December 1, 2013
The Mills Act, the state program that reduces property taxes on designated historic properties with approved restoration and maintenance plans, is Santa Monica’s only concrete incentive for historic preservation. The Landmarks Commission has been working to improve Santa Monica’s application and monitoring process by proposing explicit standards that ensure that contracts fulfill the intent and public purpose of the Mills Act. In March, the City Council will be asked to consider those recommendations, and to place limits both on the value of any individual contract and on the total value of contracts approved each year.
The Conservancy Board supports the Landmarks Commission recommendations, but is adamantly opposed to the proposed limits on the number and value of Mills Act contracts. To date, 57 historic buildings have awarded these contracts, at an average cost to the city of $2,300 per contract per year. The City’s total annual cost of this investment in the preservation of its historic properties is less than 0.3 % of property tax receipts!
Given Santa Monica’s high property values, some are concerned that the impact of the Mills Act on the City budget could be much greater in the future. We believe that the data does not support that concern. Fewer than 10% of the City’s properties are potentially eligible for the Mills Act, and only a small percentage of these are likely to seek designation. Furthermore, we do not see evidence of a rush to apply. In the 22-year life of the program, only two years – 2005 and 2006 – had more than 5 contracts approved.
Why, then, is the Conservancy so concerned about a cap on the contracts? We believe it will create a disincentive to designate and apply for a contract because of factors out of the property owner’s control. After investing the significant funds necessary to produce an application, the owner of a modest property could find that the number of submitted applications exceeds the cap and be forced to wait for some time to re-apply. A limit on the value of a contract could also discourage a buyer from the purchase and rehabilitation of a valuable property in poor condition, resulting in another loss to Santa Monica’s historic character.
Please watch your email and the Conservancy website for additional discussion of this issue once the staff report is published!
By Barbara Kaplan
The creation of a new Zoning Ordinance is an immense effort intended to incorporate the land use goals of the LUCE into a document that will govern growth in Santa Monica over the next twenty years. A subcommittee of the Landmarks Commission will work closely with the Commission as a whole, the Planning Commission, planning staff and members of the public to advocate for language in the ordinance that supports historic preservation. Along with the Santa Monica Conservancy, the group will work to include language that recognizes the importance of protecting historic resources in Santa Monica and that provides guidance, flexibility and incentives when any historic resource is a part of a building project.
In other reports, the Landmarks Commission has recently initiated actions on several historic resources. The Junipher Building, at 301 Wilshire Boulevard, was nominated for landmark designation last December 9, and is slated for review March 10. The Post Office building at Fifth and Arizona was nominated for landmark designation on January 13 and will also be considered March 10. The Home Savings Bank building at 2600 Wilshire Boulevard, with artwork by Millard Sheets, was designated a Santa Monica Historic Landmark in December, but has been appealed to the City Council. An appeal to overturn the designation of the Mayfair Theater terrazzo sidewalk paving at 210 Santa Monica Boulevard as Santa Monica’s 106th city landmark has been withdrawn. Lastly, the 100-year-old Bundy House at 401 25th Street was nominated for landmark status at the February Landmarks Commission meeting.
The Landmarks Commission is also pleased to congratulate the Santa Monica Conservancy and their perseverance in completing the entitlement process for the Shotgun House, a Designated Historic Landmark, thus allowing its relocation and restoration process to proceed.
August 29, 2013
At its August 27 meeting, the City Council approved a preservation covenant for the former Post Office building at 1248 5th Street and assumed responsibility for the enforcement of the covenant. This cleared the way for the Postal Service to put the property up for sale, and the sign went up on the Arizona Street side of the building the next morning.
The Conservancy Board of Directors strongly supported this action by the Council, which addresses concerns that the Post Office might have been sold without a mechanism in place to prevent inappropriate alterations to the building. The new owner will be required to submit any proposed changes for the exterior and the lobby for review, as would be required of any structure designated under our Landmark Ordinance. The covenant’s description of the building’s character-defining features was developed by the Landmarks Commission, which is expected to nominate the building as a City Landmark once it is privately owned. This action will make the property eligible for preservation incentives such as the Mills Act.
Since the Postal Service announced its intention to close the Downtown Post Office over a year ago, the Santa Monica Conservancy has played an active role in opposing the closure and insisting on detailed plans for the preservation of the building. When appeals of the decision to close the Post Office were denied, the Conservancy was granted Section 106 Consulting Party status, giving us an advisory role in the process for determining conditions on future alteration of the building. We have made numerous statements to the Landmarks Commission urging a proactive role in protection of the building and expressing our support for the City’s assumption of responsibility for the covenant. The City of Los Angeles did the same when the historic Venice Post Office was sold in 2012.
