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Preservationists Seek Landmark Status for Santa Monica Pier's Carousel Park


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By Jorge Casuso

June 12, 2018 -- Calling it a "culturally significant Postmodernist landscape," preservationists are waging a battle to save Carousel Park when a new bridge is constructed at the Santa Monica Pier.

The Santa Monica Conservancy -- together with preservation consultants Chattel, Inc. and the Cultural Landscape Foundation -- plan to submit a local landmark designation application for the park, the Conservancy announced this week.

Those championing the park's preservation plan to gather supporters at the site Friday at 11 a.m. for a group photo shoot for #ThisPlaceMatters, part of a national campaign "celebrating places that are important to our communities," Conservancy officials said.

Carousel Park
Carousel Park (Courtesy Chattel, Inc.)

The award-winning Carousel Park was designed by the "esteemed" architecture firm Moore Ruble Yudell and landscape architect Campbell & Campbell after winter storms destroyed more than a third of the Pier's length in 1983, preservationists said.

Completed in 1986, the park "has been integral to the renaissance of the Pier as a welcoming landscape with bleacher seating, playground, plaza, and two ramps providing access from Ocean Front Walk to the Pier," Conservancy officials said.

The Conservancy argues that the proposal last year by the City and Caltrans to replace the Santa Monica Pier Bridge on Colorado Avenue "have unacceptably negative impacts on the nearby historic structures."

The structures include the Pier itself; the Looff Hippodrome, a National Historic Landmark that houses the iconic carousel building, and the locally-designated landmark properties along the east side of Ocean Front Walk, preservationists said.

"With its combination of traditional motifs that allude to the historical carousel building and its whimsical, poured-in-place features, the park is a significant exemplar of the Postmodernist style," according to the Cultural Landscape Foundation.

"The park is also historically significant for its role in the renaissance in tourism that came in the wake of the redesigned pier in the mid-1980s."

With an estimated six million people visiting the pier every year, "the park, along with pier, have clearly contributed to the social and cultural history of Santa Monica," the Foundation said.

Two of the three alternatives for the proposed bridge would effectively dismantle Carousel Park, preservationists said.

One of the alternatives calls for a temporary vehicular-access bridge that terminates within Carousel Park, necessitating “the removal of some play features" during construction, Foundation officials said.

Another alternative, they said, would make the vehicular-access bridge permanent, with its alignment encroaching on the Carousel Park area of the pier.

The alternative would "require reconstruction of similar play features in an area located away from the construction zone or in a nearby area within the boundaries of the Santa Monica Pier parcels prior to construction of the proposed project,” the Foundation said.

Both alternative "would have demonstrable adverse effects on Carousel Park and thus ignore the protection afforded the park under the U.S. Department of Transportation Act of 1966," Foundation officials said.

Among other sites, the Act protects "publicly owned park and recreation areas that are open to the general public," such as Carousel Park, the Foundation said.

Preservationists argue that the "there is no discussion of potential adverse effects on the park" in the Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment (DEIR/EA).

The Foundation submitted a former letter outlining its concerns during the public comment period on the DEIR/EA, which is now closed, Foundation officials said.

The final DEIR/EA will be distributed in the fall.

Meanwhile, the three groups have co-sponsored an application to the City to designate Carousel Park a local Landmark.


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