8001 Santa Monica Blvd. before (left) and after

Dear Mayor Horvath, Mayor Pro Tem Heilman, and Councilmembers D’Amico, Duran, and Meister:

The West Hollywood Preservation Alliance (WHPA) is disappointed that the City issued a building permit in 2017 for 8001-8003 Santa Monica Boulevard without considering that the building was identified by the City Council as being potentially eligible for cultural resource designation and required consideration under CEQA. This error may have resulted, at least in part, because the “Primary Record” for 8001-8003 Santa Monica Blvd., which was generated by the 2016 Historic Resources Survey, incorrectly identified the property as 1105 N. Laurel Avenue (an adjoining, non-historic building).

Furthermore, the potentially historic properties adopted by the Council — as informed by the 2016 Survey — had not been added to the Planning and Development Services Department’s database — used by City staff — when the permit was issued on November 3, 2017. Per the staff report’s representation that the potentially historic properties identified in the 2016 survey have now been added to the database, the WHPA urges that the Department confirm this has happened and that any other erroneous addresses have also been rectified.

The Alliance is also concerned that the over-the-counter building permit issued in November 2017 to re-roof the 8001-8003 SMB structure went beyond its approved scope, which explicitly allowed replacement of materials only down to the sheathing. But what ultimately transpired was removal of character-defining features, including the red clay tile roof and coping, distinctive circular roof towers, and a notched wood beam above the breezeway.

The WHPA respectfully asks City staff to explain how the City enforced adherence to the building permit in light of the apparent substantive violations of the scope of the permit. The apparent violation resulted in destruction of character-defining features of a building that had been determined to be potentially eligible for cultural resource designation in the City’s 2016 Commercial Survey.

If a building permit that does not allow destruction of character-defining features is abused with impunity to destroy such features, the City has created a systemic loophole that poses a grave risk to historic preservation. We call upon the City’s Legal Services Division and Planning and Development Services Department to investigate what happened with 8001-8003 Santa Monica Blvd. under the November 2017 building permit and report back to the City Council and the public the consequences of any violation. Furthermore, the WHPA would like to understand what systems are in place to avoid destruction-by-building-permit in the future.

Thank you for your consideration.

WHPA Board of Directors Judson Feder, Susana Miller, Victor Omelczenko, Roy Oldenkamp, and Jon Ponder