On Tuesday, September 14, 2021, the powerful PLUM Committee of the Los Angeles City Council convened a Special Meeting to quickly rule on the fates of a number of potential Historic-Cultural Monument designations recently approved by the Cultural Heritage Commission. Here is the agenda, with the audio available on YouTube, and our Twitter thread live-tweeting the discussion and votes.
The most contentious matter heard by PLUM was the potential landmarking of The Weddington Golf and Tennis Club in Studio City, a community-initiated nomination that passed the CHC in April. As the meeting began, councilmember Paul Krekorian indicated his support for the landmarking, with the removal of all language describing the site as a golf club/course.
Being unfamiliar with the Weddington site and still uncaffeinated—the Special meeting started at 8am, before the regular City Council meeting—we initially misinterpreted Krekorian’s support as a positive thing.
It is most certainly not a positive thing, and we should have known better. As call after call came in from concerned Studio City residents, and as more members of the Los Angeles preservation community woke up and tuned in to the hearing and responded to our tweets, it became clear that Krekorian is working with the Harvard-Westlake School, which recently bought Weddington, to co-opt the landmarking process and sabotage the intent of the Cultural Heritage Commission, for the benefit of the school’s redevelopment scheme.
We should have known better because this new and troubling tactic was first used three years ago by councilmember Jose Huizar to alter and sabotage the Los Angeles Times landmark nomination that we initiated. The designation approved by the CHC was for three interconnected buildings; Huizar rewrote the nomination so that donor Onni Group, a Canadian developer, could demolish one to build a tower. Huizar was until late 2018 the President of the powerful PLUM Committee; he is presently awaiting trial on racketeering charges.
The sneaky tactic appeared again at City Hall this June, when councilmember Mitch O’Farrell rewrote the Taix French Restaurant landmark designation approved by the CHC so completely that the only portion of the beloved community treasure to be protected was a small neon sign, an undistinguished billboard and a slab of wood from the bar top. This change was to allow Washington State developer Holland Partner Group a clear path to demolishing Taix and erecting a huge project on the site.
And now Paul Krekorian has followed this same deceptive and undemocratic script, taking a popular, community-driven landmark nomination and changing it for the benefit of a wealthy developer. Next week it could be your councilmember doing something just as sleazy to a local landmark that you love.
The PLUM Committee is where dirty land use deals are sealed, the last step before they go to full City Council to be voted into law, often with no further discussion or public comment. Two preservation organizations currently have Writs of Mandate pending before Los Angeles Superior Court to reverse PLUM and City Council landmarking votes on the grounds of systemic and repeated violations of the Brown Act. You can read about Silver Lake Heritage Trust’s case here, and the Los Angeles Conservancy’s case here.
We stand with the aggrieved citizens of Studio City in their efforts to designate The Weddington Golf and Tennis Club as a cultural landmark, and against the corruption of Los Angeles’ Historic Preservation Ordinance by elected officials. We hope that some of the many people supporting Weddington’s landmarking will consider making a tax-deductible contribution to Silver Lake Heritage Trust’s legal defense fund. They are a small and scrappy volunteer group doing remarkable work that benefits all of Los Angeles.
In closing, here is the triumphant email that was sent out to alumni by Richard B. Commons, The Charles B. Thornton President & Head of School at Harvard-Westlake, immediately following the PLUM vote. Note especially this paragraph:
With the School’s full support, this morning, the Los Angeles City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) committee voted to recommend designating the Weddington Golf & Tennis property in Studio City – the future home of River Park – as a Historic-Cultural Monument in a manner entirely consistent with the school’s long-term plans for the site. This is an important milestone for the project. The designation ensures the preservation of distinctive architectural features and general public recreation use at the site while allowing the River Park project to move forward as we have proposed.
Harvard-Westlake is a very small school, with existing recreational facilities that are more than sufficient to serve its student body. We think it’s unseemly that the administration is focusing on a costly fundraising scheme that undermines treasured green recreational space that has been enjoyed by generations of Angelenos, and that they’ve enlisted the community’s elected representative to help them do it.
We’ve joined more than 15,000 concerned citizens who have signed the Save Weddington petition, and will follow this corrupted landmark nomination to City Council with great interest as we also await the judges’ rulings on the previous questionable landmark votes.