The National Emergency Library is here for Los Angeles

Libraries, how we love them—especially when they’ve got plenty of room and don’t cull the weird stuff that nobody has checked out since 1923!

Back in the good old days, earlier this month, we were still spending our Tuesdays at the Huntington Library, where we’d split the day between peering through a magnifying lens at unpublished negatives of Grand Central Market, reading snarky editorials on the foibles of the Golden Age Hollywood set in Rob Wagner’s Script magazine, and wandering the holy gardens.

These visits have kept us sane while battling to preserve Los Angeles landmarks from the relentless forces of what we’ve long suspected, and what is finally being proven, to be rampant public corruption.

But the Huntington, like so many wonderful places in Los Angeles, is now closed for the duration, and it’s right that it’s closed. We’ve all got to hunker down like bears in our dens and wait out the viral peril⁠—but there’s no rule that says we have to be bored or zoned out while we wait.

The good folks at the Internet Archive have taken the nation’s temperature and written a marvelous and healing prescription: their enormous collection of scanned books, which in normal times is available for free check out, but with use limits, is now 100% free and always available. You can browse a selection of 1,428,426 volumes, and we bet at least 3,745 of them would be exactly what you’re looking for right now!

To get you started, we’ve curated a short list of L.A.-centric titles that will enhance your understanding of this improbable and baffling city, and get you familiar with this terrific digital resource.

But we must remind you that these books, however fascinating, are all written about a place very different from the Los Angeles of 2020. When we get through this public health crisis—and we will get though it—our shared history will be one of a metropolis that faced the greatest threat imaginable at the same time that the DOJ was taking down a big chunk of its corrupt city government.

If you put a twist this screwy into a script, they’d throw you out of the writer’s room. Yet it’s happening, right now, to us. And when the risk of disease has passed and the cancerous rot of corruption has been cut out of the halls of power, we’re going to need a new story to tell about what it means to be an Angeleno in 2020 and beyond.

Luckily, we’ve got nothing but time on our hands to study the past and imagine L.A.’s bright future and what each one of us can bring to the table.

So be well, have faith, be careful out there, and enjoy! And do share your recommendations for great reads that you find in the National Emergency Library in the comments below.


ESOTOURIC’S SELECTED TREASURES FROM THE NATIONAL EMERGENCY LIBRARY

Update 3/28/20: as this information has circulated, writers have complained that the Internet Archive’s loan policy change violates their copyright. Please use the links below responsibly, enjoy older, weirder, out of print offerings, and buy books by working writers.

Piccolo’s Prank (1965) by Leo Politi: a rambunctious monkey runs amok on old Bunker Hill, and if you love this one, there are many Politi treats in the library

Exploring California Byways in and Around Los Angeles; trips for a day or a weekend (1967) by Russ Leadabrand: a slow-paced guidebook to out-of-the-way places still worth seeking out, once the quarantine is lifted

Historic California in Bookplates (1936, reprint edition) by Clare Ryan Talbot: reproducing the miniature works of art that identified treasured volumes as the property of notable Californian individuals and institutions

La Reina : Los Angeles in three centuries (1929) published by Security Trust & Savings Bank: a collection of historic photographs used by the pioneer bank as part of its branding efforts

The Los Angeles Guide Book (1972) by Annette Welles: because sometimes it’s fun to imagine we’re time traveling tourists, it’s a great reference if you happen to be writing a period mystery in quarantine, and who doesn’t want to know that Norms diners used to suck?

L.A. Bizarro! The Insider’s Guide to the Obscure, the Absurd and the Perverse in Los Angeles by Anthony R. Lovett and Matt Maranian (1997): an over-designed pre-internet marvel celebrating the weirdos, visionaries and benign hustlers who have been largely displaced under our pro-development City Council, but who we sincerely hope can bloom again in the new L.A. to come

Los Angeles A to Z: An Encyclopedia of the City and County by Leonard and Dale Pitt (1997): an essential companion for any dedicated Angeleno, packed with fun facts you never knew about familiar places

Los Angeles, City of Dreams by Harry Carr (1935): the first great insider’s take on modern L.A., by a crack reporter who spent four decades chronicling her transformation from sleepy backwater to modern metropolis

