Description: Description: bwwide-R

City Council Report

 

City Council Meeting: October 25, 2011

Agenda Item: 6-A  

 

To:               Mayor and City Council

From:           David Martin, Director, Planning and Community Development

Subject:        Appeal 11APP-008 of the Landmarks Commission decision to approve Certificate of Appropriateness application 11CA-005, which allowed modifications to an approved design for the Town Square park project, located at 1685 Main Street, subject to conditions.

 

Recommended Action

Staff recommends the City Council uphold appeal 11APP-008 and approve Certificate of Appropriateness application 11CA-005 for the modified design of Town Square park, on the Landmark City Hall parcel located at 1685 Main Street.    


Executive Summary

The applicant and appellant are the City of Santa Monica.  On September 20, 2011, the Landmarks Commission conditionally approved a modified Certificate of Appropriateness for the design of Town Square park.  This action approved design elements not previously acted on as part of a prior Certificate of Appropriateness review on May 23, 2011, and considered additional modifications/amendments to the approved Certificate of Appropriateness in conjunction with the proposed Palisades Garden Walk/Town Square park project. The modified design proposal includes the retention, rehabilitation and/or relocation of certain existing historic character defining elements of the site, in addition to reconfiguring the site topography and grade, the installation of new landscaping and hardscape materials, a central water feature, new benches and seat walls, and lighting. In rendering its decision for approval, the Commission attached conditions requiring specific design-related modifications to the plans: (1) Retention of all existing decorative in-laid brickwork; (2) Reduction in the number of trees to be installed in each new tree row; (3) Reduction in the amount of area devoted to decorative grasses within the lawn areas; and, (4) Redesign of the pedestrian ramps at the front entry to reflect existing conditions. 

 

The applicant/appellant concurs with conditions 2 and 3, and portions of condition 4, and has amended the plans, which are included as Attachment H.  However, the applicant/appellant does not support condition 1 and aspects of condition 4, which are the focus of this appeal.  However, while the appeal is specific to these conditions of approval, the City Council’s review of the modified Certificate of Appropriateness is de novo.

 

Background

The Palisades Garden Walk/Town Square park project has two distinct components.  Palisades Garden Walk introduces a new public open space on a vacant six-acre site located on the west side of Main Street, across from City Hall.  Town Square involves the redesign of the City Hall grounds, approximately one acre in size, and contains the Landmark Santa Monica City Hall building and other historic character-defining landscape features.  Since the Town Square portion of the project affects a designated City Landmark, any improvements/changes on the landmark parcel require the issuance of a Certificate of Appropriateness by the Landmarks Commission. 

 

The new park sites were designed by James Corner Field Operations.  The development of the overall design concept was a collaborative effort with input, comment and direction provided throughout the design phase by the City Council, various Boards and Commissions, City Staff, and the public.

 

The Town Square site is intended to be an inviting public gathering space that is respectful of its overall historic characteristics and setting, but physically and aesthetically integrated with the Palisades Garden Walk park and its contemporary design opposite the site.   

 

The City Council, acting as property owner, has guided the design team on overall concept development for both Palisades Garden Walk and Town Square.  On June 14, 2011, the Council provided direction to the project team to be bold and creative in designing Town Square to create an innovative design.

Figure 1 - Modified Rendering of Town Square Park, based on Landmarks Commission input and action on 9/20/11

Project Design

The current design plans (Figures 1 and 2) for the site maintain the site’s historic formal symmetry.  The key components, detailed more fully below, are:

·       a central ceremonial area, with water feature, flanked on each side by linear concrete walkways;

·       expansive lawn/open space areas;

·       dual rows of trees; and

·       sidewalks on the exterior edges. 

The arrangement, dimensions and proportions of these features directly relate to the architecture of City Hall. 

 

  • Central Commemorative Area – This commemorative area is located in the current Memorial Rose Garden space.  The existing rose bushes, turf, memorial plaques, and flag pole would be replaced with a new water garden that maintains the same dimensions as the Rose Garden.   The water feature consists of 52 “water trays” representative of the rose bushes, each with a water jet bubbler to add fluidity and movement to the water.  The water trays overlap and allow water to cascade away from City Hall toward Main Street and Palisades Garden Walk through a steam imbedded into the walkway.  Pools of water surrounding the water trays will contain appropriate plantings, such as water lilies.   The concrete curbing that forms the perimeter of the existing rose garden area would be replaced in-kind.  However, the imbedded brickwork that outlines the garden would be removed and its former location referenced with a scoreline in the concrete.  The water feature would be rededicated as a commemorative feature and a new plaque installed near the City Hall dedication marker. 

Figure 2-Town Square Park Design – Modified as per Landmark Commission input and action on 9/20/11

  • Lawn Areas - The existing lawn areas would remain, with their appearance and functionality altered to enhance sociability of the space.  The revised design would introduce a series of small landscaped hills/berms to the existing flat open space, interspersed with low concrete seat walls to provide variation to the lawn topography.  Generally, these hills would be planted with turf, although bands of decorative native grasses and shrubs are proposed closest to the main entry walkway.  These decorative bands have been reduced in size, as conditioned by the Landmarks Commission, in order to increase the amount of space available to the public for assembly and discourse.
  • Tree Rows - Two rows of pollarded Western Sycamore trees line the lawn edges.  Pollarding is a pruning technique in which a significant amount of the tree crown is removed in order to encourage a denser, more formal growth pattern.  As conditioned by the Landmarks Commission, the number of trees per row has been reduced to five.  The tree rows correlate to the edges of the existing City Hall building, minimizing obstruction of the building so that it maintains visual dominance on the site.  The tree rows continue onto the Main Street sidewalk and the adjacent Palisades Garden Walk park site.  Seat walls meander through the tree rows creating shaded seating. 
  • Path/Walkways - The existing linear paths that establish the formal geometry of the City Hall site and help define activity spaces would be maintained in their respective locations.  However, the existing concrete would be replaced with a warmer tone that references the City Hall tile color while maintaining the current scoring pattern dimensions.  This concrete would be used throughout the Palisades Garden Walk/Town Square project.  The replacement concrete material includes an aggregate finish that matches the historic concrete in color, size and type. 
  • Front Entry - The highly decorative City Hall front entry would be restored with the removal of the existing protective blue awning.  The brick steps and landing would be replaced with the new concrete material, scored to visually reference the former brick. Four freestanding, 6-foot long, 1-1/2” diameter steel pipe hand rails will be installed.
  • Pedestrian Ramps – The existing pedestrian ramp on the south side of the building entry would be redesigned with an elongated pedestrian ramp that will eliminate the need for a handrail.  Per the Landmarks Commission recommendation, the ramp has been designed to include a planter, a reference to the existing entry design.  This design would be mirrored on the north side of the building entry.  Both ramps would require removal of a portion of the North and South Demonstration Gardens.  The planters flanking the front doorway, currently planted with junipers, would be replaced with lower profile sustainable plants.
  • Site Furniture – Three wood/steel benches would be placed on each side of the main walkway.  Two additional benches of this design would abut the North and South Demonstration Gardens.  Bike racks are also proposed.
  • Lighting - Decorative LED (light-emitting diode) lighting is proposed throughout the site.  The lighting would accentuate key site features to reinforce the design symmetry during evening hours.  The lighting effect would be achieved through the use of accent lighting under the benches, recessed lighting in the pedestrian ramp walls, uplighting and adjustable pipe mounted lighting on the Western Sycamore trees, and spotlighting in the gardens flanking the main entry.
  • Flagpole - The existing flagpole within the Memorial Rose Garden is proposed to be relocated to the vicinity of the southwest corner of the City Hall building.  If necessary, the flagpole could be returned to its former location.

 

Discussion

Landmarks Commission Action

The Landmarks Commission initially reviewed the Town Square design on three separate occasions as part of the project’s design concept process.  In July 2010, the Commission was introduced to the overall project goals, including the increase of open space in the Civic Center area, and was invited to participate in the upcoming public outreach process.  In October 2010, the Commission was briefed on several design concepts that had been developed through public engagement, followed by a December 2010 presentation on the publicly-preferred “Arroyo” concept. Subsequently, since the Town Square project affected the City Hall grounds, the Landmarks Commission supplemented the City Hall Landmark designation and took action to identify the site’s historic character-defining features.  This action provided clarity regarding which features are historically significant and should be treated in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards (Attachment G).  On May 11, 2011, the Commission identified the symmetrical configuration and arrangement of the landscape and hardscape elements at the front of City Hall as its most significant character-defining feature, and further recognized 15 other features of the grounds as contributing features.    