The Conservancy has also made every effort to make the public aware of the process which was taking place and the importance of protecting the structure in any future adaptive reuse. A Conservancy rally at the 5th Street location on its last day of operation drew nearly 100 people, some of whom were unaware that the facility was to be closed.
Santa Monica is a city that prides itself on preserving its historic places. The Post Office building, as one of three Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects in the City, is an important a part of our history. The City’s acceptance of responsibility for the covenant ensures that the building’s future adaptive reuse will retain its historic character and will continue to communicate the story of the WPA era to our community.
Posted in 5th Street Post Office |
August 16, 2013
The Santa Monica Conservancy announces a $1.6 million capital campaign to create a new, professionally staffed Preservation Resource Center in a rehabilitated shotgun house. Campaign funds will also be used to expand programming, including an innovative local history curriculum in Santa Monica schools, and support the ongoing operation of the new Center. To date, the Campaign has raised $860,000 in contributions from the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, the Mark Benjamin Foundation, the National Trust of Historic Preservation, the Friends of Heritage Preservation, and the City of Santa Monica, as well as from generous businesses and individuals. The campaign will enter its public phase as the Conservancy begins a year-long celebration of its decade of leadership in preservation.
“We have accomplished a great deal in 10 years as an all-volunteer organization. The time has come to hire professional staff and open a site easily accessible to those who want to learn more about historic preservation,” said Carol Lemlein, President of the Santa Monica Conservancy. After a successful bid to lease the landmark 1890s shotgun house owned by the City, the Conservancy agreed to rehabilitate the house and relocate it to city property across from the Ocean Park Library at 2nd Street and Norman Place, a neighborhood with other landmark buildings reflecting the history of Santa Monica. “By establishing our Preservation Resource Center in this small historic house, we will provide an instructive model of the adaptive reuse of a structure that many might have thought had long outlived its usefulness,” Lemlein added.
Rendering of the Preservation Resource Center by Fonda-Bonardi and Holman Architects
The local history curriculum, “Building a Neighborhood,” is the brainchild of Santa Monica Landmarks Commissioner and Conservancy board member Nina Fresco. Geared to third grade students and fulfilling California Standards for social studies and the visual arts, the curriculum gives students an understanding of how the story of a community and its residents is reflected in the changing materials, styles, and uses of its buildings. The lessons are interactive, using kits that provide students the opportunity to build models of actual homes in the city’s Third Street Neighborhood Historic District.
For more information about the Preservation Resource Center or other aspects of the Campaign, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at 310-496-3146.
About the Santa Monica Conservancy: Founded in 2002, the nonprofit Santa Monica Conservancy works to promote public understanding and appreciation of the cultural, social, economic and environmental benefits of historic preservation. The Conservancy developed the weekly Historic Walking Tour of Downtown and the popular docent program at the Beach House, as well as tours of Adelaide Drive, the Third Street Historic District, Palisades Park, mid-century homes in Santa Monica Canyon, and most recently “Living in a Landmark,” demonstrating how landmark homes have been adapted to meet the needs of their current owners. In addition to these educational programs, the Conservancy has led efforts to improve incentives for preservation and make the processes for landmarking and adaptive reuse easier and more attractive to property owners, and has advocated directly to save buildings that connect us more closely to our community’s heritage.
Posted September 05, 2012
Posted in Uncategorized |
August 15, 2013
Help Shape the Future of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium! If you have experience managing, building, booking, restoring or financing an entertainment venue – or know someone who does – the City of Santa Monica needs you!
A Civic Working Group (CWG) is being formed which will meet monthly to provide professional and community input on the renovation, programming and long-term operation of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. The CWG’s objectives are to work with City staff and consultants to:
The City seeks members who collectively demonstrate expertise in the areas of strategic planning, policy development, performing arts production, real estate development, construction, fundraising and event management. All applicants are welcome, but those who live or work in Santa Monica will be given priority.
Members of the CWG will be appointed for (1) two-year term. Five of the nine members will be selected by City Council in October. The remaining four will be current or former members of the Arts, Landmarks, Planning and Recreation and Parks Commissions, to be selected by the Commissions in September.
A three member Technical Advisory Subcommittee is also being formed. Members will possess extensive professional and technical expertise associated with the CWG objectives, in particular the financing, management and programming of venues similar to the Civic.