Bread & Hyacinths: The Rise and Fall of Utopian Los Angeles by Paul Greenstein, Nigey Lennon and Lionel Rolfe (1992): the astonishing story of how the bombing of the L.A. Times building inspired the creation of a new kind of city in the desert, a site we will be visiting with Paul Greenstein on our likely rescheduled Desert Visionaries tour

The Dream Come True: Great Houses of Los Angeles by Brendan Gill and Derry Moore (1980): a loving survey of domestic architecture historic, contemporary and celebrity, richly illustrated with original photographs, and including some rare lost gems

A Slight Epidemic: The Government Cover-up of Black Plague in Los Angeles: What Happened and Why it Matters by Frank Feldinger (2008): recommended for obvious reasons, in the hope that we not repeat the mistakes of 1924

A Statement From Esotouric About COVID-19 and Upcoming Tour Dates

Update, March 15, 2020: In accordance with current guidance for mass gatherings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we have postponed all tours scheduled for the next eight weeks, through Architectural Gems of Riverside (5/9).


Original announcement, March 11, 2020:

Gentle reader,

We have been closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation in Southern California, and studying historical and current best practices for protecting vulnerable community members from a new and potentially dangerous virus.

There is no knowing how quickly the virus will spread, or the impact that its spread will have on the public health system.

However, it’s clear that healthy individuals practicing social distancing by avoiding unnecessary public gatherings will flatten the curve of infection, slowing the numbers of people who end up in the hospital with respiratory issues. Keeping hospital beds open as long as possible means a better outcome for those who do become ill, and makes all of us safer.

This article in The Atlantic offers insight into the benefits of social distancing: Cancel Everything.

We love to give tours, and it’s how we make a living, but we have to put the community first. So we have decided that the responsible thing to do is to postpone our upcoming tours until the risk to vulnerable people from COVID-19 is better understood and under control.

We are tentatively listing all of our upcoming tours, through Eastside Babylon on June 27, as “Tour Date Paused, To Be Confirmed or Rescheduled.”

If you have purchased a ticket for an upcoming tour, we hope you’ll keep the booking. We will keep you posted about any change in the tour status.

If your tour date does end up being rescheduled, your booking can:
1) Be moved to the new tour date, or
2) Be applied as credit towards a different tour, or
3) Be turned into a gift certificate, or
4) Of course you may have a refund on request at any time.

Our sincere hope is that the public health concerns will resolve themselves as we head into springtime, and we’ll be able to resume scheduled tours on their previously scheduled dates.

For those tours that end up being rescheduled due to public health concerns, we’ll notify all ticketed passengers of the new date when confirmed. Because we hope to resume touring as soon as possible, tickets for upcoming tour dates will still be available for purchase. Esotouric gift certificates are also available. If you’re hesitant to sign up for a tour date that isn’t 100% confirmed to be operating, we’re happy to put you on the RSVP list, and will notify you of the tour status, and if it’s about to sell out.

Thank you for your understanding as we navigate these trying times and try to be the best little tour operators we know how to be.

If after reading this you’re thinking “How can I help Kim and Richard make it through these uncertain times?” then we’d be grateful if you bought an Esotouric gift certificate or two, an investment in our shared future of exploring the secret heart of Los Angeles together.

We love you. Be well. Wash your hands!

yours for Los Angeles,
Kim and Richard
Esotouric

South L.A. LACMA Satellite Site in Violation of Sweetheart City of Los Angeles Lease?

As the Los Angeles County Supervisors rushed to approve LACMA’s hot-off-the-presses EIR for Peter Zumthor’s new museum building last April, ignoring the 83% of public emails begging them to vote no, they made frequent mention of museum director Michael Govan’s claim that LACMA intended to open satellite facilities in far-flung corners of the County.

Bringing art to under served communities is a terrific thing, and we’d like to applaud LACMA’s commitment to building diverse audiences, especially young ones.

But when we recently went out to look at the most widely reported of the proposed LACMA satellite sites, the former transit garage Building 71 on the edge of South Los Angeles Wetlands Park, we saw no signs of any LACMA presence.

Almost two years after the deal was announced, we found the barn-like 84,000 square foot 1911 concrete structure sealed up tight, with Playboys gang tags on the entry bays and metal cages clamped to the windows.

 

When LACMA proudly announced its 35-year no-rent lease of the historic tilt-slab structure in January 2018, it was with the promise to retrofit and activate Building 71 as an art center to serve the 9500 children who attend school in the vicinity.

