On June 24, 2011 the Palm Springs Art Museum announced that it had purchased the Santa Fe Federal Savings & Loan building from Wessman Holdings LLC. The new museum building will house “architecture and design exhibitions and programs.” The PSPF membership should be proud of the critical role it played in preserving this important historic asset.
On May 6, 2009 the city council voted 3 to 2 (Pougnet, Foat and Hutcheson supporting) to designate the Santa Fe Federal Savings & Loan building a Class 1 historic site. Making public comment were Erik Williams (son of E. Stewart Williams) who called the Santa Fe Federal building one of his father’s “best designs” and PSPF board members Richard Serafin and Patrick McGrew. McGrew emphasized the need to protect the entire site, lauding Williams’ modernist bank building as an “object in space” similar to other important buildings (e.g., Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye) and their sites.
On March 16, 2009 PSPF submitted a public records request to the city of Palm Springs asking for all documents related to the Baristo Lofts project and the Class 1 historic site designation of the Santa Fe Federal Savings & Loan building. The city response showed that 99 citizens had written to the city in support of the historic designation and in opposition to the Baristo Lofts project.
On February 18, 2009 just hours before the project was to be heard by the city council, the Baristo Lofts project was withdrawn from the agenda at the request of the applicant (Wessman Development) and rescheduled for some “future date.” This action was unfortunate because about 80 concerned citizens had made a special effort to attend the week night meeting to voice their opposition to the project. During his public comment, PSPF president Ron Marshall asked a “sea” of preservation-minded citizens (most wearing red “NO BARISTO LOFTS” buttons provided by PSPF volunteers) to stand and be recognized before the city council.
On February 17, 2009 PSPF sent a letter to the city council asking the council to reject the Baristo Lofts project. In the letter, PSPF reiterated earlier concerns but added that the proposed project, (1) demanded “outrageous deviations from the present zoning code,” (2) “would reduce the architectural capital” of the city, and (3) would “negatively affect [Palm Springs’] burgeoning architectural tourism industry.” Also that day, PSPF emailed another preservation alert to the membership entitled “A Call for Voices” which asked for members to attend the next evening’s city council meeting and/or to send an email to one of the city council members voicing their opposition to the Baristo Lofts project. To read the letter, click here.
From February 13-15, 2009 (during the Palm Springs Modernism Show) PSPF board member Gary Johns and PSPF volunteers distributed over 200 PSPF-produced informational fliers from our booth addressing the flawed Baristo Lofts project and encouraging citizens to write to the Palm Springs city council voicing their concerns.
On February 3, 2009 PSPF emailed a preservation alert to the membership about the proposed Baristo Lofts project and an explanation regarding the negative impact the project would have on the Santa Fe Federal Savings & Loan building. Included in the email was a diagram that vividly illustrated the tiny separation between the Santa Fe bank building and the proposed condominium project.
On January 28, 2009 the Desert Sun newspaper published a Valley Voice column by PSPF President Ron Marshall strongly condemning the Baristo Lofts project. In the op-ed piece the Baristo Lofts project was described as “overbuilt” and looming over the Santa Fe bank building like “a hulking monster.” Click here to read the Op-Ed piece.
On January 14, 2009 the Planning Commission voted 4-1 (Scott opposing) to approve the Baristo Lofts project (less the outdoor seating around the Santa Fe Federal Savings & Loan building). During the public hearing PSPF board members Gary Johns and Ron Marshall both urged denial of the project. PSPF volunteer Barbara Marshall read a compelling letter from architect Sally Anne Smith, AIA (the principal of Smith Architectural Studio), that urged denial of the Baristo Lofts project. Fortunately, the Planning Commission’s final approval included a number of onerous conditions.
On August 12, 2008 PSPF sent a letter to the Planning Commission expressing “deep concern” about the Baristo Lofts project and the resulting negative impact the proposed development would have on the Santa Fe Federal Savings & Loan building. The proposed project includes a four-story mixed use development (with first floor commercial and retail), 19 residential condominium units and the “adaptive reuse of the existing building” (i.e., the Santa Fe bank building) for retail/restaurant use. PSPF pointed out that the proposed Baristo Lofts would “loom” over the Santa Fe Federal Savings & Loan building and that the proposed outdoor restaurant addition would compromise the “floating” appearance of the building (perhaps the building’s most notable architectural feature). Finally, PSPF asked that the Planning Commission recommend to the city council that the Class 1 historic site designation of the Santa Fe bank building “be allowed to proceed unfettered on its’ own merits,” as it was PSPF’s view that the historical designation had been effectively held “hostage” to the “changing whims of the developer.” Read the PSPF Letter
On October 10, 2007 the Planning Commission heard the Baristo Lofts project and recommended that the developer revise the project (by increasing distance between the proposed and existing buildings and making the project “greener”) and then resubmit the project.
On March 12, 2007 the Architectural Advisory Committee again reviewed the Baristo Lofts project and recommended a restudy and major revisions to the proposed project.
On January 22, 2007 the Architectural Advisory Committee reviewed the Baristo Lofts project and recommended a restudy and asked that the project be revised “such that the new building does not crowd the existing one” (i.e., the Santa Fe Federal Savings & Loan Building).
On January 9, 2007 the Historic Site Preservation Board (HSPB) reviewed (as a “pre-application”) the Baristo Lofts project, “a 4-story L-shaped mixed use tower wrapping around the east and south side of the present structure” (the “present structure” being the Santa Fe Federal Savings & Loan building). The HSPB recommended various improvements to the proposed project that would reduce the size and scale of the design including the option “not to construct anything more on the site.” Concurrently, the HSPB initiated “the study and investigation” of the Santa Fe Federal Savings & Loan building site “for possible recommendation to city council for Class 1 designation.”