Hope Late Mayor Can Save Building
By Jorge Casuso
August 25 – A group of rent control tenants facing
eviction are hoping Santa Monica’s late mayor Clo Hoover once
carried enough clout at City Hall to still stop the wrecking ball.
The tenants must make the case that Hoover -- who was the first
woman to serve as mayor -- is an important enough local figure to
warrant landmark status for the 47-unit garden apartment building
she owned and lived in, conducting important City business in her
penthouse suite overlooking the Pacific.
The decision by the Landmarks Commission, which is scheduled to
hear the item next month, will help determine the fate of the tenants,
many of them seniors, remaining in some two dozen units who must
leave the building under the Ellis Act by March to pave the way
for 25 luxury oceanfront condos.
“Our feeling is that if it gets landmarked, that they (the
owners) will probably withdraw the Ellis filing,” said Ty
Wapato one of the tenants who declined a buyout offer.
“The cards have been dealt,” said Wapato, who as a
senior has a year, instead of 120 days, to move out. “We’re
going to play the hand.”
The battle between the tenants – many of whom pay between
$500 and $800 a month to live on prime real estate on Ocean Avenue
near San Vicente Boulevard – and the building’s owners
will likely reach the City Council, with the losing party sure to
appeal the Landmarks decision.
The tenants have recently stepped up the fight against real estate
giant Trammell Crow and local developer Michael Rahimi, whose plans
to enter into a development
agreement with the City was scheduled to make its first stop
at the Planning Commission before Landmarks stepped in.
The tenants have filed complaints with City officials, charging
the property owners with “a laundry list of serious building
code violations and violations of the rent control ordinance,”
according to an email sent by tenant Steve Dietrich to City staff
dated July 29.
Both Trammell Crow and Rahimi did not return The Lookout’s
repeated calls for comment.
Tenants charge that the owners yanked the on-site manager, stored
building materials in individual garages, neglected the landscaping
and shut off ventilation in the laundry room.
“Over the past 8 years the owners have failed to maintain
the building and generally have only responded to demands from the
City,” Dietrich wrote.
“Numerous interior demolition and construction projects were
done without permits (as has been admitted by ownership) and without
the testing required prior to demolition.”
The tenants also have launched a web
site, pored over historical documents and gathered testimonials
to make the case that Hoover, who served as mayor in 1973, was a
major player whose key political moves were crafted in the nondescript
“There is no arguing the important role Clo Hoover played
in the way Santa Monica faced the challenges of the 20th Century,”
the tenants wrote on their web site. “The significance of
Clo Hoover is but one of the ample reasons for saving this building.”
The tenants have interviewed friends, family members and council
colleagues who recall attending meetings at the Hoovers’ home
where key issues – including fighting offshore oil drilling,
banning jets at Santa Monica airport and opposing an offshore causeway
– were discussed. ("The
Road in the Sea," September 28, 2003, a four-part special report)
Guests at the Hoover home, where she and her husband Chester Hoover
raised five children, included such dignitaries as Congressman Ray
Haynes, bandleader Lawrence Welk and composer Hoagy Carmichael,
according to her son Dudley Hoover.
The tenants’ research seems to counter the findings of a
preliminary report by Peter Moruzzi, the architectural historian
hired by the City to help determine whether the building is worthy
of landmark designation.
“Given the particular significance of Clo Hoover as an elected
official important to Santa Monica’s history,” Moruzzi
wrote, “a strong argument can be made that it is actually
City Hall, not her longtime residence, that best reflects Clo Hoover’s
contributions to Santa Monica.”
Tenant Dish Taylor says the residents “have a lot of evidence
now that she did conduct a lot of business from her home.”
At their July 14 meeting, the Landmarks Commissioners “were
especially wanting to spend more time to more thoroughly evaluate
that association (with Clo Hoover),” said Roxanne Tanemori,
the Planning Department’s liaison to the commission.
Several Santa Monica landmarks, Tanemori said, achieved their designations
because they were directly tied to historical figures – including
Senator John P. Jones, a founder of Santa Monica; cosmetics mogul
Merle Norman and several distinguished architects.
But none was a strictly local figure from the city’s recent
past, Tanemori said.
“Suffice it to say that this is a unique type of analysis
we don’t do often,” she said.
The Hoover connection could be the tenants’ only hope. The
City’s architectural historian seems to disagree with the
contention on their web site that the building is a “gem of
Mid-20th Century California Garden apartment architecture.”
Built in 1952 and extensively renovated six years later, the building
no longer reflects architect Joe M. Estep’s “design,
workmanship and materials,” according to Moruzzi.
“As a typical but unremarkable example of the vernacular
Modern style,” the consultant wrote, “the subject property
does not appear to rise to the level of meeting the City’s
criteria related to architectural merit.”