But we learned from our conversations with museum administrators that LACMA soon balked at the seismic, structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and hazardous materials abatement costs associated with bringing Building 71 into compliance as a public space suitable for hosting events and exhibiting art. And indeed, there is no evidence that any work has been done to improve or activate the South Los Angeles Wetlands Park site.

However, the lease agreement did not only call for LACMA to retrofit and activate the derelict Building 71. The lease states:

Additionally, within one year of the execution date of the Lease, LACMA shall provide certain public programming at several recreation centers within the surrounding communities. Within eighteen (18) months of the execution of the Lease, LACMA will begin public programming on the premises area.

If LACMA was providing public programming at any of the South Los Angeles recreation centers, or on the grounds of the Wetlands Parks, we would have expected to have seen a press release. Nothing has been heard about any of the exciting initiatives promised in the January 2018 lease agreement:

• Free Social Justice-themed School Tour and Art-making Program

• Teen Tour Guide Program

• Intergenerational Weekday and Weekend Programs

• Teaching Assistant Training Program

One year has passed with no public programming at rec centers. 18 months has passed with no public programming at the Wetlands Park. We are now more than two years out, and LACMA appears to be in violation of its no-rent 35-year lease from the City of Los Angeles.

The lease served its purpose, though, by providing cover for Michael Govan’s inspiring claim that approving the ill-conceived, over-priced Zumthor building was serving the public good and bringing great art and cultural programming to South Los Angeles.

Recent reporting by Carolina Miranda in the Los Angeles Times suggests LACMA may be shirking its responsibilities at the South Los Angeles Wetlands Park because it simply doesn’t have the money.

We believe that City Council should hold LACMA accountable, and remind the museum that it made a commitment to bring the arts to South Los Angeles. LACMA and City Hall owe the community straight answers about what’s happening with Building 71. It’s not enough to clap each other on the back and smile for the press release photos: you have to write the checks and do the work and actually improve Los Angeles.

Or perhaps, since LACMA isn’t using Building 71, and if the museum is indeed in violation of its lease agreement, this useful and centrally located City-owned site could be freed up for other civic uses. Its 84,000 square feet could even be used to house some of the more than 60,000 Angelenos who are sleeping on the streets.

If you share our concerns about the misuse of this site and about LACMA’s unsustainable redevelopment scheme, please sign our petition and consider supporting the Save LACMA non-profit, which is currently fundraising for a ballot measure to stop the museum from destroying itself.

Vermonica Lives!

 

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Two years ago I received the news that Vermonica had been dismantled and moved. . A lot has transpired and one silver lining is realizing the impact and support for this work. . So many threads to this story- which I hope will be illuminated, disclosed and discussed. . Because of the continued sleuthing and inquiry by Richard Schave and Kim Cooper of Esotouric, a trove of emails were found that were damning to Bureau of Street Lightning and the city and therefore forced the city to do the right thing. . I have a contract to rebuild the piece on Santa Monica Boulevard near the Bureau with a hopeful opening in early May- the 27th birthday of Vermonica. . Hope to see you there. . More soon, feel free to share this news, I am hopeful. . Sheila . . . #sheilaklein #vermonica

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We’re delighted to finally be able to share the thrilling news that Sheila Klein’s Vermonica, the original vintage Los Angeles street light sculpture and cultural landmark (accept no imitations!) will once again be installed in the heart of East Hollywood under the direction of the artist. Her New Years Day Instagram post (above) let the cat out of the bag.

The unbelievable story of Vermonica’s mysterious removal and half-baked duplication has been featured on this blog previously. Catch up by reading Part One and Part Two.

Getting to a place where the city agreed to right this wrong took a lot of hard work by a dedicated crew who refused to accept the loss of the landmark as a done deal. When progress stalled, Adrian Riskin of government transparency blog MichaelKohlhaas.org uncovered a shocking tranche of emails that revealed precisely how a city department had violated Sheila Klein’s artist’s rights. To the city’s credit, they came back to the table to hammer out a deal that satisfies the artist and gives the artwork back to the East Hollywood community.

For us, the lesson of this 2+ year restoration and accountability campaign is clear: Never give up on the things you believe in, and let the light of Vermonica be your guiding star as you set out every day to be a good Angeleno and to make this city a better place for your neighbors and those who will come after.