Follow this link for details and the application. Completed applications must be submitted by September 16. Santa Monica City Council will appoint the five positions on October 22, 2013.
Do you know someone who qualifies? You can post this information on a website, Facebook page or Twitter feed to reach interested people! Please share the link today!
If you would like to see who has applied so far, the Civic Working Group (CWG) now has its own listing on the Boards and Commissions page of the City website under “Task Forces” with links to the CWG applicants (click here) and the Technical Advisory Sub Committee (click here).
Thank you to Board Member Nina Fresco and the “Save the Civic” group for everything they have done to get us moving toward a plan for the future of this important building.
*Image by Brian Thomas Jones
Posted in Uncategorized |
May 29, 2013
Preservation as a “community benefit” in City development agreements moved a step forward in April as the Planning Commission forwarded the Century West Partners proposal for 1318 2nd Street on to City Council with a recommendation that $25,000 of approximately $500,000 in community benefit funding be allocated to historic preservation.
The project is a 4-story mixed-use building and involves the demolition of a property listed in the current Historic Resources Inventory as a potential contributor to previously identified historic districts. The Landmarks Commission approved demolition because its members did not see the building as having the level of significance that would merit consideration as an individual landmark. The Conservancy did not advocate for the project; our position was that, if the project moved forward, funding for preservation should be included in the agreement.
This positive vote was the culmination of months of effort by the Conservancy. The rationale for inclusion in the agreement was the stipulation in the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) that preservation was one of five priorities for potential community benefits, as well as the fact that many of the highest priorities set forth in the City’s 2002 Historic Preservation Element remain unrealized. Seeing that current budget constraints limit the City’s ability to make progress against these priorities, we have been working with members of the Landmarks and Planning Commissions, Planning staff, and members of City Council to propose that a small portion of the total community benefits associated with development agreements might begin to address the needs stated in the Historic Preservation Element.
As of May 14, 2013, the ordinance defining the 1318 2nd Street Development Agreement was approved by City Council on first reading with the funding for preservation in place. The ordinance requires a second reading and vote at a subsequent Council meeting for adoption. This is schedule to take place on June 11, 2013
Whatever the outcome for this project, the Conservancy will continue to advocate for preservation funding to bring the priorities of the 2002 Historic Preservation Element much closer to reality.
Posted in Uncategorized |
March 6, 2013
The fate of the Santa Monica 5th Street Post Office is featured in a New York Times article about preserving the nation’s historic post offices. Click here for NY Times article. The March 8, 2013 article describes how frustrated local and national preservationists are with the Postal Service’s execution of the federally mandated processes intended to protect historic buildings when they are sold. A photo essay including a photo of the lobby of our post office accompanies the article.
At this time, the status of our 5th Street Post Office is in flux. Under the Federal protection for historic buildings known as Section 106, the US Postal Service recently notified the Conservancy and other interested parties that the sale of the 5th Street Post Office would have “no adverse effect” upon Santa Monica because a protective preservation covenant would be placed on the building.
Some progress has been made toward instituting a covenant. Two consultants’ studies describing the building’s character-defining features have been completed, one for the Postal Service and one for the City. The Postal Service is reported to be reviewing the municipal code regarding Landmark designation and protection to determine if it offers adequate protection for the building.
However, after discussions with several of the consulting parties, including the California Preservation Foundation, the Conservancy responded that we could not agree to the finding of “no adverse effect” until the City’s designation process – or an equivalent public process involving the consulting parties – was used to define and protect the character-defining features of the building, and either:
To date, the Conservancy has not heard back from the Postal Service on the status of the Section 106 process.
Posted in 5th Street Post Office |
March 5, 2013
The 5th Street Post Office closed for business at noon on Saturday June 19. Over 90 people, including the grandson of the first postmaster, attended our rally that morning calling for the preservation of the building.
We are pleased to tell you that the Landmarks Commission has now reviewed the character-defining features of the building, including the lobby, and will formalize recommendations for the proposed covenant to protect the building at their meeting on August 12. After review by the Postal Service, the final draft of the covenant will be presented to Santa Monica City Council with a recommendation that the the City accept responsibility for enforcement of the covenant. Then the Post Office will be listed for sale. The covenant will provide the building with much the same protection as if it were a City Landmark.
Designation as a City Landmark is expected to take place when the building is in private hands and will make the property eligible for local preservation incentives.
Meet us at the Fifth Street Post Office (1248 Fifth Street) on its last day of operation at this convenient and very historic location.
