By Lookout Staff
June 5, 2009 – A 47-unit rent control building on one of Santa Monica’s most exclusive parcels does not merit landmark designation simply because it once belonged the city’s first female mayor, staff wrote in a report to the City Council this week.
Former tenants of the building being vacated under a State law that allows owners of rent control buildings to go out of the rental market had hoped former mayor Clo Hoover’s connection to the building at 301 Ocean Avenue would lead to a landmark designation.
Hoover -- who was, ironically, a staunch opponent of rent control -- lived at the property for 45 years, during which she entertained celebrities and dignitaries and was a tireless advocate for conserving the scenic and historic aspects of Santa Monica Bay.
But staff found that the connection to Hoover, who served as mayor in 1973, was not enough reason to designate the building on a 43,814-square-foot lot on Ocean Avenue and San Vicente Boulevard a landmark, saving it from the wrecking ball.
“While former Council member Clo Hoover is significant as the City’s first female mayor and for her longstanding work on key issues that were important to the community at large, her significance is derived from her work performed in the public realm,” staff wrote.
Staff added that “it is unclear how the (apartment complex) is related in a clear manner to the significant aspects of her productivity and public career as an elected official.”
|301 Ocean Avenue
Staff is recommending that the council uphold an appeal by developer Trammell Crow Company of the landmark Commission’s 4 to 3 decision to designate the building a landmark.
After extensive public comment and long deliberations, the commission on January 12 found that the complex merited landmark designation because it is identified with a locally significant historic personage.
The appeal contends that the Landmarks Commission abused its discretion because its action was a departure from the City’s long-standing administrative practice and because the City has not designated the former home of a notable elected official as a City Landmark.
The appeal also argues that the commission committed procedural errors when two of its members discussed the issue after it was continued on December 8, 2008, according to the staff report.
Since the commission was the applicant, the conversations between the two members, who both voted for the designation, constituted “ex parte communications,” which are prohibited by commission rules after a public hearing has commenced, according to the report.
Staff believes that in addition to failing to be adequately linked to a historic personage, the apartment complex also fails to meet any of the other five criteria for landmark designation.
The building, staff wrote, “is a typical and unremarkable example of post-war multi-family residential architecture, a multi-family housing type that was popular in Santa Monica” and “lacks sufficient aesthetic or artistic interest.”
The building also was significantly altered and its “relative prominence as viewed from Ocean Avenue or the promenade in Palisades Park does not qualify the property as an established visual features of the neighborhood,” staff concluded.