 

Figure 3 - Town Square Park Design – Conditionally Approved on May 23, 2011

 

On May 23, 2011, the Commission held a public hearing on the Certificate of Appropriateness for the Town Square park design (Figure 3, above).  During the hearing, the Commission noted the iconic nature of the existing landscape and how much of the site retained its original character.  The Commission appreciated the Town Square’s evolution that respected the site symmetry.  However, concern was expressed with specific design features, including the trellis and the lack of plan detail.  Overall, the Commission believed the design needed further refinement, but approved the Certificate of Appropriateness with conditions, including a requirement that certain design features return for Commission approval.

 

Figure 4 - Town Square Park Design – Modification #1 - Conditionally Approved on September 20, 2011

 

The project returned for Landmarks Commission review on September 20, 2011.  The Commission considered the design elements that were previously not acted on as well as a modified design that was developed based upon City Council feedback, and the input of other concerned community members that the overall design that the Commission conditionally approved in May lacked creativity.

 

The Commission found that the modified design (Figure 4, above) was an improvement that would activate the space and draw more people into the park.  The Commission determined that the contemporary design still respected the ceremonial character of the historic Beaux Arts landscape.  Commissioners were pleased with the interpretation of many of the site’s character-defining features, particularly the central water feature that unifies the entire Palisades Garden Walk/Town Square park concept. The Commission expressed appreciation with the removal of the protective “blue awning” over the building entry and that its removal unveils the extent of decoration and refined elaboration that is a hallmark of the City Hall building.  Although the Commission was, overall, favorable of the design, the following items were identified for further review:

 

·       Decorative Inlayed Brickwork The Commission found this material located throughout the site, to be character-defining and should be retained due to its connection to the building architecture and landscape.

 

·       Lawn Design The Commission had concern that the embellished lawn topography could restrict the public’s ability to assemble.  Reducing the height and profile of the new berms and plantings would also prevent impairment of City Hall views.  A varied plant color palette within the decorative beds should also be considered.

 

·       Tree Rows The Commission felt the number of trees would combine to create a canopy that would impair sight lines to the historic building. 

 

·       Entry Planters The Commission expressed concern over removal of the historic planter space due to construction of the elongated pedestrian ramps.  The Commission felt the planter on the south side should be retained and then replicated on the north side.  This would also preserve existing plantings.    

 

The Commission voted 5 to 1 to approve the Certificate of Appropriateness modifications subject to the following conditions:

1.     Retain the existing inlayed brickwork;

2.     Reduce the number of trees to not exceed five per row;

3.     Reduce the decorative grasses to increase useable open space; and,

4.     Retain the existing ramp and south side entry planter and construct a duplicate planter on the north side.   

 

The full text of the Landmarks Commission’s Statement of Official Action is presented as Attachment C. The September 20, 2011 staff report and meeting minutes are presented as Attachments D and E, respectively.

 

Appeal Summary

The appellant believes that the requirement to retain all of the existing inlayed decorative brickwork will disrupt the simplified and unified material palette for the hardscape.  Further, the appellant believes the concrete material is more indicative of the Streamline Moderne style of the City Hall building.  In addition, the appellants believe that the requirement to replicate the design of the existing ADA pedestrian ramp and associated planter found on the north and south sides of City Hall’s main entry would detract from the appearance of City Hall due to the handrail requirement.  The appellants concurred with the Commission recommendation to incorporate additional areas for active landscaping and to reduce the number of trees.  A timely appeal was filed on September 29, 2011.

 

Analysis

According to the appellant’s statement, the appeal does not dispute the decision of the Landmarks Commission’s decision to approve the project design. Rather it questions conditions of the approval, specifically, the proposed elimination of the decorative in-laid brickwork and the design of the proposed pedestrian ramp at the entry to City Hall.  All other design specific conditions imposed by the Commission have been accepted and the plans revised accordingly.

 

Staff assessed the decorative brickwork removal in the September 20, 2011 Landmarks Commission staff report and recommended approval.  Staff and the City’s historic consultant, PCR Services, found that the Secretary of the Interior Standards (Attachment G) allow reasonable changes to a historic resource, including removal of features, to accommodate a compatible use of the property, provided that the sum of all changes do not destroy the overall value of the resource.  In this case, while the removal of the character-defining brickwork would be an alteration of a key feature, the overall symmetry and orthogonal layout of the site, which represents the most important feature of the landscape, remains intact.  Therefore, the resource’s value is not lost.  To compensate for the loss of the feature, the Standards advise the preparation of a Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS) report prior to any removal to formally document existing conditions.  The preparation of HALS report will also enable full conformance with the Secretary of Interior’s Standards.  Further, staff concurs with the appellant that the use of modern materials such as cement and glass were a more typical material than brick in relation to Moderne architecture and is, therefore, a more appropriate material choice for the City Hall site. 

 

Regarding the front entry design, the applicant proposes to extend the existing pedestrian ramp to a length and slope which will eliminate the need for a handrail.  The revised ramp design (Figure 5, below) will be replicated on both sides of the entry in order to symmetrically balance the front entry appearance.  The redesign will require the removal of a portion of both of the north and south Demonstration Gardens.  All planter beds along the entire perimeter of City Hall, including the Demonstration Gardens, are character defining features of the landmark designation.  Although the proposal will eliminate a portion of each planter, the overall integrity of these features remains intact.  Staff supports the revised design as the elimination of the handrail will decrease the visual clutter and enhance the view of City Hall’s detailed and ornamented front entry. 

Figure 5 – Modified Front Entry/Pedestrian Ramp

 

In response to the Commission’s suggestion to maintain landscape planters at the City Hall entry, the applicant has provided planting areas along the face of each of the pedestrian ramps to increase green space.

 

Staff believes that the designers have successfully addressed the challenge of balancing historic interests, preserving character defining features, and creating a contemporary design that is also compliant with the Secretary of the Interior Standards.  Further, the applicant has responded to the Commission conditions and provided solutions that both achieve project goals of creating a dynamic and inviting contemporary social space while still maintaining an overall visual consistency and historic formality in the arrangement of the site.

 

Conclusion

The project design that has been modified to address some of the Landmarks Commission conditions successfully preserves the site’s historic character, prominence, and formality while creating a new contemporary landscape that complements City Hall’s Moderne architecture and provides more features that heighten opportunities for increased public use of the space. Staff recommends approval of the modified Certificate of Appropriateness. 

 

Alternative

As an alternative to the staff recommendation, and if supported by the full evidentiary record, the Council may consider denying the appeal and upholding the decision of the Landmarks Commission to conditionally approve the Certificate of Appropriateness.

 

Environmental Analysis

The Palisades Garden Walk/Town Square project was contemplated as part of the Civic Center Specific Plan.  An environmental impact report for this plan was prepared and certified by the City Council on June 28, 2005. The EIR included a specific mitigation measure that requires all work affecting the City Hall site be done in a manner that is consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties with Guidelines for Preserving, Rehabilitating, Restoring, and Reconstructing Historic Buildings (1995), Weeks and Grimmer. 

 

Public Outreach

The public notice for this hearing was published at least 10 days prior to the hearing in the Santa Monica Daily Press and mailed to all property owners and occupants within 300 feet of the subject property. 

 

Financial Impacts & Budget Actions

 

The recommendation presented in this report does not have any budgetary or fiscal impact.

 

Prepared by: Scott Albright, AICP, Senior Planner

 

Approved:

 

Forwarded to Council:

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Martin, Director

Planning and Community Development

 

Rod Gould

City Manager

 

 

 

Attachments

A.              Appellants’ Appeal Statement

B.              Draft City Council Statement of Official Action

C.              Landmarks Commission Statement of Official Action, September 20, 2011

D.              Landmarks Commission Staff Report, September 20, 2011

E.              Excerpt of Landmarks Commission Minutes, September 20, 2011

F.              Memorandum from PCR Services – August 2011

G.             Secretary of Interior’s Standards

H.              Project Plans

 


 

ATTACHMENT A

Appellants’ Appeal Statement

 

Electronic version of attachment is not available for review.  Document is available for review at the City Clerk’s Office and the Libraries.

 

 


 

ATTACHMENT B

 

Draft City Council Statement of Official Action


 

Description: fulllogo

CITY COUNCIL

CITY OF SANTA MONICA

 

 

 

STATEMENT OF OFFICIAL ACTION

 

 

PROJECT

 

CASE NUMBER:          Appeal 11-008

 

LOCATION:                 1685 Main Street

 

APPLICANT:                City of Santa Monica

 

APPELLANT:               City of Santa Monica

 

PROPERTY OWNER:  City of Santa Monica

 

CASE PLANNER:         Scott Albright, AICP, Senior Planner

 

REQUEST:                  Appeal 11APP-008 of the Landmarks Commission decision to approve Certificate of Appropriateness application 11CA-005, which allowed modifications to an approved design for the Town Square park project, subject to conditions.

