News & Advocacy

Landmarks Commission Report

March 1, 2020

by Ruthann Lehrer and Carol Lemlein, Advocacy Co-Chairs

The Landmarks Commission voted, in November 2019, to designate the residence at 1531 Georgina Avenue as a landmark. Built in 1942, it is one of two known residences in Santa Monica designed by pioneering female architect Edla Muir. During her teenage years, Muir worked for John Byers, a Santa Monica architect renowned for developing the Spanish Colonial Revival style and for reviving adobe construction. Self-taught like Byers, Muir rose from clerical assistant to working on projects and becoming a fully licensed architect and a partner at Byer’s firm in 1934. The residence on Georgina Avenue was built just as Muir was setting up her independent architectural firm. The house reflects Monterey Revival design, consistent with her association with Byers, and is listed on the Historic Resources Inventory.  Muir’s later work evolved to mid-century modern ranch style homes and was highly respected by her peers.   

1531 Georgina Avenue. Photo: Ruthann Lehrer

The house was reviewed by the Landmarks Commission as a requested demolition permit. City staff and the City’s historic preservation consultant report recommended against designation, on the basis that the residence did not reflect Muir’s mature mid-century modern style.  The Santa Monica Conservancy strongly endorsed designation because denying the importance of Muir’s early work and tutelage under John Byers seemed arbitrary.  The Commission agreed with our position.  The applicant has filed an appeal to the designation, which is scheduled for a City Council hearing in March. 

In December 2019, approval was granted to a development project on the site of the designated deodar cedar tree at 918 5th Street.  Because the entire parcel was designated and the tree is protected, deviations from normal code requirements allowed the architect some advantages in his design of a new three-story condominium. Such incentives, available in Santa Monica, serve to compensate property owners who are developing their site but constrained by the presence of designated landmarks. The Major Modifications approved by the Planning Commission include increasing the building height to 36 feet (consistent with adjacent buildings on the street), and building three rather than two stories with additional parcel coverage. 

Two downtown projects were also reviewed last December: the iconic Rapp Saloon at 1438 2nd Street will be renovated as part of an expansion project at Hosteling International; and the former J.C. Penny Building on Wilshire Boulevard and the Promenade will be remodeled in a manner respectful of the original Streamline Moderne style.  Finally, the rehabilitation of the historic Julia Morgan-designed pool at the Annenberg Community Beach House was approved. The tiles have deteriorated and some marble on the deck need to be replaced in kind. 

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