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Santa Monica’s Shotgun House Comes Home

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and MarkHarding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors BureauWhen one lives in a city as breathtakingly beautiful and unique as Santa Monica, inevitably that city will be shared with visitors.

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

Editor's note: An original version of this article said that the Conservancy had raised about $1 million for refurbishing and relocating the house. The amount fundraised will also pay for staffing the house and expanding the Conservancy's programming.

February 27, 2014 -- Over the last 16 years, a century-old beachside cottage, known as Santa Monica’s “shotgun house,” has been nearly demolished twice, moved, abandoned and moved again.

After years of fundraising, negotiations and uncertainty, the Santa Monica Conservancy will finally move the narrow, one-story City-owned dwelling to its new home at 2nd Street and Norman Place -- next to the Ocean Park Branch Library -- just a couple blocks away from where the battle over the house’s future began in 1998.

“It's been very much of an uphill battle,” said Santa Monica Conservancy President Carol Lemlein.

The Conservancy raised about $300,000 to refurbish and relocate the building, which will serve as its headquarters. The Conservancy has also been raising money to staff the office and expand its programming.

The shotgun house, so named because the way it is designed would theoretically allow a shotgun blast to pass through the front door of the house and out the back door without touching anything, is the last remaining example of the once-popular type of beach bungalow.

The battle to preserve the house -- originally located at 2712 2nd Street -- began in 1998 when its owner applied for a demolition permit. The Landmarks Commission responded by designating the building a landmark.

“The wrecking ball was literally there,” said Landmarks Commissioner Roger Genser, who lives next door to the shotgun house’s original location.

Genser was not on the Commission when the house was originally designated a landmark, but the local historian took a keen interest in the house’s future as he watched the events unfold.

While the owner won City Council approval to overturn the Landmarks Commission’s decision in 2000, the local neighborhood group, Ocean Park Community Organization (OPCO), opted to buy and move the house.

In 2002, OPCO got City approval to temporarily relocate the house to Santa Monica Airport.

“OPCO went defunct,” said Genser, referring to the fact that the neighborhood organization fell apart after its chairman Rick Laudati was accused of mishandling the nonprofit’s finances.

One former OPCO board member went so far as to liken Laudati to Zimbabwe’s president since 1987, Robert Mugabe in a letter to The Lookout in 2002. (“Two Thumbs Up, The Mugabe of Ocean Park and Rent Control for Yuppies,” March 13, 2002)

With the dissolution of the organization who owned it, the house was now officially abandoned in an airport hangar, said Genser.

That’s when the City stepped up to take ownership of the cottage and moved it to City-owned land at 1401 Olympic Boulevard to make way for the construction of the Airport park.

In 2007, the City identified a portion of the “extremely disreputable-looking parking lot” next to the Ocean Park Branch Library as the future home of shotgun house.

After a competitive bidding process, the City selected the Conservancy to head the restoration and relocation of the shotgun house and, in 2009, the Conservancy signed a 20-year lease to use the building as its first physical office.

For now, the house is still at 14th Street and Olympic Boulevard, at least until the Conservancy finalizes the paperwork and hires the company to move the shotgun house.

“Right now, we're waiting to line up the house mover,” said Lemlein. And, the Conservancy also needs a permit for transporting the house through the City streets, she said.

If it survives the move -- the exact date of which Lemlein said is yet to be determined -- the shotgun house will become part of “a whole cluster of historic buildings” in the area, including the Ocean Park Library and the Roy Jones House, which serves as the California Heritage Museum.

Genser was also happy to see the shotgun house return to its old neighborhood.

“Perseverance pays off,” he said. “I think it's terrific. It shows a lot of community support.”

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