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Unkempt Cottages Kept From Demolition

Built in 1902 and 1907, the two bungalows at the corner of Second and Mill streets are among the last remaining turn-of-the century Victorian cottages in Santa Monica.

The neighbors of two vacant turn-of-the century cottages in Santa Monica's Ocean Park neighborhood narrowly won over the City Council Tuesday in their pleas to keep them from demolition.

Diamond-paned windows boarded up, the two clapboard cottages at 2501 Second Street were fated to be razed to make room for a new multi-family residential development.  The Victorian vernacular cottages—an increasingly rare architectural style once popular in Los Angeles—were built in 1902 and 1907.

But the Landmarks Commission swooped in. After it reviewed permits from the Plaster Family Trust seeking to demolish the bungalows, the city commission gave the homes special protection by designating them historical structures.

The Plaster Family Trust attempted to appeal that decision Tuesday, saying the cottages were unkempt beyond repair. The City Council's vote to deny the appeal was 4-3.

An attorney representing the family, Chris Harding, emphasized an earlier finding by the city's Rent Control Board that the homes were not habitable.

"This is not a structure that is in good condition," he said. "It has long outlived its useful life."

There are 21 better examples of vernacular cottages in Santa Monica, most of which are in the same Ocean Park neighborhood, Harding added, suggesting those ones be protected instead.

"The city has many better examples of these types of cottages... this is not the right one to preserve, because, in effect, it won't be preserved... ," Harding said. "Even if my client was willing to spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars that his consultants advised him it would cost to rebuild this cottage... you won't end up with a cottage with the integrity required for a landmark designation."

But neighbors overwhelmingly voiced their support for protecting the bungalows. They admitted the homes suffer from deferred maintenance and neglect, but refuted Harding's argument that they are lost causes.

One resident said the neighbors, galvanized by the teardown of another home at 2513 Second Street, are looking into forming an historic district there. Another demolition would have a huge impact on the character of the area, they said.

In addition to the unique architecture, the bungalows are symbolic of the history of residential development in Ocean Park, Landmarks Commissioner Ruthann Lehrer said.

A study by the city of historic Sanborn Maps found that there were once many examples of turn-of-the-century and vernacular style cottages in the Ocean Park area, but few remain today. The style was the most prevalent when the first wave of development took place in the Ocean Park district, but was largely replaced with the Craftsman style by 1910, according to reports prepared by city staffers.

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"This late Victorian cottage belongs to the first wave of permanent residential structures in Ocean Park, the successor to the impermanent shotgun houses that preceded them," Lehrer said. "This house speaks to the history of Ocean Park as a new residential community and embodies that important memory of neighborhood history."

Eddie Greenberg January 27, 2012 at 02:22 AM
I commend the council members that voted not to demolish and the Landmarks commission as well. Santa Monica's past historical buildings once there for all to see are disappearing at an alarming rate. Over the years it is understood that development is a fact of life. However it often seems out of control.Our history is being erased not only here; but a few short years ago the developers wanted a shopping mall built on the site of the Gettysburg battlefield. Naturally folks became energized in their opposition of defacing a place won valiantly by the blood of our ancestors.We who live here understand that time marches on and that change comes with it. However let us not have Manhattan by the sea please. Westwood looks that way now and frankly it is ugly!

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