SANTA MONICA—On Tuesday, March 28, the Santa Monica City Council will make a decision on the landmark status of the former Home Savings Building, located at 2600 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica.
Completed in 1970, the building is one of approximately 40 banks that emerged from a collaboration between financier Howard Ahmanson and artist Millard Sheets. In the 1950s, Ahmanson commissioned Sheets, a Claremont-based artist and leader in arts education, to create a mural that would incorporate art with imagery relating to the local community of each building. The Home Savings branches became known for their marble and gold facades, complete with sculptures, mosaics, and stained glass.
The Home Savings building located in Santa Monica displays a beach-themed mural of colored tiles, titled “Pleasures Along the Beach.” At 40 feet by 16.5 feet, the mosaic is the largest work of art Sheets produced for Home Savings. A sculpture of a child riding a dolphin sits at the east entrance of the building, and bronze sculptures of a family playing in the surf is the centerpiece of the open entry plaza.
In November 2016, the city council voted unanimously to overturn the Landmark Commission’s 2013 decision to designate the building because of procedural issues. The panel was allowed to review the matter a second time in February. The Commission fell one vote below the four votes necessary for landmark designation, and the Santa Monica Conservancy filed an appeal to the Council.
“The Santa Monica Conservancy strongly endorses designation of this iconic building as a landmark, and has provided testimony to that effect each time the matter has been heard, beginning in 2013 or earlier,” said the Conservancy in a press release. “It’s important to state that the entire building, including all the artworks, are one integral whole that is worthy of landmark protection, and not just the mosaic or any individual piece of the whole.”
The property owner, Mark Leevan, is strongly against the landmark designation of the building. His attorney, Roger Diamond, submitted paperwork detailing the building’s history and comments from a historical consultant, stating the building has no historical merit.
Supporters of the Home Savings Building have submitted letters to the Council voicing their opinions. Adam Arenson, an associate professor of history and director of urban studies at Manhattan College, wrote of the building, “It represents the height of the Sheets Studio commissions for Home Savings, integrating architecture, mosaic, stained glass, sculptures, and interior design elements.”
“Howard Ahmanson and Sheets desired to bring fine art to the ordinary commercial streets of Southern California; the size and angled orientation of this building were intended to make the mural clearly and instantly visible to motorists driving by. The building was meant to be a landmark. This architectural concept was seen in almost all of Sheets’ Home Savings designs, and it is well represented here,” wrote architect Alan Hess.
The hearing for the appeal will be held on Tuesday.