News & Advocacy

Update on the Landmarks Commission

August 6, 2020

The Conservancy has been working since May to protect the essential functions of our Landmarks Commission in the face of severe budget cuts and staff reductions. At the same time, we have been giving a lot of thought to how historic preservation can be part of our much-needed focus on equity and justice.

The Landmarks Commission met on July 29 for the first time since March and did not have demolition permits on their agenda.¬† Despite all our efforts, this review, one of the Commission‚Äôs core functions, has been removed from their purview and shifted to ‚Äúthe community.‚Ä̬†By definition, these are the properties most at risk!¬†While it is reasonably straightforward to identify buildings with architectural significance, those with cultural or historical value are usually identified in the public forum of a Landmarks Commission hearing.¬†Instead of allowing the Commission to pursue an investigation of a potential landmark, protecting a threatened historic or cultural resource now requires the¬†community‚Äôs¬†intervention¬†to file¬†a landmark application and paying the filing fee, currently over $800.¬†And access to the information necessary to research potential candidates for designation will be much more limited than in the past.

As part of the budget cuts, the city has also instituted a cost recovery model for the fees associated with applications for designation, eliminating fee waivers for non-profits, requiring payment for most consultant reports, ignoring the very real public benefit of maintaining our heritage and making historic preservation unaffordable for many.

We understand historic preservation as one the ways we can create and promote equity and justice. Protecting historic places representing our communities of color enables us to tell the full story. It also means that we can prevent this history from being erased.

Because of these unfortunate changes to the preservation program, the Santa Monica Conservancy must put new emphasis on the review of demolition permits and filing landmark applications when warranted. But we cannot do it without you!  Much of the information about our cultural heritage resides in community memories, especially those of our underrepresented populations.

We will notify you of the monthly demolition list in our newly created Advocacy News email. We will also collaborate with neighborhood organizations and community groups to publicize the lists and encourage their members to help provide information about threatened sites.

What can you do?

Let’s work together and ensure that our historic preservation program remains strong, and that we protect the places that represent the history and culture of all our communities.


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