On October 8, 2012, the Santa Monica Landmarks Commission unanimously voted to landmark Chez Jay.
Opened by Jay Fiondella in 1959, just a couple blocks from the beach, Chez Jay is a Santa Monica favorite. Despite its modest nautical-themed atmosphere, Chez Jay has hosted luminaries that include Peter Sellers, Warren Beatty, and Henry Kissinger. In 1971, the “Pentagon Papers” are said passed through the Chez Jay.
In 1999, Chez Jay and the adjacent land, now occupied by Tongva Park was purchased by the Santa Monica Redevelopment Agency. As plans for the new park developed the fate of Chez Jay came into question.
The Los Angeles Conservancy worked with the Santa Monica Conservancy to protect Chez Jay during the City's Request for Proposal Phase of the Tongva Park.
In 2012, as plans for Tongva Park moved closer to reality, Chez Jay was nominated as a Santa Monica Landmark. On October 8, 2012, the Landmarks Commission unanimously voted to designate the property thereby protecting the legacy business from adjacent construction.
Now designated as a local landmark, any proposed alterations to the building will be reviewed and approved by the Landmarks Commission. This allows the City to make sure any alterations are sensitive to the building's architecture, respect its cultural significance, and retain its eligibility as a local landmark.
In 1999, the Santa Monica Redevelopment Agency purchased Chez Jay and adjacent land for use in its Civic Center Specific Plan and Palisades Garden Walk (now Tongva Park).
Tongva Park opened in the fall of 2013. The restaurant continues to operate under a lease agreement with the City, currently on a month-to-month term.
In the planning stages for Tongva park, outdoor seating or take-out service were recommended to accommodate plans for the park. The City had asked interested parties, including the current operators, to respond to a Request for Proposals for how best to remodel or reconstruct the restaurant to address these issues. The City's desire to remodel or reconstruct the restaurant to better serve the new park became a concern of longtime patrons who feared they would lose the longtime establishment. Community concern prompted Chez Jay to be nominated and ultimately designated as a Santa Monica Landmark.
The Conservancy believes that Chez Jay is architecturally and culturally significant as a postwar vernacular restaurant structure, adapted with a nautical theme through its conversion to Chez Jay in 1959, its association with the operator and noted Santa Monica personality Jay Fiondella, and the restaurant’s longtime association with a range of clientele including celebrities, politicians, artists, locals, and tourists.