live on.


Rehabilitation Award: 1012 Second Street, LLC, Howard Laks Architects, and Chattel Inc.

Photo credit 1012 Second St, LLC and Howard Laks.

This project is the first to be completed taking advantage of modifications to the city’s development standards for projects on parcels involving designated landmarks. These modifications made possible the creation of three additional living units without exceeding the by-right floor area and volume permitted on the site and preserving an important landmark structure from the City’s earliest residential development.


Rehabilitation Award: Lighthouse Investments, LLC, and Paligroup Management, LLC

Photo credit Palihouse Santa Monica.

The stylish and sophisticated Embassy Hotel Apartments, now named Palihouse, was designed by architect Arthur E. Harvey and built by Luther Mayo in 1927 in the Spanish Colonial Revival style. The site has been determined to be eligible for National Register of Historic Places both individually and as a contributor to a potential historic thematic district of Elegant Apartments in the north of Wilshire neighborhood. The current owners have conserved and refurbished the building throughout. Recognized as a Santa Monica Landmark in 2003, the original windows, decorative ceilings, patterned tile work, and outdoor patio paving have been preserved.


Outstanding Volunteer Service Award: Kay Pattison, Thomasine Rogas, and Rita Schneir

The Downtown Walking Tour was the Conservancy’s first weekly tour program, founded in 2007 by Carol Lemlein with extensive mentoring by Ruthann Lehrer and the research assistance of several volunteers. These three stalwart docents from the original 2007 group have served continuously for 10 years.

Posted in Preservation Awards |

Home Savings is Designated!

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Nearly four years after it was nominated by the Landmarks Commission, the former Home Savings building at 26th and Wilshire, and the parcel on which it is located, have been designated as a landmark by the City Council.

The history of the nomination has been fraught with controversy.  The Landmarks Commission voted 6–0 (with one abstention) to designate the property in December 2013.  The owner appealed, but agreed to delay the hearing until the Zoning Ordinance Update was completed and the development potential with and without designation was determined. When the matter finally came before the Council in November 2016, a recent court decision had placed Santa Monica’s process of allowing proactive designation by the Commission in question. Staff recommended sending the matter back to the Commission to be heard by the four members appointed since the original nomination.



A public hearing was conducted in February, and the Commission voted 3-1 in favor of designation, resulting in a “technical denial” since Commission rules require approval by four of the seven commissioners. The Conservancy appealed this decision, on the grounds that there was overwhelming evidence that the structure met five of the six criteria for designation, as supported by the Staff Report, Consultants’ Reports from 2013 and 2017, as well as letters from noted Millard Sheets expert Adam Arenson and architectural historians Alan Hess and Margarita Jerebek.

At the Council hearing, Conservancy representatives and numerous local residents wrote letters and/or testified in favor of the designation, with only the owner’s attorney speaking in opposition to the appeal. Council voted 6-1 to designate both the structure and the parcel on which it is located.

Completed in 1970, Santa Monica’s Home Savings is the 25th of a group of approximately 40 branch banks resulting from the unique collaboration of financier Howard Ahmanson and artist Millard Sheets.  Sheets was an eminent artist based in Claremont, acclaimed for his watercolors as well as for his leadership in arts education, promoting art programs in the region. He chaired the Scripps College Art Department (1932-55) and the Otis Art Institute (1953-1960), directed the art program at the L.A. County Fair (1931-1957), helped hire artists for the Federal Art Project, and mentored many renowned artists.

Ahmanson commissioned Millard Sheets, beginning in the 1950s, to create a visual identity for Home Savings that would convey an image of security and financial stability, and that would incorporate decorative artworks with imagery relating to the local community in which each building was sited.  The monumental geometric masses, clad in travertine marble with gold trim, incorporating mosaics and sculpture and stained glass, became the signature style of the Home Savings branches.  Sheets was given complete artistic freedom in designing these buildings with his collaborators in the Sheets Design Studio.

The Santa Monica Home Savings design had two significant innovations– the site plan and the scale of the mural.  The building is placed at a 45 degree angle to the corner, set back so that two wings extend outward to embrace an open plaza, with a sculptural focal point.  Sheets liked this so well that he repeated it in Anaheim.  The mosaic mural is larger than typical for Sheets’ work, and is scaled for the monumental architectural forms and its setback from the corner.