 

CEQA STATUS:             The Palisades Garden Walk/Town Square project was contemplated as part of the Civic Center Specific Plan.  An environmental impact report for this plan was prepared and certified by the City Council on June 28, 2005. The EIR included a specific mitigation measure that requires all work affecting the City Hall site be done in a manner that is consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties with Guidelines for Preserving, Rehabilitating, Restoring, and Reconstructing Historic Buildings (1995), Weeks and Grimmer. 

 

 


CITY COUNCIL ACTION

 

October 25, 2011

 

Date

X

 

Appeal upheld and modified Certificate of Appropriateness approved based upon the findings below:

 

 

Appeal denied and Landmarks Commission decision to conditionally approve Certificate of Appropriateness is upheld based on the following findings:

 

 

Other.

 

EFFECTIVE DATE OF ACTION:   October 25, 2011

 

After holding a public hearing, the City Council upheld Appeal 11APP-008 and approved modified Certificate of Appropriateness application 11-005 for the design of Town Square park, located at 1685 Main Street.

 

Each and all of the findings and determinations are based on the competent and substantial evidence, both oral and written, contained in the entire record relating to the Project.  All summaries of information contained herein or in the findings are based on the substantial evidence in the record.  The absence of any particular fact from any such summary is not an indication that a particular finding is not based in part on that fact.

 

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS FINDINGS (SMMC 9.36.140)

 

1.     The proposed project would not detrimentally change, destroy or adversely affect any exterior feature of the Landmark or Landmark Parcel upon which such work is to be done. The proposed project includes redesign of a portion of the City Hall site, in conjunction with the development of a new public open space that is being created.  The project design includes the retention, rehabilitation and/or relocation of certain existing historic character defining elements of the City Hall site, in addition to reconfiguring the site topography and grade, the installation of new landscaping and hardscape materials, a central water feature, new benches and seat walls, and lighting.  The design successfully balances existing historic fabric with contemporary design.  It maintains a strong sense of symmetry and order, whiles still respecting the overall design approach, which is less formalized and more organic.  All work proposed will be done in a manner that is consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards.

 

CONDITIONS

 

1.     This approval is for the proposed project at 1685 Main Street as shown on plans titled “Town Square” received on September 29, 2011, which are on file in the City Planning Division, except as amended by City Council action.

 

 

2.     The applicant shall prepare a Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS) report that documents the existing conditions and features of the City Hall site.  This document shall be prepared in accordance with the Standards and Guidelines established by the Secretary of the Interior, and shall be submitted to the Landmarks Commission liaison prior to the issuance of any permits, or the commencement of any park construction related activity that affect any of the character defining features of the City Hall building or site.

3.     Prior to the commencement of any excavation activities, an archaeologist shall be retained to monitor the excavations for archaeological deposits or concentrated subsurface historical building materials.

 

4.     This Certificate of Appropriateness shall be in full force and effect from and after the date of the rendering of the decision by the City Council.  Pursuant to Landmarks Ordinance Section 9.36.170(h), this approval shall expire within one year if the authorized work is not commenced.  Should the applicant be unable to comply with this restriction, an extension may be granted pursuant to Section 9.36.250 for an additional 180 days maximum.  The applicant must request such an extension prior to expiration of this permit.  After that time, the applicant will be required to return to the Commission for approval.  In addition, this Certificate of Appropriateness shall expire if the authorized work is suspended for a 180-day period after being commenced.

 

5.     All required Planning and Building Permit approvals shall be obtained.

 

VOTE

 

Ayes:           

Nays:           

Abstain:       

Absent:        

 

 

NOTICE

 

If this is a final decision not subject to further appeal under Article 9 of the Santa Monica Municipal Code, the time within which judicial review of this decision must be sought is governed by Code of Civil Procedures Section 1094.6, which provision has been adopted by the City pursuant to Municipal Code Section 1.16.010.

 

 


 

I hereby certify that this Statement of Official Action accurately reflects the final determination of the City Council of the City of Santa Monica.

 

 

_____________________________      ______________

MARIA M. STEWART, City Clerk          Date

 

 

 

F:\CityPlanning\Share\COUNCIL\STRPT\2011\11APP-008 (1685 Main Street).docx

 


ATTACHMENT C

 

Landmarks Commission Statement of Official Action

September 20, 2011


 

LANDMARKS COMMISSION

OF THE CITY OF SANTA MONICA

 STATEMENT OF OFFICIAL ACTION

 

 

PROJECT

 

 

SUBJECT:              LC-11CA-005

 

ADDRESS:             1685 Main Street

 

APPLICANT:           City of Santa Monica, Jean Bellman

 

REQUEST:               Further consideration of design elements not previously acted on as part of a prior Certificate of Appropriateness review on May 23, 2011, and to also consider modifications/amendments to the approved Certificate of Appropriateness, pertinent to the redesign of the front portion of the City Hall site in conjunction with the proposed Palisades Garden Walk/Town Square park project. The modified design proposal includes the retention, rehabilitation and/or relocation of certain existing historic character defining elements of the site, in addition to reconfiguring the site topography and grade, the installation of new landscaping and hardscape materials, a central water feature, new benches and seat walls, and lighting.  

 

 

LANDMARKS COMMISSION ACTION

 

09/20/2011             Date

 

     X                       Approved based on the following findings and subject to the conditions below.

 

                              Denied

 

                              Other

 

 

EFFECTIVE DATE OF ACTION

 

10/01/2011             Certificate of Appropriateness LC-11CA-005

 

 

EXPIRATION DATE OF PERMIT GRANTED

 

10/01/2012             Certificate of Appropriateness LC-11CA-005

 

 

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS FINDINGS (SMMC 9.36.140)

 

  1. The proposed project would not detrimentally change, destroy or adversely affect any exterior feature of the Landmark or Landmark Parcel upon which such work is to be done. The proposed project includes redesign of a portion of the City Hall site, in conjunction with the development of a new public open space that is being created.  The project design includes the retention, rehabilitation and/or relocation of certain existing historic character defining elements of the City Hall site, in addition to reconfiguring the site topography and grade, the installation of new landscaping and hardscape materials, a central water feature, new benches and seat walls, and lighting.  The design successfully balances existing historic fabric with contemporary design.  It maintains a strong sense of symmetry and order, whiles still respecting the overall design approach, which is less formalized and more organic.  All work proposed will be done in a manner that is consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards.

 

CONDITIONS

 

6.     This approval is for the proposed project at 1685 Main Street as shown on plans titled “Town Square” dated September 20, 2011, which are on file in the City Planning Division, except as amended by Commission action.

 

7.     Prior to the issuance of any permit for the proposed project or the commencement of any work, the applicant shall work with staff on revisions to the plans to address the following design changes.  All changes to the plans shall be reviewed and approved by staff.

 

a.     Retain all existing in-laid brickwork at the entry steps, along the main entry walkway, and surrounding the existing rose garden;

b.     Reduce the number of trees proposed for installation within each tree row to not exceed five per row; and

c.     Reduce the area devoted to decorative grasses within each lawn in order to increase the amount useable space.

 

8.     Prior to the issuance of any permit for the proposed project or the commencement of any work the applicant shall revise the plans to show the retention of the current ADA pedestrian ramp and associated planter design located on the south side of City Hall’s main entry and replicate its design on the north side of the entry.  These changes to the plans shall require review and approval by the Landmarks Commission.

 

9.     The applicant shall prepare a Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS) report that documents the existing conditions and features of the City Hall site.  This document shall be prepared in accordance with the Standards and Guidelines established by the Secretary of the Interior, and shall be submitted to the Landmarks Commission liaison prior to the issuance of any permits, or the commencement of any park construction related activity that affect any of the character defining features of the City Hall building or site.

 

10. This Certificate of Appropriateness shall be in full force and effect from and after the date of the rendering of the decision by the Commission.  Pursuant to Landmarks Ordinance Section 9.36.170(h), this approval shall expire within one year if the authorized work is not commenced.  Should the applicant be unable to comply with this restriction, an extension may be granted pursuant to Section 9.36.250 for an additional 180 days maximum.  The applicant must request such an extension prior to expiration of this permit.  After that time, the applicant will be required to return to the Commission for approval.  In addition, this Certificate of Appropriateness shall expire if the authorized work is suspended for a 180-day period after being commenced.

 

11. This decision may be appealed by properly filing with the Director of Planning and Community Development a Notice of Appeal on a form furnished by the Planning and Community Department.  Such notice shall be filed within a ten (10) day time period commencing from the date of the determination.

