Click here to sign the petition!
On June 15, 2021, Senior Planning Deputy Jason Patrick Douglas from Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin’s office appeared before the PLUM Committee to state Bonin’s objection to the landmarking of the Chili Bowl at 12244-12248 West Pico Boulevard, the last surviving example of the 1930s programmatic architecture restaurant chain in the city.
The reason given is clearly unsupported by the visual evidence of a then and now photo (below), and by the Cultural Heritage Commission’s informed decision. Douglas said: “We find that the evidence in the record shows that due to extensive alterations to the structure, the property does not possess sufficient architectural quality or integrity to meet the criteria set forth to designate the structure as a Historic-Cultural Monument. This is further supported by documentation that was submitted to the record by the owner.”
Because PLUM always defers to the local councilmember, they immediately moved to unanimously reject the Los Angeles Conservancy’s landmark nomination, thus dooming the Chili Bowl to almost certain demolition.
As Friends of the Chili Bowl, we say no! This cultural landmark is simply too cool to die. Instead, it must be picked up and moved somewhere new, just like it was in 1939, and restored and reactivated for future generations of Angelenos and tourists to enjoy. We are petitioning Mike Bonin to halt the application for a demolition permit and to work with us to protect and move the Chili Bowl to an appropriate site to be determined within the City of Los Angeles.
Mike Bonin: we are counting on you to listen to the voices of the local Neighborhood Council and the thousands of citizens who love the Chili Bowl, do the right thing, and save this weird, cool, only-in-Los Angeles building and honor the memory of the visionary restaurateur Art Whizin!
If you love the Chili Bowl and want to add your voice, click here to sign the petition, and we’ll keep you informed about this campaign.
Want to know more? Here is a link to the PLUM agenda, the Council File with many public comments including a Community Impact Statement in support of landmarking from the West Los Angeles Sawtelle Neighborhood Council (PDF link), to a PDF link of the Los Angeles Conservancy’s landmark nomination, and to our Richard Schave’s public comment to PLUM. And for the wild story of Programmatic Architecture in Los Angeles, there’s an Esotouric webinar all about the style, with a section on Art Whizin’s Chili Bowl chain.
This is the Chili Bowl at 12244 West Pico Boulevard with a demolition permit request on file. We are petitioning councilmember Mike Bonin to pause demolition, and help move the building to a safe location in the city of Los Angeles.
This is the Chili Bowl at 6529 San Fernando Road, Glendale, CA 91201, near the Burbank border. Most recently used as the office for a used car dealer, it has been vacant for several years and is deteriorating condition. Most of the roof is missing, windows are broken, stucco has fallen from the roof overhang and there is graffiti inside and outside the structure.
There are two other surviving Chili Bowl restaurants in Los Angeles County. The former Guadalajara Nightclub at 2230 East Florence Avenue, Huntington Park, CA 90255 has been vacant and locked up for years. The longtime tenant at the Alhambra Chili Bowl, Kim Chuy Restaurant, was recently replaced by Ho Kee BBQ & Noodle. It is the only historic Chili Bowl restaurant currently open for business, and we urge you to swing by 501 West Valley Boulevard, Alhambra, CA 91803 and enjoy some good food in cool surroundings.
Chili Bowl Timeline:
1935 – Chili Bowl built in Silver Lake by restaurant chain owner Art Whizin.
1939 – Chili Bowl moved to Pico Boulevard and South Wellesley Avenue in the Sawtelle district, where it serves a 24 hour customer base of WW2 era aircraft factory workers.
1946 – Operating as one of a small chain of White Bowl restaurants, the contents are auctioned off in November.
1950 – Operating as Toy Village For Good Little Boys and Girls, with live performances and visits from Santa Claus.
1955 – Operating as Westcrest Realty.
1958 – Operating as the Roundhouse bar, by 1968 staffed by barmaids in bikinis.
1980s – Operating as Pancho’s Family Café.
2001-11 – Operating as Mr. Cecil’s California Ribs.
2012 – Operating as Shunji Japanese Cuisine, received Michelin star in 2019.
November 4, 2019 – Property owner* files a demolition permit for the L.A. Classics auto restoration shop at the back of the Chili Bowl lot. As of June 15, 2021, it is not approved.
December 5, 2019 – The Cultural Heritage Commission reviews the Los Angeles Conservancy’s nomination, and votes to consider the Chili Bowl as a landmark.
February 6, 2020 – The Cultural Heritage Commission votes 3-1 to declare the Chili Bowl a protected Historic-Cultural Monument. The property owner opposes designation, and threatens to move the building to Palm Springs.
February 26, 2020 – West Los Angeles Sawtelle Neighborhood Council issues a Community Impact Statement, unanimously supporting the landmarking and preservation of the Chili Bowl.
March 21, 2020 – All City Council deadlines are tolled by order of Mayor Eric Garcetti due to the COVID-19 emergency. Normal deadlines prescribed in the Municipal Code for considering landmark nominations do not apply.
December 2, 2020 – Chili Bowl property owner files a demolition permit for the Chili Bowl and the L.A. Classics auto restoration shop. As of June 15, 2021, it is not approved.
December 7, 2020 – Property owner seeks to demolish the Chili Bowl, claiming the Mayor’s tolling of all municipal actions due to the COVID emergency renders the Cultural Heritage Commission recommendation invalid, sues the city city in Los Angeles Superior Court (12244 Pico LLC v City of Los Angles, Case No. 20STCP03940 – PDF link)
December 8, 2020 – In a PLUM hearing that is illegally inaccessible to the public, the Chili Bowl decision is delayed.
December 9, 2020 – Michelin-starred Chili Bowl tenant Shunji Sushi departs L.A. for Santa Monica, taking prestige and tax revenue with it.
April 20, 2021 – PLUM delays ruling on Chili landmarking until May, then delays it again.
JUNE 15, 2021 – On the first date when City Hall is reopened for public meetings, the Chili Bowl finally comes up for PLUM consideration. Councilman Mike Bonin’s office asks PLUM to reject landmarking based on the false claims of the property owner that the building is not worthy of landmarking, which they do. A petition launched demanding that Bonin halt demolition of the Chili Bowl until a preservation solution can be found to move it elsewhere in the City of Los Angeles. For more info, or to sign, click here.
AUGUST 19, 2021 – The Los Angeles Conservancy files a Writ of Mandate in Los Angeles Superior Court seeking a judge to force Los Angeles City Council to reverse several recent landmarking votes where the Brown Act was violated and the public excluded, among them the Chili Bowl.
* Who owns the Chili Bowl property? The owners listed on the CHC nomination are David Manzano Et al. and Katherine M. Manzano / 12244 PICO, LLC but a web search reveals LLC members named as Usha Jain and Rohit Jain. A city mailing document suggests the Jains actually own the liquor store at 12300 Pico. The owners of the Chili Bowl property are represented in their communications with the city by Benjamin M. Reznik and Daniel Freedman of Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP.