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Vote on New Santa Monica Historic District Delayed


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November 14, 2018 -- An effort to preserve a small slice of the Mid City Neighborhood by designating it a historic district was delayed Monday after the Landmarks Commission postponed a vote.

The Commission, which does not have the power to designate a district but will make its recommendation to the City Council, heard from dozens of neighbors who have seen several of the old small homes in the proposed 11th Street Bungalow Historic District demolished.

Bungalow in proposed historic district
Bungalow in proposed historic district (Courtesy Mid City Neighbors)

“A historic district can stabilize entire blocks to the benefit of tenants, owners, residents and visitors,” Planning Commissioner Mario Fonda–Bonardi, AIA architect, said before the vote.

“These houses are at risk for demolition, yet they represent a significant part of the city’s history -- a place where the workers who built this city once lived.”

The district comprised of a handful of Craftsman-style bungalows on 11th Street was proposed by Mid City Neighbors, which organized the effort, filed the nomination and conducted research on the area.

If designated, the modest homes built for middle class families between Wilshire Boulevard and Arizona Avenue in the early 1900s would become Santa Monica's fourth historic district.

Staff, however, disagreed with the Neighborhood group, citing a report by the City's consultant, OAC, that found the district does not meet the necessary criteria and is not unique to Santa Monica.

The proposed district, staff wrote, "does not appear to satisfy this criterion due to compromised historical integrity of many of its resources and the neighborhood in general.

"Though this little assemblage of residences is part of the City’s history," staff wrote, "it does not on its own manifest historic elements."

Staff also agreed with its consultant that "the study area does not appear to be a geographically definable area possessing a distinct concentration of historic properties."

The densely developed block is mostly comprised of "large-scale, post-World War II era mulch-story apartment buildings that are interspersed with modest single-unit residences dating from the 1900s, 1920s, and 1930s."

Staff wrote that there is "a sense of disconnect between the bungalow and multi-unit properties, and a lack of cohesiveness and uniformity within the study area."

In addition, staff said the properties "do not possess aesthetic or artistic value" and that the former owners had no ties to important historical events."

Applicants for the district designation had included three former residents of the homes as important historic figures, including Kenneth Strickfaden, a pioneering electrical special effects master who worked on the original "Frankenstein" film.

The consultants noted that the garage Strickfaden used early on as a workshop at his 11th Street home had been torn down and replaced in 1955 and that his most important work -- including "Frankenstein" -- took place later when he lived in a different Santa Monica home.

As for their architectural value, staff wrote, the bungalows are "simple in design and typical examples of the period," do not embody "distinguishing architectural characteristics" and are not the work of a "notable builder, designer, or architect."

Staff concluded that "the proposed district does not appear to satisfy any of the criteria for designation."

It recommended that the Commission forward a recommendation to the City Council denying the proposed 11th Street Bungalow Historic District.

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