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Santa Monica Conservancy Receives LA Conservancy Award

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The Santa Monica Conservancy will be recognized by the Los Angeles Conservancy with a Preservation Award at its 36th Annual Preservation Award luncheon at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel on May 3. The Conservancy’s rehabilitation of the Shotgun House was cited as a “fantastic example of grassroots advocacy and reuse for educational purposes” by Adrian Scott Fine, Director ofAdvocacy for the Los Angeles Conservancy.

This is the third award the Conservancy has received for our shotgun house rehabilitation, demonstrating outstanding achievement in historic preservation, adding to recent awards given by the California Preservation Foundation and the Office of the Governor.

“It is a testament to the perseverance and dedication shown by the community and very committed Conservancy volunteers in making this project a reality and hopefully, an inspiration for others to find creative and sustainable ways to use our historic structures,” said president Carol Lemlein.

The Los Angeles Conservancy’s Preservation Awards are selected by an independent jury of distinguished architects, preservation professionals, and business and community leaders. This year 22 applications were received and 8 were selected for awards.

Posted in Preservation Resource Center, Santa Monica Conservancy | Tagged |

Call for Docents

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“Oh! The places you’ll go!” exclaimed Dr. Seuss in his well-known children’s book…and the Conservancy wants to take you there, but we need more volunteers to lead the way.

Tour docents will guide visitors at two historic, award-winning venues in our city: the Annenberg Community Beach House and our Preservation Resource Center. Docents will be trained by knowledgeable historians and will be asked to commit to three-hour shifts twice per month.

Meet interesting locals and visitors, learn about Santa Monica’s history and architecture, and share your knowledge of the wonderful places that make our city unique.


Annenberg Community Beach House
415 Pacific Coast Hwy, Santa Monica

This iconic destination was originally the home of Marion Davies: actress, philanthropist, hostess, and companion of media tycoon William Randolph Hearst. Learn about the history, people and evolution of the Beach House. The Santa Monica Conservancy, in partnership with the City of Santa Monica, has offered docent tours at the Guest House since 2009. For more information about the Beach House, click here.

Docent orientation & schedule: Complete three Saturday training sessions on April 22, April 29 and May 6 from 3 – 5 pm at the Santa Monica Main Library. Prospective docents are encouraged to visit the Guest House and take a docent-led tour. Docents will be asked to work two shifts per month during operating hours, Friday through Monday, from 11 am – 2 pm, with expanded hours during the summer.



Preservation Resource Center at the Shotgun House
2520 2nd Street (near the Ocean Park branch library)

Our little Shotgun House, built circa 1899, was saved from demolition in 2002 and endured a long journey before eventually being relocated to this permanent site. The Conservancy rehabilitated and transformed it into the Preservation Resource Center, where visitors can see how early Santa Monicans lived while accessing practical, user-friendly information about historic resources in Santa Monica as well as learning about the methods and benefits of preservation. For more information about the Preservation Resource Center, click here.

Docent orientation & schedule: Complete two Saturday training sessions on May 13 and 20 from 9 am – 12 pm at the Preservation Resource Center. Docents will be asked to work two shifts per month during operating hours, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, from 11 am – 2 pm.


The application may also be downloaded and mailed to the Santa Monica Conservancy: 2520 2nd Street, Santa Monica, CA 90405  If you have any questions, please send an email to Thank you!


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March 2017 Newsletter Available

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The latest Conservancy newsletter is now available online, as well as past editions. Our newsletter covers upcoming preservation events, preservation issues, features on the people and places of historic Santa Monica and much more.

In the current edition:

  • Upcoming Annual Meeting & Preservation Awards
  • Shotgun House Receives LA Conservancy Award
  • Celebrating California’s First Female Architect, Julia Morgan
  • Buildings at Risk
  • One-Year Anniversary of the Preservation Resource Center
  • New Online Preservation Resource Directory
  • Two New Landmark Commissioners
  • More News, Reports, and Event Listings

Download the March 2017 Newsletter or view past issues here.

Our newsletter is published four times per year. Conservancy members receive a copy of each new issue in the mail. If you’d like to become a member, please join today!

Posted in Santa Monica Conservancy Newsletter |

Santa Monica Conservancy Achieves LEED™ Gold

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The Santa Monica Conservancy has earned LEED™ Gold certification, demonstrating that even a small, 100-year-old shotgun house can be rehabilitated and adapted for sustainable, contemporary use.

