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Iconic Hot Dog Stand Near Santa Monica Pier Slated for Replacement

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Hector Gonzalez
Staff Writer

May 20, 2015 -- Hot Dog On A Stick's oldest and most popular stand took a step toward getting a long-needed upgrade after Santa Monica's Landmarks Commission took no action on plans to demolish the tiny shack -- which first opened on Ocean Avenue next to the Pier in 1946 -- and replace it with a new building.

Renovating the existing structure is impossible, mostly because of its age and condition, the company stated four years ago when it first submitted plans to the City to renovate the 10-foot-wide building, Beach Administrator Judith Meister told commissioners last week.

In the interim, the company went into bankruptcy, Meister said.

“It took a couple of years to reorganize and now there's a new set of owners, and they wanted to continue with the exact same plans,” said Meister.

“However, when they got into looking at whether they could renovate the building, it became clear that it didn't make sense, financially or operationally, to save the building, which is why we decided that it needed to be demolished.”

Michael Brawley, the architect on the project, which is estimated will cost about $400,000, said the old building presented numerous “challenges” to renovation.

“The biggest challenge is its age,” Brawley told the Commission. “Also, the building is only 10 feet wide.”

Restrooms are outdated and out of compliance with federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, floors are on two different levels, and the old building has some drainage issues, said Brawley.

The replacement building will add an extra 5 feet to the stand’s width, bringing its total size to 650 square feet, he said..

“The plan is to reconstruct the building at essentially the same footprint, lengthwise, and the same look, but using new materials, following new energy codes, adding ADA accessibility, and using the opportunity to solve some of the drainage issues around the perimeter of the building,” said Brawley.

Company officials hope to move forward with construction by next year, said Meister.

Santa Monica owns the property at 1633 Ocean and manages it under a beach operating agreement with the state. Hot Dog On A Stick received a recent concession agreement with the City in 2010, said Meister.

Although some commissioners proposed the idea of designating the building a local historic landmark, Commissioner John Berley said doing so would likely throw a wrench into Hotdog On A Stick’s plans, adding that the company brand name at its Pier location is more historically significant to the City than the building itself.

“You can’t landmark a company,” Berley said.

In the end, the Commission took no action on Hotdog On a Stick’s application for demolition, allowing the project to move on now to the City’s Architectural Review Board (ARB).

David Barham first started selling lemonade and ice cream from the stand at the original Muscle Beach next to Santa Monica Pier 66 years ago, originally naming his stand Party Puffs. He copied his mother’s recipe to create the hotdog on a stick product that took off in popularity, the company’s website says.

The company now has about 100 locations nationwide.

In 1954, Barham sublet the storefront from Selma Doumani for $600 per year. The state acquired the property in 1958, honoring the existing lease held by Barham, who continued paying an annual rent of $600, according to a City report from 2012, when Santa Monica increased the rental rate to $2,200 a month.

Because the Santa Monica Hot Dog On A Stick is the company’s most popular stand, Brawley said company officials hope to fast-track the process, with demolition scheduled to begin in November, after the stand’s peak summer season.

“Due to success of the site, it’s in Hot Dog On A Stick’s best interest to keep it shut down for the shortest amount of time and during the season that would have the least activity,” said Brawley.

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