Recognized for its association with the group of young skateboarders who helped revolutionize the sport in the 1970s, a surf shop building in the “Dogtown” area of Santa Monica has been named a city landmark.
The City of Santa Monica Landmarks Commission voted Monday, May 14th, to approve landmark designation for the structure at 2001-2011 Main St., which is now the home of the Horizons West Surf Shop and artist studios.
The building once contained the Jeff Ho and Zephyr Surfboard Productions Shop, where the Zephyr Surf Team, also known as the Z-Boys, was started in the mid-1970s.
The Z-Boys, who applied their aggressive style of surfing to skateboarding, have been the subject of two movies and are considered to be pioneers for modern skateboarders.
In approving the city landmark status for the surf shop building, Santa Monica Landmarks Commission members recognized the structure for its cultural significance, not for its architectural importance.
Landmarks Commission chair Nina Fresco said the Dogtown structure is culturally significant because it is tied to a skateboard revolution and a “social phenomenon” that happened in Santa Monica.
“There’s no doubt that this is a piece of history that in some way needed to be recognized,” Fresco said.
Also referring to the surf shop’s contribution to modern skateboard culture, Landmarks Commission member Roger Genser said the building is “the epicenter of a lot of things that transpired for a period of over 30 years.”
When deciding whether to approve a structure for landmark designation, the commission must consider six different criteria, such as whether the building has aesthetic or artistic value and if it is identified with important events in history.
City Planning and Community Development Department staff had determined that the west wing of the building, including the Horizons shop, met four of the designation criteria and recommended that the section receive landmark status.
The landmark designation will preserve the west wing, or front section, of the building along Main Street. While the entire structure received landmark status, the back portion, which includes a parking lot and artist studios, is considered a “non-contributing” feature and will be torn down to make way for apartments.
Concerns about the surf shop’s future arose late last year, when the property owner presented a proposal to demolish the building and construct apartments.
The proposal caught the attention of members of the community and skateboarding fans, who attended landmarks commission meetings to express support for preserving the structure.
Fresco said the news reached skateboard fans from around the world, who sent e-mails saying when they wanted to visit a place that is part of skateboarding history, the former Zephyr shop is where they would come.
In response to the community support for preserving the shop, project architect Howard Laks devised a plan that incorporates the surf shop and also allows for the property owner’s apartment project.
The property owner plans to build a three-story mixed-use development that is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold certified.
Under the proposal, 14 apartment units would be built in the back portion of the parcel and 4,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space would remain in the landmarked Horizons West building, Laks said.
“The key is to integrate the two together so there is a fully functional mixed use project,” Laks said of the apartment and surf shop proposal.
As part of the project, the Horizons West section would be “rehabilitated” and significant upgrades would need to be made, including seismic repair, dry rot repair and retail viability upgrades, Laks said.
An environmental impact report for the project is expected to be issued in the next few months.
By incorporating the landmarked surf shop building into the overall site plan, the project will provide a significant contribution to Main Street and Santa Monica, as well as the skateboard culture, Laks said.
“We feel that this approach will further enhance and elevate the cultural significance of the site as a local landmark, while respecting the scale and character of Main Street,” Laks said.