So save the approximate date of early May 2020, for a big party at Vermonica’s new, nearby location. We cannot wait to dance in the streets by the light of our beloved urban candelabra with Sheila Klein, music, tacos and YOU!

Esotouric’s Holiday Gift to You: Architect Richard Neutra’s Recipe for Tongue-Goulash

Los Angeles is a magnificent melting pot, a city constantly reinventing itself as adventurous eaters explore and adapt the comfort foods of cultures not their own.

Today, we have Yelp and Instagram to help us find the freshest taste sensation. But in old Los Angeles, cultural foodways were shared in small-run amateur recipe books, published to promote historic preservation, celebrate civic engagement, or raise funds for a favorite charity.

Recently, at a library book sale ($2!), we picked up a copy of the 1942 Victory Edition of Burnt Toast, a regional recipe book published by the Women’s Auxiliary of the California Babies and Children’s Hospital (now called Eisner).

The conceit of “burnt toast” was that young wives were clueless in the kitchen, but could develop their skills by carefully copying the signature dishes of established community members. And these were not just women of a certain age, but men, too, because Southern California has always been a progressive place.

Every regional charitable recipe book is interesting, but those from Los Angeles can hold some cool surprises in the form of recipes from well-known cultural figures. And we’re pleased to share with you the coolest surprise in Burnt Toast: architect Richard Neutra’s recipe for old world Tongue-Goulash. (We like to think that the hyphen represents the tongue sticking out.)

Not a fan of meaty goulash? Perhaps you’ll enjoy Mrs. Dione Neutra’s Graham Cracker ice box cake. So simple, even a newlywed can do it, and taste tested by the sophisticated Neutra household!

Here’s wishing you and yours a season of delicious treats shared with those you like best, from your pals at Esotouric and Burnt Toast! Please let us know if you make either of these dishes, and how you like them.

3-D Tour of the Original Bob Baker Marionette Theater

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Welcome to the eleventh in a series of 3-D explorable tours of off-the-beaten-path Southern California spaces, created by Craig Sauer of Reality Capture Experts using cutting-edge Matterport technology.

Our love for the Bob Baker Marionette Theater is no secret. It is a zone of pure creativity and whimsy that could only have flowered in Los Angeles. Bob was a dear friend, and in 2013, we were privileged to help see that his visual archives were safely preserved by the Los Angeles Public Library, at a time when the theater’s future was uncertain.

Uncertainty is a funny thing, though. Yes, the original Bob Baker Marionette Theater is a “protected” city landmark which a developer nevertheless intends to demolish for a generic housing development. But the young puppeteers who took up the management strings after Bob’s death in 2014 have proved to be terrific stewards. They’ve nourished a nonprofit arm, built thriving community partnerships, and just last week opened up their lovely new, much larger puppet theater on a busy stretch of York in Highland Park.

The sweet, silly and inspiring shows that Bob Baker created for the mid-century kids of Los Angeles will continue to blow the minds of new generations.

Still, it’s hard to see such a Los Angeles treasure displaced, and we wanted to mark the transition. So we reached out to Craig and asked if he’d be interested in bringing his Matterport camera over and documenting the theater, backstage, workshops and Bob Baker’s personal research library loft (up the stairs, stage left), where Bob selected the music for shows and gained visual inspiration for puppet costumes, backdrops and props.

The results are a time capsule, three-dimensional love letter to Bob Baker’s genius as it manifested in the final days, before the world he made was boxed up for the move to Highland Park.

On a day when The New York Times honors our hometown marionettes with a lengthy feature, we’re sending out this bittersweet remembrance of the funky, original Bob Baker Marionette Theater in its historic home of 56 years. We hope you enjoy the opportunity to creep around this magical place which no longer is a public space, but which welcomes you virtually inside any time you feel its call.

And we heard the funniest thing on opening day in Highland Park: that developer who bought the building and planned to tear it down hasn’t been heard from lately. Rumor has it, nothing’s happening at 1345 West First Street any time soon.

But the marionettes have already moved on, and invite you to come see a show in Highland Park. Bring on the dancing cats and raise the traditional post-performance cup of ice cream to the next 56 years of joy!