 

12. All required Planning and Building Permit approvals shall be obtained.

 

 

 

VOTE:

 

Ayes:            Bach, Fresco, Genser, Kaplan, Lehrer

Nays:            Chair Pro Tem Shari

Abstain:        None

Absent:                   Chair Berley

 


NOTICE

 

If this is a final decision not subject to further appeal under the City of Santa Monica Comprehensive Land Use and Zoning Ordinance, the time within which judicial review of this decision must be sought is governed by Code of Civil Procedure Section 1094.6, which provision has been adopted by the City pursuant to Municipal Code Section 1400.

 

I hereby certify that this Statement of Official Action accurately reflects the final determination of the Landmarks Commission of the City of Santa Monica.

 

 

                                _                                  ____________________                 

Ruth Shari, Chair Pro Tem                                       Date

 

 

 

ATTACHMENT D

 

Landmarks Commission Staff Report

September 20, 2011


M E M O R A N D U M

 

CITY PLANNING DIVISION

 

PLANNING AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT DEPARTMENT

CITY OF SANTA MONICA

 

 

DATE:          September 20, 2011

 

TO:              The Honorable Landmarks Commission

 

FROM:         Planning Staff

 

SUBJECT:    Certificate of Appropriateness 11CA-005

                    1685 Main Street

                             

                    The Landmarks Commission will be conducting a public hearing to further consider design elements not previously acted on as part of a prior Certificate of Appropriateness review on May 23, 2011, and to also consider modifications/amendments to the approved Certificate of Appropriateness, pertinent to the redesign of the front portion of the City Hall site in conjunction with the proposed Palisades Garden Walk/Town Square park project. The modified design proposal includes the retention, rehabilitation and/or relocation of certain existing historic character defining elements of the site, in addition to reconfiguring the site topography and grade, the installation of new landscaping and hardscape materials, a central water feature, new benches and seat walls, and lighting.

 
APPLICANT: City of Santa Monica, Jean Bellman      

PROPERTY OWNER: City of Santa Monica

 

INTRODUCTION

 

The City of Santa Monica is proposing the creation of a new public open space in the Civic Center area known as Palisades Garden Walk/Town Square project.  The Landmarks Commission will be conducting a public hearing to consider modifications to Certificate of Appropriateness application 11CA-005, whereby the design for the proposed Town Square park, which encompasses the site containing the Landmark Santa Monica City Hall, was conditionally approved by the Landmarks Commission on May 23, 2011.  The applicant is seeking modifications to the approved design based on further input received from the various community stakeholders.

 

The revised design proposal includes the retention, rehabilitation and/or relocation of certain existing historic character defining elements of the site, in addition to reconfiguring portions of the site topography and grade, the installation of new landscaping and hardscape materials, a central water feature, new benches and seat walls, and lighting. 

 

The Commission will be determining whether the changes to the approved design are appropriate and compatible with the Landmark City Hall structure and site and its identified historic character-defining features.

 

BACKGROUND

 

The Palisades Garden Walk/Town Square park project has two distinct components:  the Palisades Garden Walk element, which introduces a new public open space on a vacant six-acre site located on the west side of Main Street, across from City Hall; and, the Town Square portion, which involves the redesign of the actual grounds of City Hall, approximately one acre in size, containing the Landmark Santa Monica City Hall building and certain historic character-defining features of the landscape.   Because only the Town Square portion of the project affects a designated City Landmark, any improvements/changes on that specific site require the issuance of a Certificate of Appropriateness by the Landmarks Commission. 

 

The new park sites were designed by James Corner Field Operations, who are highly regarded designers of notable projects worldwide including the Highline project in New York City.  The development of the overall design concept was a collaborative effort with input, comment and direction continuously provided throughout the design phase by the City Council, the various Boards and Commissions, City Staff, and the public in general.

 

When City Hall was designated a City Landmark in October 1979 it broadly included the parcel in the designation, but did not specify any historic character-defining features within the existing landscape. Earlier this year, during conceptual reviews of the proposed park designs, the Commission became concerned with this lack of specificity and filed an application to supplement the City Hall Landmark designation and identify the exterior character-defining features of the site.  This action would further provide direction and clarity to the park designers as to which features must be treated in a historically sensitive manner.  At its May 11, 2011 meeting, the Commission took appropriate action to supplement the Landmark Designation of City Hall and identified the following as the exterior character-defining features of the site and landscape:

 

·                 Windmill Palms in the north and south gardens at front of City Hall;

·                 Concrete planters flanking the front entrance of City Hall;

·                 Dedication marker for City Hall;

·                 Rectangular planting bed and brickwork in the center of the main entrance walkway;

·                 Concrete curbs and brickwork flanking the main entrance walkway;

·                 Concrete sidewalks and brickwork throughout much of the site including the scoring pattern, proportions, textures and finish;

·                 Concrete entry steps and brickwork at the front, rear, and south side;

·                 Lawn areas (north and south) in the front of City Hall and at the southeast corner of the site;

·                 Council Parking lot and design configuration, north of City Hall;

·                 Canary Island Date Palms (3) in the Council Parking lot area;

·                 Mexican Fan Palms (7) overlooking the Santa Monica Freeway and adjacent to the south elevation;

·                 The steeply-graded terraced hill, adjacent to the Freeway and remnants of the retaining walls;

·                 Foundation planting beds surrounding City Hall;

·                 Flagpole;

·                 Memorial Rose Garden and dedication marker; and

·                 Symmetrical configuration of the landscape and hardscape elements at the front of City Hall.

 

At a Special Meeting of the Landmarks Commission on May 23, 2011, the Commission conducted a public hearing to review and consider a proposed park design (see below) for Town Square. 

 

May 23, 2011 Conditionally Approved Design site plan

 

During the public hearing, the Commission noted the iconic nature of the existing landscape and how much of the site retains its original character.  The Commission appreciated the evolution of the design from prior iterations and how the overall composition and symmetry of the site were respected.  However, there was concern expressed with specific features of the design and the lack of detailing within the plan set.  The proposed trellis/arbor was found to be incompatible and obtrusive, and the proposed paving an issue due to the Secretary of the Interior’s standards for a non-in-kind replacement.  Although the Commission acknowledged that the design needed further refinement, the Certificate of Appropriateness was approved with conditions.  This approval specified the removal of rose trellis/arbor features and their related pedestrian paths and benches, and required the following return to the Commission at a later date for further review and approval:

 

·       Hardscape material including coloration;

·       Bench design;

·       Ramp and bench design at main entry;

·       Placement of the Memorial Rose Garden plaques;

·       Memorial Rose Garden design;

·       Tree species selection and color palette; and

·       Safety rail design at the front entry.

This decision was not appealed.

 

On June 14, 2011, the City Council, acting as property owner, was given an update by the project design team, and offered the opportunity to provide feedback and direction into the design of the site.  The consensus of the City Council was that the project design, specifically for the Town Square portion, lacked creativity, appeared bland and was generally uninspiring.

 

Design changes are not uncommon.  Applicants are often granted their respective design approval entitlements only to realize the need for changes and modifications after further thought and consideration, or as in this specific case as a publicly funded project, additional community and stakeholder input is received.

 

PUBLIC NOTIFICATION

 

Notice of this hearing was provided as required by Section 9.36.170(c) of the Landmarks Ordinance, with notice sent to all owners and occupants within a 300-foot radius and a newspaper notice published in the Santa Monica Daily Press at least 10 days prior to the hearing (Attachment B).  

 

CEQA ANALYSIS

The Palisades Garden Walk/Town Square project was contemplated as part of the Civic Center Specific Plan.  An environmental impact report for this plan was prepared and certified by the City Council on June 28, 2005. The EIR included a specific mitigation measure that requires all work affecting the City Hall site be done in a manner that is consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties with Guidelines for Preserving, Rehabilitating, Restoring, and Reconstructing Historic Buildings (1995), Weeks and Grimmer. 

 

 

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

 

The reimagined City Hall site is intended to be an inviting public gathering space that is respectful of its overall historic characteristics, but physically and aesthetically integrates with the Palisades Garden Walk park and its contemporary design proposed opposite the site.   

 

 Revised Site Plan

 

The revised plans for the historic City Hall site maintain the existing formal symmetry.  It is composed of a central ceremonial area, with water feature, flanked on each side by linear concrete walkways, expansive lawn/open space areas, dual rows of trees, and sidewalks on the exterior edges.  The arrangement, dimensions and proportions of these features are directly related to the architecture of the City Hall building.  In addition, those elements of the design that were unresolved as part of the prior Certificate of Appropriateness approval, are addressed in the plans.

