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Angels Attic Plan Moves Ahead

By Anita Varghese
Staff Writer

November 13 -- The Landmarks Commission gave a hesitant go-ahead on Monday to plans for relocating the Angels Attic Museum to Heritage Square, a move that would mark the third time the Victorian building is relocated since it was built 113 years ago.

Commissioners support the possibility of moving Angels Attic, a nonprofit miniatures and dollhouse museum, to the 2600 block of Main Street, currently the site of The Victorian and the California Heritage Museum.

Issues of site orientation, green space, open space, parking and traffic would need to be addressed and presented in detail when the project goes to the City Council for discussion.

Angels Attic at its current location on 516 Colorado Avenue

“I have a hard time with the Heritage Square concept,” said commission chair Nina Fresco. “This was something that was popular in the 1970s and they were created all over.

“I just can’t wrap my head around why people moved these incredible homes here and then put them sideways on Main Street,” Fresco said. “Adding to this furthers my discomfort.”

The Angels Attic building was originally constructed in 1894 and moved twice before resting at its current location on 516 Colorado Avenue.

In the Historic Resources Inventory, the building is listed as eligible for a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

Angels Attic would join The Victorian and the California Heritage Museum, which were relocated to create Heritage Square in 1977, according to planning officials.

Known as the First Roy Jones House, the California Heritage Museum is the earliest known American Colonial Revival style building designed by Southern California architect Summer P. Hunt. Built in 1894, the house was moved from Ocean Avenue to Main Street and designated as a City Landmark in 1979.

Known as the Kyte House, The Victorian is a Shingle style house constructed around 1900 and identified in the city’s Historic Resources Inventory as eligible for local landmark designation, planning officials said.

The Ocean Park Restaurant Corporation operates The Victorian as a special events facility and offers breakfast and lunch service in the patio and indoor areas.

Founded in 1984 by Jackie McMahan, Eleanor LaVove and their friends, the Angles Attic Museum opened its doors with the goal of donating proceeds to help autistic and developmentally challenged children.

Angels Attic and the Volunteers of America of Greater Los Angeles merged in 2004 to manage the museum and expand its mission to include art and music therapy programs for disadvantaged children and cultural enrichment programs for senior citizens.

Relocation plans submitted to the City indicate that the Angels Attic Museum would be placed facing south on the lawn area in front and slightly southwest of the California Heritage Museum.

“I have a personal attachment to Angels Attic and its collection,” Fresco said. “I so want it to remain in Santa Monica, but I don’t think I can be comfortable with it being sideways.”

Museum officials told the Landmarks Commission that the current Colorado Avenue site generates hardly any foot traffic and that they are reviewing options to relocate the museum to other Westside communities.

In addition to an awkward sideways site orientation, the Angels Attic relocation to Heritage Square could possibly impair the historical integrity of The Victorian and the California Heritage Museum, City officials cautioned.

Parking is also a major issue, with City staff finding that 12 parking spaces would need to be added to the 87 spaces at Heritage Square to meet the zoning ordinance requirements for museums of one parking space per 300 square feet.

Another concern is that the currently planned site orientation of Angels Attic may make it harder to see the Main Street Farmers Market that operates at the Heritage Square site from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday.

Some Farmers Market operations such as music, picnicking, the manager’s booth or pony rides may have to be moved to other areas of Heritage Square or Parking Lot 10, City officials said.

Lease agreements would also have to be analyzed more closely because Heritage Square features two different arrangements that expire at different times.

Proposed site for Angels Attic

The City owns and leases the majority of Heritage Square and an adjacent parking lot to the Ocean Park Restaurant Corporation under a lease term of 30 years and five, five-year options that expires in May 2008, planning officials said. If all options are exercised, the lease term would be extended to May 2033.

The California Heritage Museum occupies its parcel through a 44-year operating agreement with the City set to expire in 2025 that comes with a 50-year extension.

The City Council heard a request for conceptual approval in June and asked the Landmarks Commission to forward its comments for a subsequent Council meeting.

“Some of the issues concerning parking, contracts, loss of open space and the operational conflict that may happen with the Farmers Market were all discusses at the June Council meeting and will be discussed again,” said Council member Kevin McKeown.

“Where we didn’t feel we had the expertise was in the historical questions,” McKeown said. “The big question is if this relocation fits in the historic context of Ocean Park, not just in Heritage Square, but also in the Third Street Historic District.”

Angels Attic should be restored to match as closely as possible its original look, said Commissioner Roger Genser.

“This project is tastier than dark chocolate,” said Toby Smith, executive director of the California Heritage Museum. “We get two museums for the price of one.

“Both are wonderful attractions for people attending the Farmers Market and for people who bring their children. This is such a great benefit to the public and something City officials should not walk away from.”

Volunteers of America said a $10 million endowment can be guaranteed to support operations for both the Angels Attic Museum and the California Heritage Museum.

The City would not have to provide any finances for relocation or operations, said lawyers for the Heritage Square Committee, whose members include representatives from Volunteers of America, the California Heritage Museum and the Ocean Park Restaurant Association.

City officials want to be sure that sufficient funding resources exist to complete the entire project from relocation to future operations.

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“I just can’t wrap my head around why people moved these incredible homes here and then put them sideways on Main Street.” Nina Fresco


“The big question is if this relocation fits in the historic context of Ocean Park." Kevin McKeown


“This project is tastier than dark chocolate.” Toby Smith


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