Santa Monica’s last remaining intact “shotgun house” has found a new home.
The Santa Monica City Council supported, in concept, the permanent home of the shotgun house on Norman Place and Second Street — prior to regulatory review, at its meeting Tuesday, June 26th.
The council also authorized the issuance of a request for proposals (RFP) to select a nonprofit organization to relocate, rehabilitate and lease the house from the city for public benefit purposes, and agreed to make the eligibility criteria as broad as possible.
Additionally, the council directed staff to complete the proposed site improvements to ready the site for acceptance of the shotgun house.
Shotgun houses were homes that were one story high, one room wide (about 12 feet) and typically two or three rooms deep (about 36 feet), one room behind the other, connected by doorways that were lined up.
These were called “shotgun houses” because, if you shot a gun through the front door, the shot would come out the back door, passing through each doorway without even touching the wall.
Santa Monica’s last remaining intact shotgun house has been through a lot since it was built in the late 1890s at 2712 Second St.
Designated a landmark in 1998 and called a “treasure” by some, it was nearly demolished twice — once in 1998 and again in 2002 — and has been moved twice to different storage sites. Yet, this piece of history still stands.
As Santa Monica Conservancy member Sherrill Kushner and former neighbor of the shotgun house Roger Genser put it to the council — the shotgun house is a “survivor.”
The house, now owned by the city, currently sits at the former site of Fisher Lumber at 1601 Olympic Blvd. in Santa Monica, where it was moved in December 2005.
At the council meeting, all but one of the several who spoke supported the relocation of the house to Norman Place and Second Street, a parking lot across from the Ocean Park Branch Library, which some call an “eyesore.”
“This lot at Second Street and Norman is currently in a state of disrepair,” said Nina Fresco, a Santa Monica Landmarks Commissioner and member of the Santa Monica Conservancy. “This is a great opportunity [to turn the lot around].”
Kushner agreed, saying, “The parking lot is really trashy. It’s not well kept; it’s not well lit. It’s got trash bins on it. For years, the library and retail stores have been complaining about this lot. And here’s an opportunity to clean it up.”
New landscaping and lighting will be installed at the site.
Additionally, the city did a preliminary site plan that shows how the lot would accommodate the house, with one of the current 11 parking spaces being lost.
However, architect Mario Fonda-Bonardi, an advocate for preserving the structure, has proposed a way to keep all of the current parking spaces intact.
Several who spoke at the council meeting also pointed out that the shotgun house would be only two blocks from its original location at 2712 Second St. and its orientation would be the same — facing towards the beach.
Additionally, the house would sit near several other designated historic landmarks.
The site abuts the Streamline Moderne building that was once the headquarters of Merle Norman Cosmetics and the neighboring Greek Revival style Ocean Park Library, which was funded around 1917 by the Carnegie Corporation.
Within half a block, there’s the California Heritage Museum, housed in a historic Victorian home, and there’s also the nearby Third Street Historic District.
“Adding the shotgun house creates a cluster of historic buildings that becomes a record of our city’s history,” said Kushner.
Kushner also pointed out that the shotgun house is very similar in massing and style to the other houses currently on the street, which makes it “really compatible” and also allows it to retain its authenticity.
When searching for a permanent location for the shotgun house, the City of Santa Monica’s Department of Community and Cultural Services visited and evaluated 13 city-owned properties in Ocean Park and determined that the site at Norman Place and Second Street was best, said Karen Ginsberg, assistant director of Community and Cultural Services.
A Community Gardens location on Main Street was at one point preferred because of its visibility on Main Street, but that plan was put aside for a number of reasons, said Kushner.
The Santa Monica Conservancy, which has been very involved in the saving of the shotgun house, predicts that the cost of relocating, restoring and leasing the house from the city for public benefit purposes will be an estimated $250,000.
In the coming months, city staff will publicize a request for proposals from nonprofit organizations, and the Santa Monica Conservancy will be one of the nonprofit organizations to apply.
The organization whose application is approved will have to show that it has the ability to relocate, rehabilitate and lease the house from the city for public benefit purposes.
If selected as the lessee of the house by the city, the Santa Monica Conservancy would use the house for public benefit purposes by making it a Preservation Resource Center.
But as Tom Cley, treasurer of the Santa Monica Conservancy puts it, “First and foremost, we’re interested in seeing this house saved,” he said, pointing out the importance of this “incredible resource and historic property.”
Kushner says she will be pleased “as long as someone saves that house.”
“It’s amazing it’s still standing,” she says. “It really shows the beginnings. It was the kind of house the beginning settlers of Santa Monica lived in. They were the very humble houses of the workers. It’s not a stately Victorian or a polished craftsman.
“It’s a pre-fabricated three-room, one-story house — what would probably be considered a shed today — but it’s important, because it’s how we began. It’s important to share it with our children, tourists, because it’s part of our history.”
The council supported the permanent location of the shotgun house to Norman Place and Second Street — and the associated next steps — with Councilwoman Pam O’Connor abstaining.
Mayor Richard Bloom and Councilman Bobby Shriver were not present at the meeting.