The Sears, Roebuck and Co. department store building — a fixture of downtown Santa Monica since the 1940s — may soon become a city landmark.
The Santa Monica Landmarks Commission voted 7-0 at its meeting Monday, October 11th, to approve a landmark designation application for the Sears building at 302 Colorado Ave.
The commission, which designates landmarks and historic districts for the city, filed for the application May 10th, but it has been discussing the issue for about a year, said Roger Genser, Landmarks Commission chair.
The Sears main building, which was built in 1947, is a clear representation of the late Moderne style of architecture, Genser said.
“It’s clearly an iconic building,” he said. “Everyone knows where it is. It’s been a fixture in the neighborhood and it stands out in the community.”
While some buildings meet only some of the criteria to be designated landmarks, the Sears main building meets all six of the criteria, he said.
Some of the criteria include having a notable architect, an aesthetic value and a long-term place in the community, and being a good example of architectural style and a representation of the cultural aspects of the city, he said.
The Sears building, which had Rowland Crawford as the principal architect, is one of the department store’s earliest buildings in Southern California.
Since the landmark designation application was approved by the commission, Sears, Roebuck and Co., which owns the building, will determine if the company also approves landmark status for its building, Genser said.
The only concern by Sears has been the store’s adjacent Garden Center building, but the company doesn’t oppose the landmark idea, Genser claimed.
The Garden Center serves as a plant nursery and garden supply center and the building has undergone renovations since it was originally built with the main building as a service station.
Sears has expressed concern because if the Garden Center is also designated a landmark, its future development may be in jeopardy, Genser said.
If Sears does decide to appeal the main building’s landmark designation, it would most likely be on those grounds, Genser said.
The Landmarks Commission has taken into account the historic role of the Garden Center and agrees to leave the center’s status open to future development changes, he said.
By labeling the Garden Center as a “secondary” building to the main building, the commission allowed for the possibility of future alterations, he said.
“We worded it (Garden Center) as a secondary building and it’s clear that it’s not the primary effort,” Genser said. “The commission is careful and we want to defend Sears’ economic viability.”
If Sears does agree to have its main building designated as a landmark, it will establish an official importance for the building in Santa Monica, Genser said.
The landmark status does not “freeze the building in time,” Genser said; it just requires the commission to review possible changes with respect to the building’s integrity.
The commission’s vote to approve the landmark application is not official until a month after the action, and Sears has ten days after the official approval to appeal the action.
If the company approves the application, the Sears building may become a city landmark by the commission’s November 8th meeting, Genser said.
“We want to make sure that we express the interest, and that the status of the building is real obvious as a landmark,” he said.