With a unanimous vote Monday night, West Hollywood’s City Council denied an appeal of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission decision not to designate a building as historic.
Resident Lynn Russell filed the appeal citing new information, alleged factual errors in the original staff report and unsupported findings by Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) as the basis for her appeal.
The one-story Spanish Colonial revival style building at 8001-8003 Santa Monica Boulevard was deemed potentially eligible for historic status by a 2016 survey of commercial properties in the city. Erected in 1922, the building was one of 68 sites out of 763 commercial properties surveyed which was listed as possibly eligible for the historic designation.
Property owner Stevens Land Company LLC nominated the building on the northwest corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Laurel Avenue (across from the French Market) for historic status for the purpose of getting HPC to deny the petition, thereby removing it from the list of potential historic sites. Being included on that list limits what a landowner can do with a property.
At its Jan. 27, 2020 meeting, HPC unanimously denied the historic status because of alterations done in 2017 that caused the building to lose many character-defining features, the items that made it potentially historic.
City Hall staff had mistakenly issued a permit to re-roof the building in November 2017. That re-roofing resulted in many of the character-defining features being removed, including a red clay tile roof and the circular roof towers.
Despite the property being included in the list of potentially historic properties, which was announced in Sept. 2016, the city had not yet flagged the building in its permit tracking system when the reroofing permit was issued.
Russell’s appeal asserted that the original staff report to HPC failed to include a copy of the re-roofing permit and that work done on the roof far exceeded what was allowed under the scope of that permit. She also said her request for a continuance of the January HPC hearing was denied, which resulted in the Commission making its decision without full information.
Attorney Todd Elliot, representing the property owner, reported there was more damage to the roof than originally anticipated and the roofer had to do what was necessary to prevent future water damage. He also cited an official report stating the building no longer retained integrity and was no longer a historic resource.
Commissioner Jake LaJoie, who chaired HPC at the time of this vote, reported they heard no evidence to suggest the alterations were anything other than a permit-issuing mistake. He added it was unclear if the Commission would have granted historic status if the building had retained its previous appearance, but they had to consider it in its current condition.
Councilmember John Heilman agreed that they could only consider the building in its current condition and therefore it could not be considered historic.
The other councilmembers concurred and urged staff to ensure a permitting error like this does not happen to a potentially historic building again.