 

·       Central Commemorative Area – The commemorative area is that portion of the space where the current Memorial Rose Garden is located.  In the current design proposal, the rose bush plantings, grass turf, memorial plaques, and flag pole are removed/relocated, and a new water garden is constructed in place.  The current rectangular form of the garden, which corresponds in dimension (width) and location with City Hall’s front entry, is maintained.  The water feature consists of 52 “water trays” (13 rows, four trays per row), each with a water jet bubbler to add fluidity and movement to the water.  The 52 fountains represent the former rose bushes.  The water trays are positioned to overlap each other and allow the water to cascade away from City Hall toward Main Street and Palisades Garden Walk park.  The water trays are designed as plinths and are surrounded by pools of water.  These pools will contain appropriate plantings, such as water lilies.   The pool will appear to drain into a proposed “runnel”, a stream-like water feature that will be imbedded into the walkway, and cross Main Street, and connect into the Palisades Garden Walk park site.  The installation of this water feature is reversible.

 

Central Commemorative Area and main entry walkway

 

The existing concrete curbing that forms the perimeter of the existing garden area will be replaced in-kind.  The imbedded brickwork that outlines the garden will be removed and its former location referenced with a scoreline in the concrete.  The water feature will be rededicated as a commemorative feature. A new plaque will be installed outside of the water feature, in close proximity to the City Hall dedication marker, which is to remain in place.

 

·       Lawn Areas - Although the existing lawn areas will not be reduced in size, their appearance and functionality will be altered, and the sociability of the spaces will increase as a result.  Currently the lawns are flat spaces with little topographic relief.  Since they are predominantly composed of grass turf they have a very open appearance.  The revised design will introduce a series of small landscaped hills/berms to add slight variation to the topography of the lawns.  New top soil will be imported and graded to a maximum height of between 3 to 4 feet above existing grade.  Generally, these hills will be planted with turf, although bands of decorative native grasses and shrubs are proposed closest to the main entry walkway.  Interspersed throughout the berms/hills are a series of low scale concrete seat walls.  These walls are designed to informally guide the pedestrian through the lawn, but also provide a subtle sense of enclosure and security for the casual user.  The work proposed with the lawn areas is reversible.

 

Proposed Lawn Areas/Tree Rows

 

·       Tree Rows - Along the edges of each of the lawns, two rows of pollarded Western Sycamore trees are proposed.  Pollarding is a pruning technique in which a significant amount of the tree crown is removed in order to encourage a denser, more formal growth pattern.  The placement of these tree rows directly correlates to the edges of the existing City Hall building, in order to minimize obstruction of the building and allow it to maintain its visual dominance on the site.  The rows of trees continue onto the Main Street sidewalk and use of this species continues on the adjacent Palisades Garden Walk park site.  The aforementioned seat walls meander through these tree rows creating ample seating in a shaded location.  The installation of the new trees is reversible.

 

·       Path/Walkways - The existing linear paths that establish the formal geometry of the City Hall site and help to define its distinctive activity spaces will be maintained in their respective locations.  However, since the existing concrete has been inconsistently repaired over time, creating a jumble of finishes and colors, the existing concrete will be replaced.  The new concrete is warmer in tone and references tile color found on the City Hall building.  This concrete will be consistently used throughout the entire Palisades Garden Walk/Town Square project.  The replacement concrete material includes an aggregate finish that matches the existing in color, size and type.  The dimensions of the existing scoring pattern will be maintained.

 

·       Front Entry - The public view of the highly decorative and elaborate front entry of the City Hall building will be restored with the removal of the existing protective blue awning.  The extant brick steps and landing which lead to this entry will be replaced with the new concrete material .  Four freestanding, 6-foot long, 1-1/2” diameter steel pipe hand rails will be installed.

 

                  Rendering – Proposed Front Entry/Pedestrian Ramps

         

·       Pedestrian Ramps - A matching elongated pedestrian ramp on the north side of the front entry will match the existing ramp on the south side.  Each will be sufficiently sized to eliminate the need for rails along their length.  This will require a portion of the North Garden to be removed to accommodate this important symmetrical feature.  The redesigned ramps will incorporate new seat walls.  The planters flanking the front doorway, containing the existing junipers, will be redesigned and landscaped with lower profile sustainable plants.   The work involving the pedestrian ramps is reversible.

 

·       Site Furniture - Six new wood/steel benches will be introduced, three on each side of the main walkway.  Two additional benches of this design will abut the North and South Gardens.  These benches, whose design makes a reference to the existing, will be permanently affixed to the ground. Bike racks are also proposed.

                    Proposed bench design

 

·       Lighting - Decorative LED (light-emitting diode) lighting is proposed throughout the site.  The lighting will accentuate key features of the site and will reinforce the symmetry and formality of the site during the evening hours.  The lighting effect will be achieved through the use of accent lighting under the benches, recessed lighting in the pedestrian ramp walls, uplighting and adjustable pipe mounted lighting on the Western Sycamore trees, and spotlighting in the gardens flanking the main entry.

 

·       Flagpole - The existing flagpole within the Memorial Rose Garden is proposed to be relocated to the vicinity of the southwest corner of the City Hall building.  If necessary, the flagpole could be returned to its former location.

 

 

ANALYSIS

 

The City Hall building and site are designated a City Landmark.  The historic site is characterized by a strong symmetrical form and orthogonal geometry, particularly in its landscape and hardscape elements.  This arrangement was noted as being the most prominent feature of the landscape and is considered its most important character-defining feature.   This formal arrangement, and the historic nature of the site in general, presented a difficult challenge to the Palisades Garden Walk/Town Square park designers; how to successfully marry a historic resource that has a stately prominence and linear formality with an overall desire to create a public space that appears organic and natural in its composition, and free-flow in layout.

 

The designers have introduced a commemorative water feature in place of the existing Memorial Rose Garden.  The City Hall site has always had a commemorative component in this central location, and this new feature, which maintains a character-defining orthogonal design, will now serve this purpose.  Rededication is anticipated.  Although very formal in its appearance, this feature still manages to fit within the context of the overall Arroyo design concept, serving as the figurative “headwaters”, or origins, of the proposed “Arroyo”, which is driving the design. The juxtaposition of the old mixed with new is successful. 

 

Particularly challenging were the existing lawns which are rectilinear and open in appearance.  The existing lawn areas are proposed to retain their historic dimensions and shape, and the paths that define their edges will be appropriately maintained. However within each, the proposed design introduces a series of landscaped berms.  The topography of the berms is subtle with only three to four feet of elevation rise from existing grade.  Staff does not believe that the topographical changes will have a negative impact on views toward City Hall, and believe that many of the existing plantings located in the North and South Gardens at the base of the building are a greater visual impairment to the appearance City Hall.   The plantings contained in the North and South Gardens are generally to remain intact.

 

The design of Town Square is harmonious and balanced.  It has a consistency in composition and pattern, which is important historically.  While the retention of most of the existing character-defining features in the new design is responsible for maintaining the symmetrical appearance, the formal linear placement and spacing of pollarded Western Sycamore trees on the outer edges, actually increases the apparent formality of the site.  Interestingly, given the curvilinear arrangement of the seat walls as they meander under the canopy of the proposed trees, the park user will not fully realize the actual symmetry.  This is an important consideration for maintaining overall consistency with the overall Arroyo concept, which encourages more informality within the landscape.  Staff also appreciates the variety of view sheds that the meandering seat wall will create, and the increased opportunity for social gathering within an area of the site that has always historically been intended for use by the general public.

 

In general, staff believes that the designers have successfully confronted the challenge of balancing historic interests and contemporary design.  The Palisades Garden Walk/Town Square park design is based on the concept of an “arroyo”.  This overall concept was chosen because it offers the opportunity for the creation of an informal landscape with interesting topography, varied groves of native plant species, and vistas, but also because it makes a reference to the natural setting of this area of the City in its earliest history. The “Arroyo” design concept applied to both the Town Square and Palisades Garden Walk sites effectively translates the laws and processes of the natural environment into dynamic man-made social space that is equally historic, commemorative, active, and passive in function.  The parks are thoughtful and intentional in design and the overall feeling is more organic and unrestrained, particularly as the park moves further from the existing City Hall. Although the park design is not fully symmetrical in plan, the casual user will observe an overall visual consistency and formality in the arrangement of the site that is respectful of its past.  Town Square will be perceived by the public as being symmetrical in design and setting without being overtly identical.

 

The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards

 

The proposed work must be undertaken in a manner consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, specifically the Guidelines for Rehabilitating Cultural Landscapes. The proposed scope of work includes rehabilitation as the primary treatment for the subject site.   The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards define rehabilitation as, “The act or process of making possible a compatible use for a property through repair, alterations, and additions while preserving those portions or features which convey its historical, cultural, or architectural values”.  Of the four treatments, only Rehabilitation includes the opportunity to make possible an efficient contemporary use through alterations and additions;

 

An important consideration is that the Standards that will be applicable, “Rehabilitation”, do not rule out changes and alterations to any of these features.  The Standards allow reasonable alterations, additions and changes to accommodate a compatible use of the property provided that the overall effect, the sum of all contributing elements, does not diminish the historic, cultural or architectural value of the City Hall site.

