A Santa Monica resident’s proposal to construct an addition to a bulding on the back of his property in an Ocean Park historic district, which drew opposition from his neighbors, has failed to meet the approval of the Santa Monica Landmarks Commission.
Resident Mark Woollen’s plan for a 1,200 square-foot addition to an existing two-story “non-contributing” structure on the rear of his property in the 2600 block of Third Street in the Third Street Neighborhood Historic District, had sparked the disapproval of his neighbors ever since he presented the project to the Landmarks Commission early last summer.
Woollen plans to restore his home, which was built in 1905, and was requesting design approval to add a couple of bedrooms to the rear two-story building.
But several neighbors said they feared that Woollen’s project would threaten the historic nature of their district of bungalow homes and could lead to its demise.
“The whole style of the proposal was inappropriate from the very beginning,” said Third Street district resident Karen Blechman, who has lived in the neighborhood for 12 years. “This project did not respect the guidelines. We’ve stayed with the same message throughout — that the district is protected by guidelines and in order for it to continue, the guidelines need to be respected.”
The Third Street Neighborhood Historic District, bounded by Ocean Park Boulevard and Second, Third and Hill Streets, was created in 1990 to preserve the turn-of-the-century character of the neighborhood, and it is one of only two designated historic districts in Santa Monica.
Several district residents have called Woollen’s proposal a modernist rectilinear box with a flat roof that is out of place with the district’s bungalows, which have pitched roofs, front porches, numerous windows and horizontal wood siding.
Woollen had disputed claims that his addition would stick out amongst the bungalows, saying his project is at least 100 feet from the street and is behind a fence and trees.
But when the project came before the Landmarks Commission Monday, January 14th, it did not receive enough votes to move forward as presented. Three of the commissioners voted to support the project, with commission members Nina Fresco and Margaret Bach voting against it, but the proposal needed four votes in favor to be approved. Two other commissioners had recused themselves from the vote.
While the proposal did not get the required number of votes for approval, project architect Michael Folonis said the applicant was encouraged at the support that the plan did receive.
“We were extremely encouraged, as three of the five commissioners supported the project,” Folonis said of the com- mission’s decision.
The application “failed” due to a lack of favorable votes, but it didn’t get outright rejected, the architect noted.
Although pleased at the commission’s vote, Blechman also acknowledged that the project wasn’t outright denied.
“We’re very gratified that the commission failed to approve it,” Blechman said.
Fresco said her vote against the project was primarily influenced by the size of the addition to the auxiliary structure.
“The size and massing ruined it for me,” Fresco said of the design.
The commissioner added that the volume of the rear building should not overwhelm the character of the bungalow and she remained unconvinced that the auxiliary structure would not be visible from the street, a concern of neighbors.
When the project was initially presented, the Landmarks Commission felt that it needed revisions in order to comply with the district guidelines and asked the applicant to return with an updated proposal.
After reviewing the revisions, commission staff recommended project approval, but Fresco said the massing continued to be a concern.
Folonis argued that while the original design was in compliance with the historic district guidelines, the applicant made revisions at the commission’s request. A main revision was a reduction in size, including lowering the overall height by a foot and a half, he said.
“We reduced the overall size, mass and scale by over 20 percent,” Folonis said.
The architect also noted that the plan was not to demolish a “contributing” building in the district but to do a “modest” addition to a non-contributing structure that is 90 feet from the front property line.
Blechman said she and her neighbors support allowing Woollen to restore his home but they want to ensure that any project presented in the district respects the guidelines that protect its character.
Woollen had not decided whether to appeal the commission vote at Argonaut press time and was in the process of evaluating his options, Folonis said.