News & Advocacy

Tell the SMMUSD Board to Adopt New Historic Preservation Policies

January 13, 2021

For months, the Conservancy and many community members have been asking the SMMUSD Board and staff to reconsider their plans to replace the History Building at Samohi with new construction. We have asked unsuccessfully for an evaluation of the options for rehabilitation of the historic structure by preservation professionals.

However, they have agreed to develop historic preservation policies and procedures for the other campuses. At the January 14, 2021 school board meeting, a first draft of a historic preservation policy will be discussed (click here to see agenda item).

The two basic elements of a viable historic preservation policy are:

  • A commitment to conduct a complete historic resources inventory of every school campus site;
  • A commitment to utilize the nation’s universal standards to preserve them: the Secretary of the Interior’s Guidelines for the Rehabilitation of Historic Properties.

Fundamental is the identification of historic resources at each site, which must be done ASAP – recent campus assessments calling for new construction and other improvements have already been formulated. The resources should be evaluated based not only on national and state designation standards as suggested in the draft, but also on the City of Santa Monica’s local designation criteria, which apply to our unique history and built environment. This will provide certainty and clarity about which buildings should be treated with sensitivity, and which may be altered or demolished. The inventory should be done in a public process to allow for input from stakeholders and interested parties citywide.

Once the full historic resources inventory of Santa Monica schools is completed, it should be adopted by the school board, and also sent to the California State Historic Preservation Office for their files. This would not mean designation of the resources but would ensure that when California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review of projects takes place in the future, the right resources are flagged.

Then the school district should commit to proper stewardship through appropriate policies. The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards should be applied to all work on listed structures. If demolition or significant alterations are proposed, the CEQA environmental review process involves analysis of alternatives, such as adaptive reuse, or project changes that avoid adverse impacts.

Please help the Conservancy convince the SMMUSD Board to adopt new historic preservation policies which:

  • Create a district-wide inventory of historic resources which they adopt;
  • Agree to utilize the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards to preserve them as much as possible;
  • Conduct an adaptive reuse study or evaluate alternatives to demolition if conflict arises between preserving a historic resource and educational program needs.

The Conservancy is currently working with district staff on this policy. Please show your support for our efforts by writing to the SMMUSD Board before 4 p.m. on January 14.

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