Ruling Expected on Plan to Raze Moran House

Times Staff Writer

The Santa Monica Landmarks Commission is expected to issue a decision April 9 on a plan to demolish a 19th-Century Queen Anne house that was designated a city landmark last year.

The request for a demolition permit for the home once owned by tennis star Gussie Moran was filed by Kevork Momdjian of Los Angeles, who acquired the property last month for $840,000, according to his attorney, Francis C. Pizzulli.

Momdjian is willing to have the historic home moved elsewhere in Santa Monica, so that he can develop the site at 1323 Ocean Ave., Pizzulli said. No offers to move the house have been received, he said.

Friends of the Gussie Moran House, a group that nominated the residence as a landmark, is opposed to moving the house because members contend that its Ocean Avenue location is an important element of its landmark status. Spokeswoman Lisa Monk said the group will "strenuously oppose" the request for the demolition permit.

'Grossly Premature'

"It would be grossly premature to allow the demolition until the owner shows that he has tried to find someone who would restore the house on site," she said.

Planners said the city would like to see the home remain on Ocean Avenue, which in the 1890s was the residential center of Santa Monica. Today, the property is commercially zoned and subject to more intense development, they said.

Pizzulli claims that community sentiment is not necessarily strong for keeping the house at its Ocean Avenue location.

"None of the neighborhood residents who were given notice of the Landmarks Commission hearings ever showed up at any hearing to voice support for either having the house declared a landmark or leaving it on the site," he said.

"At each of the hearings, three of four 'Friends' in attendance were outnumbered by Santa Monicans supporting relocation of the house to another site in the city." he said.

Delay for Demolition

Under a 1976 city law, the Landmarks Commission can delay demolition for up to a year to allow time for alternative plans to be made to save a landmark-designated structure. After that, the owner can tear it down.

Because the city can protect the house only for a year from the Feb. 3 date the demolition request was filed, the best way to save the Gussie Moran house may be to move it to another site, said Amanda Schachter, assistant city planner.

The 96-year-old home was owned by Moran until it fell into foreclosure last year.

It then was acquired by a company called 1323 Ocean Inc., which in January appealed to the City Council in an unsuccessful attempt to have the house's landmark status revoked.

The council rejected the appeal and instead called for a study on how to strengthen the city's landmarks law to provide greater protections for historically and architecturally significant properties in Santa Monica. That study will be considered for funding in next year's budget, Schachter said.

The Landmarks Commission heard testimony on Momdjian's demolition request at a meeting two weeks ago and is expected to make a ruling at a continued public hearing at 7:30 p.m. April 9 in the community room at Santa Monica Place.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World