 

·        Standard 1. A property will be used as it was historically or be given a new use that requires minimal change to its distinctive materials, features, spaces, and spatial relationships.

·        Standard 2. The historic character of a property will be retained and preserved. The removal of distinctive materials or alteration of features, spaces, and spatial relationships that characterize a property will be avoided.

·        Standard 3. Each property will be recognized as a physical record of its time, place and use. Changes that create a false sense of historical development, such as adding conjectural features or elements from other historic properties, will not be undertaken.

·        Standard 4. Changes to a property that have acquired historic significance in their own right will be retained and preserved.

·        Standard 5. Distinctive materials, features, finishes, and construction techniques or examples of craftsmanship that characterize a property will be preserved.

·        Standard 6. Deteriorated historic features will be repaired rather than replaced. Where the severity of deterioration requires replacement of a distinctive feature, the new feature will match the old in design, color, texture, and, where possible, materials. Replacement of missing features will be substantiated by documentary and physical evidence.

·        Standard 7. Chemical or physical treatments, if appropriate, will be undertaken using the gentlest means possible. Treatments that cause damage to historic materials will not be used.

·        Standard 8. Archeological resources will be protected and preserved in place. If such resources must be disturbed, mitigation measures will be undertaken.

·        Standard 9.  New additions, exterior alterations, or related new construction will not destroy historic materials, features, and spatial relationships that characterize the property. The new work will be differentiated from the old and will be compatible with the historic materials, features, size, scale and proportion, and massing to protect the integrity of the property and its environment.

·        Standard 10.  New additions and adjacent or related new construction will be undertaken in such a manner that, if removed in the future, the essential form and integrity of the historic property and its environment would be unimpaired.

 

The plan set includes an evaluation conducted by Historic Resources Group of the project design in comparison to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards.  This analysis reviews each of the character-defining features of the landscape, as included in the supplemental designation for City Hall, and discusses justifications for any changes proposed.  This analysis concludes that in spite of the removal of certain character-defining features, the proposed redesign of the site in totality meets the intent of the Standards. 

 

The proposed plans and historic analysis were provided to the City’s historic consultant, PCR Services, for peer review and comment, and general analysis of the proposal relevant to the Secretary of the Interior Standards as well. The City historic consultant concludes (Attachment B) that the project largely meets the intent of the Standards despite the removal and replacement of historic material, and recommends that the project design be approved.  The consultant further recommends that an Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS) report be prepared to formally document the existing conditions of the site prior to any construction activity occurrence.  This is important in the event that reversibility, in association with reconstruction or restoration work be required in the future, and proper documentary evidence is required for reference. With these mitigations, the project meets the Standards.

 

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION

 

Staff supports the overall modified/amended project design, and particularly appreciates the responsiveness of the design team toward preserving the overall historic character of the City Hall site.  Staff believes that the design team has positively responded to all stakeholders in the community and developed a balanced approach.  It successfully fuses the desire of the historic preservation community, to preserve the historic character, prominence, and formality of this important civic site, with other stakeholders in the community, who wish to create a new contemporary chapter in the history of City Hall and its grounds by including more features that heighten opportunities for greater public use of the space.    As a result of this balanced methodology, staff recommends approval of the modified design.

 

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS FINDINGS

  1. The proposed project would not detrimentally change, destroy or adversely affect any exterior feature of the Landmark or Landmark Parcel upon which such work is to be done. The proposed project includes redesign of a portion of the City Hall site, in conjunction with the development of a new public open space that is being created.  The project design includes the retention, rehabilitation and/or relocation of certain existing historic character defining elements of the City Hall site, in addition to reconfiguring the site topography and grade, the installation of new landscaping and hardscape materials, a central water feature, new benches and seat walls, and lighting.  The design successfully balances existing historic fabric with contemporary design.  It maintains a strong sense of symmetry and order, whiles still respecting the overall design approach, which is less formalized and more organic.  All work proposed will be done in a manner that is consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards.

CONDITIONS

  1. This approval is for the plans received September 1, 2011, which are on file in the City Planning Division, unless as amended by action of this Commission.
  2. The applicant shall prepare a Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS) report that documents the existing conditions and features of the City Hall site.  This document shall be prepared in accordance with the Standards and Guidelines established by the Secretary of the Interior, and shall be submitted to the Landmarks Commission liaison prior to the issuance of any permits, or the commencement of any park construction related activity that affect any of the character defining features of the City Hall building or site.
  3. This Certificate of Appropriateness shall be in full force and effect from and after the date of the rendering of the decision by the Commission.  Pursuant to Landmarks Ordinance Section 9.36.170(h), this approval shall expire within one year if the authorized work is not commenced.  Should the applicant be unable to comply with this restriction, an extension may be granted pursuant to Section 9.36.250 for an additional 180 days maximum.  The applicant must request such an extension prior to expiration of this permit.  After that time, the applicant will be required to return to the Commission for approval.  In addition, this Certificate of Appropriateness shall expire if the authorized work is suspended for a 180-day period after being commenced.
  4. This decision may be appealed by properly filing with the Director of Planning and Community Development a Notice of Appeal on a form furnished by the Planning and Community Department. Such notice shall be filed within a ten (10) day time period commencing from the date of the determination.
  5. All required Planning and Building Permit approvals shall be obtained.

 

ATTACHMENT E

 

Excerpt of Landmarks Commission Minutes, September 20, 2011

 

 

Description: colorstd-R

 

 

MINUTES

 

 

SPECIAL MEETING OF THE

LANDMARKS COMMISSION

 

 

 

Founded 1875

Populus felix in urbe felici

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

6:30 PM

Main Public Library, Multi-Purpose Room

601 Santa Monica Boulevard, Santa Monica

 

 

CALL TO ORDER OF THE SPECIAL MEETING OF THE LANDMARKS COMMISSION: The meeting was called to order at 6:35 pm.

 

1.               ROLL CALL:          Present:        Margaret Bach 

Nina Fresco

Roger Genser

Barbara Kaplan

Ruthann Lehrer

Ruth Shari, Chair Pro Tempore

 

                      Also Present:         Barry Rosenbaum, Senior Land Use Attorney

Scott Albright, AICP, Commission Secretary

Susan Umeda, Staff Assistant III

 

                              Absent:         John Berley, Chair

 

 

8-A     Certificate of Appropriateness 11CA-005, 1685 Main Street, to further consider design elements not previously acted on as part of a prior Certificate of Appropriateness review on May 23, 2011, and to also consider modifications/amendments to the approved Certificate of Appropriateness, pertinent to the redesign of the front portion of the City Hall site in conjunction with the proposed Palisades Garden Walk/Town Square park project. The modified design proposal includes the retention, rehabilitation and/or relocation of certain existing historic character defining elements of the site, in addition to reconfiguring the site topography and grade, the installation of new landscaping and hardscape materials, a central water feature, new benches and seat walls, and lighting. Pursuant to Santa Monica Municipal Code Section 9.36.140, a Certificate of Appropriateness shall be required for any proposed alterations, restoration, construction, removal, relocation, demolition, in whole or in part, of or to a Landmark or Landmark Parcel.

 

Mr. Albright presented the staff report and introduced the James Corner Field Operations design team.  Staff recommended that the Commission approve the revisions to 11CA-005, with conditions, based upon the draft findings in the staff report.  Mr. Albright stated that the applicants are requesting 35 minutes to make their presentation.  Commissioner Bach made a motion to allow the applicants 35 minutes to make their presentation.  Commissioner Fresco seconded the motion.  The motion as approved by voice vote.

 

The Commission made ex parte communication disclosures.

 

The following members of the public addressed the Commission: Karen Ginsberg (Assistant Director of Community and Cultural Services), Christy McAvoy (Historic Resources Group), James Corner (James Corner Field Operations), Lisa Switkin (James Corner Field Operations), Sarah Astheimer (James Corner Field Operations), and James Garland (Fluidity Design Consultants).  Ms. Ginsberg summarized the consultant’s report and stated that the revised design meets the intent of Secretary of the Interior’s standards.  She also summarized staff’s discussion with the Gold Star Mothers and stated that the group was not aware of the plaque; staff is scheduled to meet with representatives of the Gold Star Mothers in October 2011.  Ms. Ginsberg reported that the roses were already in place in 1951 when the City Council, at the request of the Gold Star Mothers, dedicated the plaque on Armistice Day.  Ms. McAvoy, Ms. Astheimer and Mr. Garland presented the consultant’s report.  Ms. Switkin answered questions from the Commission.

