Video: Concerned citizens testify at L.A. Times Mirror Square Planning Hearing

In 2016, we launched a consciousness-raising campaign for the benefit of the mid-century architect and city planner William Pereira and his endangered buildings. Since then, the risk to Pereira’s legacy has been regularly discussed in the architecture press, his CBS Television City was named a Los Angeles landmark (nomination by Pereira in Peril core member Alan Hess), and there is now a non-profit called Save LACMA.

Our most active Pereira in Peril campaign is The Los Angeles Times Mirror HQ addition (1973), unanimously accepted by the Cultural Heritage Commissioners as part of the landmarked Times Mirror Square complex in September 2018.

On November 7, 2018, Downtown councilman Jose Huizar was raided by the FBI, then removed from his powerful PLUM Committee chairmanship. Nevertheless, on November 27, PLUM deferred to Huizar’s request and altered our landmark nomination by removing Pereira’s building, clearing the way for Canadian developer Onni Group to demolish it for one of their proposed twin towers. City Council passed the politically re-written landmark designation with no discussion.

Then in February 2019, The Los Angeles Times reported that just prior to the PLUM vote, Onni Group had donated a whopping $50,000 to a political action group supporting the since-suspended City Council candidacy of Jose Huizar’s wife Richelle (Huizar himself cannot run again due to term limits).

PLUM’s bizarre Times Mirror Square landmark changes certainly appear to be part of a quid pro quo vote buying operation. To quote our own written response to the Draft EIR: “Frankly, it smells.”

Almost a year after the raids, with the FBI investigation ongoing and now expanded to include serious allegations of corruption at the DWP, there have been
NO INDICTMENTS
NO ARRESTS
NO CHARGES and
NO ANSWERS for the citizens of Los Angeles who wonder who among their elected officials is working not for the people but for property developers and other special interest groups.

Meanwhile, Onni Group’s Times Mirror Square project moves through the city planning process. On October 16, 2019, a hearing was held by the Los Angeles Planning Department to consider the final EIR before the project goes on to the Planning Commission for final approval. The room was packed, with lobbyists, attorneys and union reps supporting the developer, and with historians, preservationists, neighbors, those with deep ties to the Los Angeles Times, tenants and low income housing developers opposing.

Not in attendance was anyone representing Councilman Jose Huizar—even though the hearing room is only a 30 second elevator ride from his office.

This video includes the public comments made in opposition to the project, in which concerned citizens raise serious concerns about corruption in the planning process, money laundering, exacerbation of the homeless crisis, violations of the rights of tenants and neighbors, the developer’s contempt for Los Angeles history shown by their mediocre tower designs, and the very real possibility that the city will be successfully sued for pushing through a project that raises so many red flags.

One mystery left unexplained during the hearing: who is the author of the lengthy response to the EIR that was received the morning of the hearing, which had planning staff so concerned that they made no determination on the project, deferring any decision for about a week? We’re trying to find out, so stay tuned!

We thank the concerned citizens who came to testify at City Hall with no monetary compensation, for their love for Los Angeles and their faith that the city will “do the right thing” for Times Mirror Square. Select quotes from their testimony follows:

“Pereira’s work represents a critical chapter in late Southern California modernism and must be preserved so that future generations can learn from his work… It is a wonderful example of late modernist architecture, and if brought back to its full glory it would be a complement to the civic square around City Hall.” – John Southern (Architect / USC School of Architecture)

The Times Mirror building and the Times are an integral part of Los Angeles. It’s part of our history, and I think the building should be preserved.” – Jay Lorick (Times Mirror Co.)

“The irony here is when Onni says, ‘Our number one goal is historic preservation,’ and they’re willing to tear down the historic building that my father dedicated. It makes this a bit of a mockery. You can’t embrace historical preservation and tear down a William Pereira building.. I think Onni’s plan could easily accommodate building on top of it. Take a bit of the Pereira building off and keep the paseo. I think keeping the lobby and keeping the atrium where Dorothy Chandler, my grandmother, planned the Music Center—there’s a lot of history in that building and I think it would be a shame and a crime to demolish it.” – Harry Chandler (Family Built L.A. Times / Neighbor)

“At this time where this country is divided by serious allegations of corruption, allegations that have touched this project as evidenced by an ongoing FBI investigation, I ask you to stand up for what is right. Stand up for the history of this building…. As a journalist who spent more than thirty years in that building, I can assure you that it was the site of events and decisions that had more significance to the development of Los Angeles than just about any other building in the city, and on par with City Hall itself.” – Leo Wolinsky (Managing Editor, Los Angeles Times)

“These buildings couldn’t be more common. They’re like tin cans, they’re everywhere you look. There is no architectural distinguishing feature. They will add just more common skyscraper moneymakers. They might as well just be a stack of dollar bills…. Don’t vote for blight. Don’t vote for housing that’s a joke, that everyone knows we don’t need, just for a few people who are already fabulously rich to make money, while others have to camp out on the sidewalk.” – Miki Jackson (AHF / Healthy Housing Foundation)

“Why on earth would anyone approve structures that would tower over and diminish the impact of City Hall and the architectural Deco gem that is the original L.A. Times? If I have to go to court to stop this tragedy, I will!” – Allan Harris (Neighbor)

“I personally believe somebody is getting paid off to do it, and if we HAD the fourth estate down here… that sits as our eyes and ears as citizens to look at the corruption in City Hall, look at the corruption in the Planning Department… we might be able to get at it. Do you know, when they bought that building, they ran the L.A. Times out of that building. And you know how they did it? They sent the rents skyrocketing… So they banished the fourth estate from our civic core, and I think it’s a real disaster.” – Cheryl Younger (Neighbor)

“We are a tenant in the Onni building, since 2013 when the L.A. Times was still in the building… We have a lease that continues for several years, and we have an option to renew… We were not advised of any of the development plans, we received no communication from the building, I only happened upon the scheduling of this meeting. We would be displaced if this were to continue…. I am very concerned, because it does seem existing obligations are not a high consideration.” – Aileen Tang (Corporate Counsel, VXI Global Solutions / Tenant)

“I agree that L.A. needs more housing, but I don’t believe we need more luxury housing.”- Sarah Ochoa (Concerned Citizen)

“The city center, its historic core, its heart, has a unique identity. By throwing up generic towering condos that echo those in other Downtown L.A. neighborhoods we will lose this essence— forever. Development should be done thoughtfully and in service to the city and the community’s long term goals, and not just for the short-sighted benefit and profit of those who don’t actually live here.” – Linda Cordero (Neighbor)

“I support this project with the adoption of Alternative #5. The Pereira building is not only an excellent example of late modern architecture by a master architect, but it also represents the L.A. Times changing from a reactionary organization to a very progressive organization, that endorsed a Black mayor, that hired Hispanic reporters. The elimination of this building will eliminate part of our history.” – Steven Luftman (Historic Preservationist)

To learn more about the Pereira in Peril campaign, visit http://www.esotouric.com/pereira

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