“We are extremely pleased with the LEED™ Gold certification,” said Conservancy president Carol Lemlein. “We made sure that the rehabilitation was done not only in a historically sensitive way but also sustainably under the leadership of Conservancy board vice president John Zinner, principal of Zinner Consultants, and his partner Glen Boldt.”

LEED™ has both prerequisites and credits, which earn points in categories such as water and energy efficiency, resources and materials, and indoor environmental quality. Most notably, the Shotgun House earned points for its reuse of 95% of the original building as well as recycling 95% of its construction waste. Additionally, the Shotgun house features a drought-resistant, water-efficient garden.

As a leader in sustainability, Santa Monica has over 50 LEED certified structures. “We are delighted the Santa Monica Conservancy has added yet another to our growing list and applaud its accomplishment in meeting the challenge of achieving the Gold standard for an historic property,” noted Mayor Ted Winterer.

A display describing the LEED™ rating is now part of the educational program at the Preservation Resource Center. The Conservancy thanks Engineering Economics, Inc (EEI), Brummitt Energy Associates, Carbon Solutions Group, Recology and the team at Zinner Consultants.

Posted in Preservation Resource Center, Santa Monica Conservancy, Shotgun House | Tagged , |

Call for Nominations: 2017 Preservation Awards

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Do you know a project, person, structure or group you would recommend for a 2017 Award? Every year the Conservancy celebrates the preservation of Santa Monica’s architectural and cultural heritage by honoring exemplary projects and contributions with Preservation Awards.

Since 2004, award-winning projects have included residences, commercial and institutional buildings, from small to large, ranging from restoration, renovation, rehabilitation, and adaptive reuse to contemporary additions to historic buildings and homes. Awards are also presented to individuals for their stewardship of historic properties as well as for community service contributions as volunteers and advocates of preservation.

The awards presentation will be held at the Conservancy’s 2017 Annual Meeting. Don’t miss this spectacular event as we celebrate, recognize, and are inspired by the people and the projects that bring preservation to life in Santa Monica. A complete history of the Preservation Awards can be found here.


2424 Fourth Street, Brecht House, Horation West Court. Photos courtesy of DUB Architect and Brian Thomas Jones.

Past winners: Horatio West Court, John and Anna George House, and Brecht House. Photos courtesy of DUB Studios and Brian Thomas Jones.


Nominate a person, structure or group for a 2017 Award! Send an email to by Friday, February 3 and include:

  1. A brief description of the individual, organization or project, and why you believe it warrants an award. A specific award category can be included in your proposal, but is not mandatory.
  2. Your contact information (name, address, phone number).
  3. A photo of the site if possible.


Preservation Awards Guidelines:

You don’t need to specify what category you think fits your nomination, but the definitions below may be helpful:

Restoration: work to bring a building back to its historically authentic condition.

Rehabilitation: a broad term meaning bringing a historic resource back into service.

Renovation: includes remodeling and renewing, and can include the addition of contemporary design elements to a historic structure.

Adaptive Reuse: the adaptation of a historic structure to a new use, ideally with minimal impact on the structure’s character-defining features.

Stewardship: long-term care and maintenance of a historic building or place.

Volunteer and Service: recognition for outstanding contributions by individuals and groups in preservation efforts with the Santa Monica Conservancy.

President’s Award:  recognition for an outstanding contribution by an individual or group that exemplifies excellence in commitment to preservation, stewardship, and/or promoting Santa Monica’s history.

David G. Cameron Preservation Award: an exceptional honor, named in memory of one of Santa Monica’s pre-eminent preservationists, presented only when the occasion merits – “to individuals or organizations in recognition of their outstanding accomplishments in preserving Santa Monica’s unique heritage, and for promoting the value of historic preservation in the City.”

Posted in Preservation Awards |

December 2016 Newsletter Now Available

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The latest Conservancy newsletter is now available online, as well as past editions. Our newsletter covers upcoming preservation events, preservation issues, features on the people and places of historic Santa Monica and much more.

In the current edition:

  • Upcoming Annual Holiday Party
  • Shotgun House Receives Governor’s Award
  • Shotgun House Welcomes 1,000th Visitor
  • The New California Incline
  • Fall Salon Afterglow
  • Call for 2017 Preservation Award Nominations
  • More News, Reports, and Event Listings

Download the December 2016 Newsletter or view past issues here.