 

Ms. McAvoy stated that the project should be judged by the impact it will have on character-defining features of the landmark and landscape.  She described various photographs which show how the character-defining features originally appeared and how they appear today.  She stated that the landscape is historically significant because of its association with the landmark City Hall building, as the dominant feature on site, and the existing landscape is the setting associated with the site.  She stated that the modified design preserved the majority of the character-defining features.

 

Mr. Corner stated that his firm was asked to consider Palisades Garden Walk and Town Square as a whole, breathe new life into this part of Santa Monica, and reestablish this area as the heart of the City.  He stated that the designers tried to connect elements of Palisades Park, the oceanfront, the Pier and the Village to Town Square and noted that the geometry of the park becomes more formal and respectful as it moves closer to City Hall.  Mr. Corner stated that the applicants met extensively with various community groups and the City Council asked for a bolder design than was previously presented and approved.  He stated that the community desired Town Square to be a social space and described the ideas that the community requested.  He stated that all of the design iterations have tried to maintain the following: [1] keeping the frontage open; [2] respecting the symmetry of the space; [3] respecting the stateliness of Town Square; and [4] keeping the design graceful and respectful.  He stated that there are four philosophies that the designers used to create the design: [1] connect Town Square with Palisades Garden Walk; [2] improve the space for public gathering, social use, and public discourse; [3] preserve the open character and symmetry of the space; and [4] enhance the integrity of City Hall and its significant features.

 

Mr. Corner described some of the design changes and added that the changes are reversible and the design respects the current proportion of the hard and soft elements.  He stated that there will be a rolling topography, which will be enhanced with grasses, flowers, and seat walls.  He stated that the Western Sycamores on the side of the park will help frame the façade of City Hall.  He stated that the water feature, which will replace the rose garden, would continue the memorialization by replacing 52 roses with 52 water jets.

 

Ms. Astheimer described the technical details of the design.  She stated that the footprint of the lawns will be maintained and the majority of the surface remains the same.  She stated that the location of two planters along City Hall will be in a similar position as the original planters.  She stated that there will be twenty-eight sycamore trees planted in Town Square.  She stated that there will be seven high points which could reach heights of up to four feet above existing grade; most of the high points reach three and one-half feet above existing grade.  She stated that the series of seat walls will assist in retaining some of the topography, which will increase the sociability of the space.  She added that plantings on top of the hill will not obstruct the view of the façade of City Hall.  She described the plantings that will be used for the site.

 

Ms. Astheimer stated that a water feature will be situated in the existing footprint of the rose garden.  She described the water feature as a reinterpretation of the rose garden and a symbolic source of water which runs throughout the entire park.  She stated that the existing dedication marker for City Hall will remain in place; however, the applicants are proposing to remove the plaque that was dedicated by the Gold Star Mothers and replace it with a new dedication marker that will be appropriate for the water feature.  She stated that the third plaque will be relocated on the site with the flagpole.

 

Mr. Garland stated that the water feature is not level since there is a one-foot drop.  He stated that the water feature is subdivided into eight shallow terraces (the first seven are in Town Square) which will cause the water to flow from one terrace to another; the lowest section will not contain plantings.  He described the water feature and stated that there will be four cascades.  He stated that the water feature will be lighted; he described the jets of water and the way the water will flow.  He stated that the runnel will have slow-moving water.

 

Ms. Astheimer stated that the applicants are proposing to adopt the existing footprint and score pattern of the hardscape.  She stated that the existing hardscape will be replaced with a consistent surface that will unify the space.  She stated that the applicants are proposing to use an aggregate whose color, size and texture is identical to the original concrete; she added that the coloration of the cement that binds the aggregate together will be in a slightly warmer tone and she explained how the color variation is appropriate.

 

Ms. Astheimer stated that the applicant is preserving the existing sustainable garden and other planted areas.  She stated that the entrance area will experience the most change to its footprint since the applicants are proposing to install a second ramp to the northern side of the entrance area to restore symmetry to the façade.  She stated that the applicants plan to remove the awning, junipers, and railings.  She stated that the ramp will be lengthened so that handrails will not be required, although the existing sustainable garden will be affected.  She stated that four new railings will be placed on the stairs and the northern planter will be modified to match the southern planter.  She stated that lighting will be installed to illuminate the façade of City Hall.  She described the design of the railings on the stairway and the benches.

 

Ms. Astheimer stated that there are few changes to the lighting design that was introduced during the May 23, 2011 Landmarks Commission meeting.  She stated that the lighting was designed to minimize the use of poles or lighting gear, which could be seen during the daylight hours.  She described the layout of the lighting.

 

Ms. McAvoy stated that the general symmetry and shape of the historic site is recognizable in the new design.  She stated that the symmetrical configuration of the landscape and hardscape defines the geometry of the site, which is the most important character-defining feature.  She stated that the majority of the character-defining features were retained in the proposal; the proposed design uses a different hardscape material and the impacts to three of the character-defining features that deal with this change are something that the Commission must evaluate.  She stated that alterations to the site are reversible and the proposed design retains the function of the City Hall site.  She stated that the proposed design meets the intent of the Secretary of the Interior’s standards despite the removal of material.

 

Commissioner Bach thanked the applicants for the presentation.  Commissioner Bach asked how integral is the topography at the rises to the overall design concept of the seat walls and planting beds.  Mr. Corner responded that the seat walls would look like additions if the lawn remained flat.  He added that gently scalloping the ground will result in a more sculptural topographic condition.  Mr. Corner stated that the park would look sterile if the design did not include scalloping the ground.  Commissioner Bach noted that the highest berm is about four feet above grade; adding planting material on top of the hill will increase its overall profile.  Commissioner Bach asked how dependent is the design concept on those particular heights.  Mr. Corner responded that a four-foot high berm with plantings on top is modest since the effect of a gently rolling surface is beautiful and will probably not have an impact on the façade.  Ms. Switkin added that the grasses are on lower points of the hill.

 

Commissioner Fresco asked why the layout of the palms is asymmetrical.  Ms. Astheimer responded that the City is unable to plant a palm where a utility structure and a monkey puzzle tree are located.  Commissioner Fresco asked staff why the bricks are not ADA compliant.  Ms. Astheimer stated that a yellow stripe will be applied to enhance the visibility of the edge.  Ms. Switkin added that a condition where there is an edge must be marked.  Commissioner Fresco asked for a description of the runnel and asked if the runnel meets safety standards.  Mr. Garland stated that the runnel is less than one-half inch in depth and described how the runnel operates.  Commissioner Fresco asked to define a “high-caliber pollarded sycamore.”  Ms. Astheimer responded that the width of the trunk and the size of a pollarded tree are large.  Commissioner Fresco asked if the leaves of a pollarded sycamore become smaller.  Ms. Astheimer responded in the negative and added that pollarding the sycamore will create a neater, straighter, and symmetrical tree.  Commissioner Fresco asked if pollarding will stunt the growth of the trees.  Ms. Switkin stated that coastal and urban conditions of the site should dwarf the height of the trees.  Commissioner Fresco asked to explain evaporation issues of the water feature.  Mr. Garland responded that water loss will be minimal.

 

Commissioner Lehrer asked how tall the trees will grow when they are fully grown.  Mr. Corner responded that they could grow up to fifty feet high.  Commissioner Lehrer asked if the applicants have considered leaving the brick in place since it is historic.  Ms. Switkin stated that they considered everything and the proposed design is the best option that has been created to this date. 

 

Commissioner Kaplan stated that the current landscape is the only formal Beaux Arts ceremonial open space in the City and the proposed design intends to bring energy back into this space.  She stated that a significant amount of material is being removed and transformed into sustainable planting grass which is not walkable.  Commissioner Kaplan asked if large formal public ceremonies at the site are precluded by the proposed design and how much square footage will be removed from the lawn to transform that area into sustainable plantings.  Ms. Switkin responded that capacity studies were done on Town Square and the conclusion is that this area will be able to accommodate large gatherings.  She stated that the lawns will function better because patrons could sit on the seat walls and the lawns.  Commissioner Kaplan asked if lighting is integrated into the curved walls.  Ms. Astheimer responded in the negative and stated that lighting is concentrated into the entry area and the sidewalk.  Ms. Astheimer added that the benches will have an underlight.

 

Commissioner Genser asked if the new plaque will be a reference to the roses.  Ms. Switkin responded that staff will need to discuss this with the Gold Star Mothers.

 

Commissioner Bach asked if the sycamore trees are too closely spaced.  Ms. Switkin responded that spacing was based upon recommendations by planting consultants.  Commissioner Bach asked to describe the following: [1] other options that were considered regarding the ramp so that the brickwork and original planter could be retained; and [2] the impact to the design when shortening the ramp and introducing railing.  Ms. Switkin responded that the designers explored other options in order to attain a grade so that railings would be unnecessary; the ramp was designed to achieve the least amount of disturbance to the planter.  Ms. Switkin stated that more of the planter could be retained if a steeper ramp grade was incorporated into the design; however, hand rails will be required.