The Conservancy strongly supports an appropriate new use of the structure, but we are very concerned that the Post Office is closing without any formal protection for its character-defining features. We share the community’s disappointment over the loss of the convenience of the Fifth Street location, but now we must focus on putting the needed protections in place or we could lose yet another important, iconic downtown building.
Please remember that Saturday morning is Farmer’s Market day and allow ample time for parking if you are coming by car!
In 2012, the National Trust for Historic Preservation was so concerned about the lack of protection for the historic Post Offices that it named them to its annual list of endangered historic places. As soon as the U.S. Postal Service announced that it would sell the historic Fifth Street building a year ago, the Conservancy and others began advocating for the preservation of the building.
Built by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Moderne building with Art Deco appointments opened with great fanfare in July 1938.
Every historic preservation consultant who has looked at the building considers it eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The Post Office qualifies as a Santa Monica Landmark as one of three WPA buildings in the City, and is distinguished by its Art Deco-inspired features including the beautifully detailed paneling and the original lighting fixtures of the lobby. The cities of Glendale, Southgate and Santa Barbara have landmarked their post offices, but that has not happened in Santa Monica.
The Postal Service has proposed a protective covenant describing the important features of the building. Under Federal law, it must identify the entity which will preserve and protect the property by enforcing the covenant before the Post Office can be sold.
“The current draft of the covenant leaves out important character-defining features like the 1937 plaque commemorating the building’s dedication, and could be weakened further in the sale negotiations if the City is not proactive. It is important to ensure local control over the building’s future. The Landmarks Commission must better define the attributes of the building listed in the covenant and the City should agree accept enforcement responsibility,” notes Carol Lemlein, Conservancy President. ”We cannot wait until after the Post Office passes into private hands and then landmark it. This process takes time, during which unacceptable alterations could be made to the building. And once the Post Office is closed, the lobby is no longer a public space and the Commission loses its ability to protect the important interior features.”
The protection of the Post Office building is expected to be on the July 8 Landmarks Commission agenda, which should be posted on the City website by Friday July 5.
Click here to link to the KCRW interview with Carol Lemlein, Santa Monica Board President, about the Post Office.
Posted in 5th Street Post Office |
February 15, 2013
The Santa Monica Conservancy recognized exemplary contributions to the preservation of Santa Monica’s architectural and cultural heritage by honoring individuals, building owners and architectural firms during its Annual Meeting on Sunday, February 24.
The Conservancy’s President’s Award was presented to William and Lenore Lambert for the example set by their stewardship of the Biedler-Heuer Building at 2701-2705 Main Street, home of businesses Jadis, Paris 1900, and the Chinois-on-Main banquet hall. The Lamberts, second generation owners, approached the Landmarks Commission about the building during a discussion about the historic structures on Main Street. After it was designated, they wondered how anyone would know it is a City landmark so they recently erected a historic plaque describing its significance.
The owner of the Isaac Millbank House at 236 Adelaide, and his project team received the Restoration Award for their comprehensive restoration of this iconic Craftsman designed and built in 1911 by the prominent architectural firm, the Milwalkee Building Company. The restoration included extensive research on historic materials and finishes, new wood shakes matching original in materials and dimensions, restoration of original doors and windows, and a new chimney based on the original design and finish materials. Team members were: Kelly Sutherlin McLeod, FAIA; John Griswold, Griswold Conservation Associates, LLC; Appleton & Associates, Inc., Administrative Architect; Balcorp Construction, General Contractor; David Cocke, S.E., Structural Focus, Inc.; Barbara Ashba, Ashba Engineers, LTD; Christine London, Landscape Architect; and Karin Blake, Interior Designer.
The Renovation Award went to 2240 6th Street, a modest, single-story Craftsman home, built in 1915, which was carefully restored on the exterior. The interior was beautifully modernized with a contemporary open plan. Owners John Given and Daphne Dennis collaborated with architects Hank Koning and Julie Eizenberg (KEA) to create an inspiring example for other homeowners. The builder was Charles Kuipers. The Given/Dennis and KEA collaboration first began in 1984 with an equally transformative addition that has become a studio apartment.
The Adaptive Reuse Award was presented to NMS Properties and their architects, Killefer Flammang, for preserving a unique historical artifact, a World War II Quonset hut, keeping its historic exterior intact while the interior was remodeled, making it a focal point for its new mixed use complex at 8th and Broadway.
