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In bustling downtown Santa Monica, rent-controlled apartments flipping to offices

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Demand is high for office space in beach cities

Courtesy of KFA Architecture

Santa Monica-based architecture firm KFA Architecture announced this week that it’s leading the restoration and reuse of an 104-year-old landmark.

It’s a new chapter for the handsome brick building, located at Second Street and Arizona Avenue, in the city’s increasingly pricey and bustling downtown. The restoration will turn the Renaissance Revival-style building, once home to more than a dozen disabled and senior renters, into offices for businesses.

Office space in beach neighborhoods, including Santa Monica, as well as Venice, and Playa Vista, continues to be in demand, especially with start-ups and tech companies.

As part of the renovation, the three-story building at 1305 Second Street will be retrofitted for earthquakes, its brick facade and decorative cornice and corbel details will be restored, and a deck area will be added on the roof. Wilshire Skyline, in partnership with Kings Arch, Inc. owns and is developing the project.

Formerly named Mar Vista Apartments, the building, until recently, held 49 rent-controlled apartments. Eight of those units were rented by Section 8 tenants.

The building’s transition from a residential space was not smooth. In March 2014, Wilshire Skyline settled a lawsuit with a group of tenants who had sued alleging harassment. The residents had claimed that the owners were trying to push them out to rent the units at higher rates.

The settlement was aimed at improving conditions for tenants. The owners and management company agreed to receive training in fair housing practices, adopt written policies for making repairs, and halt the practice of offering commissions to employees who persuaded tenants to move out.

Then, less than one year later, in February 2015, the owners invoked the Ellis Act, a state law that allows owners to boot tenants from a rent-controlled building in order to take the building off the rental market.

The last remaining tenants left the building one year later. Fifteen of those residents were disabled or seniors, a report from the Santa Monica Rent Control Board shows.

A spokesperson for Wilshire Skyline tells Curbed that the company wanted to resolve the dispute with the tenants directly and to improve the building as apartments. However, in the end, no such resolution was possible, so Wilshire Skyline removed the residences from the rental market.

An opening date for the offices has not been announced.