 

Commissioner Fresco stated that the proposed design is an improvement over the previous one.  She stated that the design of the bench walls is good.  Commissioner Fresco suggested that the front portion of the planter be restored because the volume of the planters gives City Hall another dimension of depth.  Commissioner Fresco suggested that the color of the pavement should be restored in-kind and that yellow cement could replace the brickwork as a way of representing the bricks.  Commissioner Fresco stated the trees should not be as dense as designed.  She stated that the lilies around the edges of the water feature are acceptable.  She suggested that roses should be incorporated into the design of the water feature. 

 

Commissioner Genser approved of the water element connecting both parks.  However, he stated that it is important to retain the brickwork because it is historically intact and it would be the only original landscape element that would remain.  He stated that the symmetrical design is acceptable but he expressed concern about the four-foot high berms and the minimization of the grassy areas.

 

Commissioner Kaplan stated that there are wonderful aspects to the design such as the benches and the iteration of the rose garden.  She expressed concern about the berms, the retaining walls, and the lack of unification of the space.  She stated that the area with sustainable grasses creates too much of a separation of space and interferes with the character identification of the historical space.  She presented some options for improvement so that the space retains the quality of largeness to it.  She stated that she is unconcerned about the brickwork and the entrance; she stated that the yellow transitional element in the steps might be too saturated and there could be integration of the concrete color that references the bricks.  Commissioner Kaplan asked if the junipers could be relocated.  Ms. Ginsberg responded in the negative because the roots are compromised by the building; the junipers by the street will be transplanted.

 

Commissioner Bach stated that further exploration of how the brickwork could be retained should be studied, especially the brickwork at the entry area.  Commissioner Bach stated that the applicants might explore the retention of the original planter bed footprints and consider using a steeper ramp, which will allow the junipers to be retained.  She stated that the color palette is wonderful and restrained, the preservation of the footprint is wonderful, and the simplification of the plan seems inviting and people-friendly.  She stated that the topography does not need to be as dramatic to maintain topographic variation.  She stated that Town Square is not a large park and there are too many elements proposed.  She stated that the park is a clear contemporary statement that respects the historic landscape and the seating strategy will draw more people into the park.

 

Commissioner Lehrer stated that the revised design is a significant accomplishment which blends the overall historic character of the landscape with an interesting interpretation of the character-defining features.  She appreciated that the structure of the rose garden has been retained and added that the water feature is poetic.  She stated that the color palette of the hardscape is acceptable.  However, she stated that the planting beds should have some variation of color.  She stated that she likes that the seating areas are designed as an overlay over the existing lawn.  She expressed concerned that the planted area with the tall grasses and aloe is too great a contrast with the grass area; the planting palette should be toned down to integrate with the areas that are only grass.  Commissioner Lehrer suggested that the applicants should consider reducing the number of pollarded sycamores.  She expressed concern about the loss of green at the entryway area of City Hall; she stated that the northern planter box could be cut so that plantings could be retained in this area.  She stated she is reluctant to lose the brickwork because it is an important character-defining element which ties the architecture of the building to the landscape.

 

Chair Pro Tempore Shari stated that the current iteration is successful and that reimaging the rectangle in the middle is one of her favorite aspects of the design.  She stated that she also liked the way the aggregate surface material will tie everything together; she stated that the brick could be eliminated because the surface material will tie in with the tile around the entry.  She stated that the removal of the junipers opens up the center of the building.  Chair Pro Tempore Shari expressed concern about the topographical changes to the site and suggested that the number of sycamore trees should be reduced to one row of trees, so that sightlines of the landmark are not impaired.

 

Commissioner Genser made a motion to support the proposal as presented with the following changes: [1] to retain the brickwork in front of City Hall, the brickwork that defines the water feature and brickwork on the other side of the walkway; [2] to reduce the number of trees; and [3] to minimize the decorative grass area where the proposed seat walls are located.  Commissioner Lehrer seconded the motion.

 

Commissioner Bach asked the Commission if the footprint of the planter beds that flank the entryway of City Hall should be maintained.  Ms. Switkin asked the Commission if their concerns would be alleviated if the seat wall is changed to a planter.  Commissioner Bach stated that this would bring up the volume.

 

Commissioner Fresco suggested that the applicants consider putting the bike racks to the side of the site.  She suggested that the hand railings in front of City Hall be similar to the ones on the benches.  Ms. Switkin stated that this style of railings violates code.  Commissioner Fresco suggested that the seat wall at the southwest corner of the lawn be more acutely angled to give the green space more area.

 

Chair Pro Tempore Shari reviewed the conditions of the motion as follows: [1] reduce the number of trees in each row to four or five trees; [2] minimize the decorative grass area on the lawn; [3] retain the original front entry design, including planters; and [4] retain the original brickwork.  Commissioner Bach stated Condition #3 should read “retain the original planter footprint or profile.”  Ms. Ginsberg stated that a ramp will need to be erected if the planter is retained.

 

Chair Pro Tempore Shari asked the design team when the construction documents need to be completed.  The design team indicated that the documents need to be completed as soon as possible.

 

Commissioner Genser suggested that approval of the conditions should be handled by staff and the consultants except for the planters.  Commissioner Fresco agreed with Commissioner Genser and emphasized that it is important to retain the existing depth and height of the planters.  Ms. Switkin stated that the design team is sensitive to the issues of the Commission and feels that they could address them with staff.

 

A roll call was taken for the motion and was approved by the following vote:

 

AYES: Bach, Fresco, Genser, Kaplan, Lehrer

NAYS: Chair Pro Tempore Shari

ABSENT: Chair Berley

 

 

 

ATTACHMENT F

 

Memorandum from PCR Services – August 2011

 

Electronic version of attachment is not available for review.  Document is available for review at the City Clerk’s office and the Libraries.

 

 

 

 

 

ATTACHMENT G

 

Secretary of Interior’s Standards

The Secretary of Interior’s Standards

The proposed work must be undertaken in a manner consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, specifically the Guidelines for Rehabilitating Cultural Landscapes. The proposed scope of work includes rehabilitation as the primary treatment for the subject site.   The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards define rehabilitation as, “The act or process of making possible a compatible use for a property through repair, alterations, and additions while preserving those portions or features which convey its historical, cultural, or architectural values”.  Of the four treatments, only Rehabilitation includes the opportunity to make possible an efficient contemporary use through alterations and additions;

 

An important consideration is that the Standards that will be applicable, “Rehabilitation”, do not rule out changes and alterations to any of these features.  The Standards allow reasonable alterations, additions and changes to accommodate a compatible use of the property provided that the overall effect, the sum of all contributing elements, does not diminish the historic, cultural or architectural value of the City Hall site.

 

·       Standard 1. A property will be used as it was historically or be given a new use that requires minimal change to its distinctive materials, features, spaces, and spatial relationships.

·       Standard 2. The historic character of a property will be retained and preserved. The removal of distinctive materials or alteration of features, spaces, and spatial relationships that characterize a property will be avoided.

·       Standard 3. Each property will be recognized as a physical record of its time, place and use. Changes that create a false sense of historical development, such as adding conjectural features or elements from other historic properties, will not be undertaken.

·       Standard 4. Changes to a property that have acquired historic significance in their own right will be retained and preserved.

·       Standard 5. Distinctive materials, features, finishes, and construction techniques or examples of craftsmanship that characterize a property will be preserved.

·       Standard 6. Deteriorated historic features will be repaired rather than replaced. Where the severity of deterioration requires replacement of a distinctive feature, the new feature will match the old in design, color, texture, and, where possible, materials. Replacement of missing features will be substantiated by documentary and physical evidence.

·       Standard 7. Chemical or physical treatments, if appropriate, will be undertaken using the gentlest means possible. Treatments that cause damage to historic materials will not be used.

·       Standard 8. Archeological resources will be protected and preserved in place. If such resources must be disturbed, mitigation measures will be undertaken.

·       Standard 9.  New additions, exterior alterations, or related new construction will not destroy historic materials, features, and spatial relationships that characterize the property. The new work will be differentiated from the old and will be compatible with the historic materials, features, size, scale and proportion, and massing to protect the integrity of the property and its environment.

·       Standard 10.  New additions and adjacent or related new construction will be undertaken in such a manner that, if removed in the future, the essential form and integrity of the historic property and its environment would be unimpaired.


 

ATTACHMENT H

 

Project Plans

 

Electronic version of attachment is not available for review.  Document is available for review at the City Clerk’s office and the Libraries.