Our newsletter is published four times per year. Conservancy members receive a copy of each new issue in the mail. If you’d like to become a member, please join today!

Posted in Santa Monica Conservancy Newsletter |

Santa Monica Conservancy Receives Governor’s Preservation Award

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The Santa Monica Conservancy has received one of twelve prestigious Governor’s Historic Preservation Awards. On the heels of receiving a Preservation Design Award from the California Preservation Foundation (CPF), this makes two awards for the Preservation Resource Center at the Shotgun House. The Governor’s Award is presented annually to projects, individuals and the organizations whose contributions demonstrate exception achievements in historic preservation.

Left to right: Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Jenan Saunders, City of Santa Monica Director of Community & Cultural Services Karen Ginsberg, Mario Fonda-Bonardi, AIA, Santa Monica Conservancy President Carol Lemlein, Director of California State Parks Lisa Mangat.

Left to right: Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Jenan Saunders, City of Santa Monica Director of Community & Cultural Services Karen Ginsberg, Mario Fonda-Bonardi, AIA, Santa Monica Conservancy President Carol Lemlein, Director of California State Parks Lisa Mangat.

The Governor’s Office presented the award to Conservancy President Carol Lemlein in appreciation of the rehabilitation of the Shotgun House, deemed “an outstanding example of community participation in the preservation of a treasured California resource . . . Unlike other preservation awards, this one emphasizes involvement by community groups; and it recognizes a broad array of preservation activities, from building rehabilitation to archaeology, education, and preservation planning.”

Preservation Resource Center. Photo credit Stephen Schafer.

Established in 1986, these awards are presented under the sponsorship of the California Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) and California State Parks, in the belief that the history of California is embodied in its buildings, structures, sites, and objects that provide tangible links to the people and events that shaped the state’s growth and development. Since its inception, more than 200 projects have been awarded.

Posted in Preservation Resource Center, Santa Monica Conservancy |

New Mills Act Contracts Approved 

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At the October 25th City Council meeting, Santa Monica’s most important preservation incentive was granted to the owners of two designated city landmarks, 504 Pier Avenue and 305 Alta Avenue, and six contributing structures within the San Vicente Boulevard Courtyard Apartments Historic District.  A Mills Act contract enables a property tax reduction for owners who commit to an approved plan of restoration and maintenance.

EJ Vawter House, Mills Act Contract, 504 Pier

The properties represent a diverse selection of Santa Monica’s recently designated structures. The two-story E.J. Vawter house at 504 Pier is a rare hybrid example of Queen Anne and American Foursquare styles. It was designated a City Landmark in September 2014 based on its unique architecture, association with the locally prominent Vawter family, and exemplary representation of the shift from rural to urban culture in Ocean Park during the early 20th century.

The two-story Mel Uhl house at 305 Alta is a Mediterranean/Classical Revival-styled single-family residence. It was designated in August 2015 as an embodiment of the early development of the Palisades Tract and as an excellent example of its architectural style.

The San Vicente Historic District was designated in December 2015 as Santa Monica’s most significant and cohesive concentration of architecturally noteworthy courtyard buildings constructed between 1930 and 1953 featuring abundant open green space and harmonious scale.  The contributing buildings represent a variety of architectural styles on San Vicente Blvd.:

  • 150-156, Overcliff Manor, a Mid-Century Modern apartment complex
  • 212, the only Streamline Moderne-styled apartment complex in the district
  • 234, Villa Vicente, a Mid-Century Modern apartment complex
  • 302-312, The Nida Apartments, one of the few American Colonial Revival-styled complexes in the district
  • 437-441, a Minimal Traditional apartment complex
  • 614-618, an apartment complex combining American Colonial Revival style with Hollywood Regency elements in a stylistic courtyard setting

These properties bring the City’s total number of Mills Act contracts to 71, with the reduction in the City’s property tax receipts for these six properties estimated at $34,745 beginning in FY 2017-2018.  The actual amount of the property tax reduction will be set by the County Tax Assessor’s office, which must determine the value of the historic property based upon its current net operating income, rather than upon the traditional assessed valuation method, resulting, in most cases, in a property tax reduction.

Posted in Mills Act |

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