The owners of the Horatio West Court in Ocean Park, Bill Creber, Margaret MacLean, Wende Watt and Barbara Whitney, received the Stewardship Award for their exceptional dedication to the preservation of this significant multiple-unit project by architect Irving Gill. The successive owners of the Court have, for over four decades, restored, preserved and maintained the four units in pristine original condition and have created a landscape setting that is compatible in spirit.
The Rehabilitation Award was given to Community Corporation of Santa Monica for rehabilitating a significant number of older multi-family homes over several decades, both historic and non-historic, thereby giving renewed life to the city’s existing housing stock while fulfilling their mission of expanding access to affordable housing. The example above is 2302 5th Street, a 6-unit Craftsman built in 1912.
Jerry Rubin and David Conrad were recognized with the Advocacy Award for their leadership in the campaign to protect and preserve the “Chain Reaction” sculpture created by Paul Conrad, a signature part of the Civic Center and Santa Monica’s first landmark work of public art. For more information on Chain Reaction, see www.conradprojects.com.
Hostelling International in Santa Monica received the Conservancy’s Outstanding Service Award for its ongoing support of the Conservancy’s weekly Downtown Walking Tour. The Hostel offered use of its facilities for the initial docent training in 2007. Management and staff have continued to provide use of the lobby and the Rapp Salon as gathering places for the tours and have always welcomed our docents and tour guests. The Hostel has partnered with the Conservancy on one of its most important educational programs.
This year’s Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service was presented to Stephen and Christy McAvoy. Although not residents of Santa Monica, this couple has given extraordinary service to the Conservancy. Steve has devoted considerable energy, leadership and expertise as Vice Chair of the Conservancy’s current capital campaign. Christy has been invaluable to the Conservancy’s docent program at the Annenberg Community Beach House, providing both written materials and lectures to train docent volunteers and to educate the public about the history of the Beach House.
A second Outstanding Volunteer Service award was presented to Dick Orton for his eight years of service as the Conservancy Newsletter’s graphic designer, for his many contributions of imaginative ideas and graphic skills to the Program Committee; as photographer at Conservancy programs; and as creator of the 2010 Adventures Tour.
The Conservancy has recognized exemplary contributions to preservation in Santa Monica with awards at the Annual Meeting since 2004. At the first awards ceremony, the late Michael Rosenthal accepted an award for the Santa Monica Mirror’s illustrated “Landmarks and Treasures” series, which included both famous and little-known Santa Monica historic and cultural sites.
In recent years, the awards program has expanded to include multiple categories. If you would like to make a suggestion for the 2014 Awards, please send email to email@example.com, providing a description of the project or individual and why you are making the recommendation.
Posted in Preservation Awards |
November 10, 2012
An informal conversation with architect John Fidler, former Conservation Director of English Heritage, and resident wit, hosted by Ann Gray.
On Tuesday, November 27, the Santa Monica Conservancy, RICS, and Form Magazine invite you to sip a cocktail with friends and colleagues as John recounts his exploits from protecting historic mold to advising the royal family all the while avoiding a one-way trip to the Tower.
The event will be held at Davis Langdon, an AECOM Company, 301 Arizona, Suite 301, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Space is limited. Advanced ticket purchase is suggested at http://smconservancy.kintera.org/mylifeinruins
Ticket price: $20 per person.
Proceeds benefit Santa Monica Conservancy, with special thanks to event sponsors and partners Morley Builders, Davis Langdon, RICS Americas (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyers), Form Magazine, AIA Los Angeles, and the Western Chapter of the Association for Preservation Technology.
Posted in Uncategorized |
November 5, 2012
Over 100 members and friends celebrated the Conservancy’s 10 years dedicated to historic preservation with a party at the future home of the Preservation Resource Center in Ocean Park. There was something for everyone – tours, a scavenger hunt, blue grass music by Brax Cutchin and the Lazy Roosters, cake, and a drawing featuring donations from many local businesses.
Our thank yous are numerous:
And last but not least, the generous local businesses who made donations:
The Conservancy received commendations recognizing its 10th Anniversary from the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors and from the State Office of Historic Preservation, as well as a mention in the closing remarks at the annual California Preservation Awards by Cindy Heitzman, Executive Director of the California Preservation Foundation.
From the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors “in proud recognition of your 10th anniversary as an all-volunteer organization devoted to enhanced understanding of the numerous benefits of historic preservation and to promoting incentives, policies and programs to encourage landmarking and adaptive reuse and cultivating a deeper appreciation of the rich architectural legacy of the Santa Monica community.”
For more about the Conservancy’s plans to rehabilitate the City’s landmark 1890’s shotgun house as the Preservation Resource Center, click here.
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