WHAT’S THE POINT OF A HISTORIC DISTRICT IF THE RESIDENTS CAN ERECT MODERNIST STRUCTURES?
Neighbors rally against construction plan in Third Street District
Residentsand preservationists have filed an appeal to a new residential construction project in the heart of the Third Street Historic District. The appeal to the proposal at 2642 Second St. was filed on Dec. 20 in response to a Landmarks Commission decision about 10 days prior that gave propertyowners Mark Gorman and Beth Burns the green light to erect a two-story home that neighbors have called “modernist.” The appeal moves on to the City Council which could hold a hearing on the issue sometime this month.
Appeals to projects can be filed within 10 days of a Landmarks Commission decision, keeping building permits from being issued until the matter is resolved, according to Roxanne Tanemori, the planning associate liaison to the Landmarks Commission.
The appellants — Tony Haig, who owns a Victorian on Beach Street, Scott Campbell, who owns the so-called craftsman “airport” bungalow off Ocean Park Boulevard, and Bea Nemlaha, who owns a bungalow on Third Street — all close neighbors to the proposed modernist structure – contend that the design of the proposed house does not keep with the spirit of the historic district and violates its guidelines.
“The historic guidelines are not being applied,” Nemlaha said. “As a result, projects are now being approved which are neither harmonious nor compatible with the character of the district.”
The City Council established the historic district in 1990, one of two such designated areas in Santa Monica, the other being the Bay Craftsman Cluster Historic District in Ocean Park. The Third Street Historic District includes more than 40 historic homes that contribute to the district, including two churches and a former church that was converted into a private residence. The existing duplex on the Gorman-Burns property is considered to be a noncontributing feature to the district, giving the homeowners a bit more flexibility than if they were renovating a contributing structure.
The couple seemed surprised by the appeal. “We’ve shown respect and care to the neighbors throughout this process,” they stated. “We made myriad changes to the design and its height, roofline, shape, materials, square footage over the last seven months, at significant cost.”
Opponents say they fear that the integrity of the district is being compromised and the guidelines are being disrespected by both the homeowners and the Landmarks Commission in granting the project to move forward. The couple’s project coincides with a more controversial project at 2617 Third St., where the owner of a bungalow is proposing to
move his front house forward in order to expand on the back house.
“The people in the district feel it is important the guidelines for the district be upheld,” said Karen Blechman, who lives on Third Street. “As with the other project on Third Street, this project on Second Street in many significant ways didn’t conform to the guidelines and
therefore when the Landmarks Commission approved it, it was setting a very unfortunate precedent.”
Most of the commissioners at the Dec. 10 meeting seemed supportive of the project, expressing their appreciation for the changes the homeowners made in the design, changes suggested at previous commission hearings. The project was approved with the contingency that the color of the house change from a bright white to a softer hue.
Neighbors that oppose the project believe that the design is far too contemporary and refute the homeowners’ assessment that the architecture of the proposed house borrows defining elements from nearby historic homes in the district.
“A contemporary building cannot and will not maintain or enhance the turn of the century character of this old beach neighborhood,” according to a statement in the appeal.
The neighbors had already planned for an appeal even before the Landmarks Commission decision was made last month and Nemlaha suggested another could be filed if the Third Street project is also approved by the commission on Jan. 14.
Though he has yet to take an official stance on the issue, Mayor Herb Katz said on Wednesday that he believes that if the project is on a non-contributing site and is not a monstrosity, he would be inclined to throw his support behind it. To Katz, who is an architect, change is part of how a historic district grows.
“My feeling is a lot of times these districts don’t want you to do anything ‘new’ that is contemporary … but that is how you grow and that is how you change,” Katz said. “(The project) needs to be in context in terms of size and in context with the neighborhood, but I am not one to say just because it’s contemporary, it doesn’t fit.”
info couresty of BY MELODY HANATANI Santa Monica Daily Press Staff Writer
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