 

City Hall Testimony Against LACMA Crossing Wilshire and Barton Phelps critiques Peter Zumthor

Yesterday in Los Angeles City Hall, our Richard Schave (representing the nonprofit Save LACMA and the LACMA Lovers League’s 1850+ petitioners) and Save LACMA board president Rob Hollman gave public comment against the granting of city-owned air rights over Wilshire Boulevard to allow LACMA to build its unpopular, undersized new bridge-style building.

Also speaking in opposition were Steve Luftman (Friends of Lytton Savings), Oscar Peña (artist and former LACMA employee) and Barton Phelps, FAIA (architect and preservationist who was instrumental in saving Central Library).

Drawing attention to the museum’s controversial partnerships with Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Quatar, final speaker Oscar Peña said, “As funding is stalling, LACMA is settling up with dictators, slave states and totalitarian regimes. We need real public oversight.” His powerful remarks earned a round of applause from the audience.

Later, Barton Phelps shared his strong and well reasoned opposition to Peter Zumthor’s design directly with LACMA director Michael Govan. He explained to Govan how the proposed building fails to respect the site and the history of this significant portion of the Miracle Mile, and expressed regret that he had not been able to be a part of the project conversation at an earlier stage. He continued this conversation later still with our Richard Schave, and those remarks are included at the end of this video. And his complete statement to City Council is transcribed below.

What about the result of the City Council vote? As decided long before today, the city eagerly granted the air rights request. But the fight continues!

Learn more about our Pereira in Peril campaign here.  Join Save LACMA.

Below you will find Barton Phelps’ intended comments for City Council, which he was unable to make in full due to outgoing Council President Herb Wesson’s anti-democratic one minute time limit, and which he personally handed to LACMA director Michael Govan:

• President Wesson, Honorable Council Members, I’m Barton Phelps, Principal, Barton Phelps & Associates, Architects and Planners, Los Angeles. We design buildings that support cultural and educational activity. I’m a former professor of architecture at UCLA and a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. Thank you for this chance to speak critically on this important matter.

• I’m not pleased to say what I must today and I don’t envy your responsibility for making sense of the layers of complexity this potentially wonderful project unfolds before us.

• I’m reminded that 44 years ago I stood in this exact spot attempting unsuccessfully to convince your predecessors on the City Council (especially the charismatic Gilbert Lindsay whose district this was) that replacing the 1926 Central Library with a so-so office building, although already designed, was not a great idea.

• A suit, brought jointly by the AIA and the National Trust, was, after many years, the City’s salvation.The library, restored and expanded, became an anchor of downtown renewal. I think of that effort by many people as a test of cultural maturity. Los Angeles rose to the occasion. The rest is history. I’m hoping it will again.

• The current L.A. County design proposal for much needed expansion and improvement to LACMA poses a similarly destructive threat to an iconic Los Angeles place but this time the threat is subtler in approach and, in its imagery, more socially and artistically beguiling.

• Given pressing limitations in site size, budget, function it seems odd that a design team composed of such brilliant design talents should persist in pursuing a fictional landscape of a site largely cleared of useful existing structures and capped by a simplistic, space-hungry, dated-looking, elevated single story composition. In refusing to fully recognize the truly daunting complexity of this project it unsuccessfully searches formalist simplicity for anchorage. It’s simply the wrong response.

• As if to demonstrate design team’s desperation, the current plan casually tosses a large suburban-looking volume across seven lanes of Wilshire Boulevard almost exactly where the corridor’s volume executes a graceful turn onto (or off of) the L.A. grid. But it will need your permission to do so.

• Aside from its painful impacts on sidewalks, park, and local neighborhoods the bridging of Wilshire Boulevard would crudely violate the historically-defining spatial continuity that generations of Angelinos have respected and delighted in for nearly a hundred years.

• (If I may) I’ll quote landscape historian, the late J.B. Jackson: “A landscape without visible signs of political history is a landscape without memory or forethought. We are inclined in America to think that the value of monuments is simply to remind us of origins.They are much more valuable as reminders of long-range, collective purpose, of goals and objectives and principles. As such even the least sightly of monuments gives a landscape beauty and dignity and keeps the collective memory alive.”

Thank you,
Barton Phelps, FAIA

Farewell to Fred Krinke, L.A.’s Fountain Pen King

We’re saddened to learn that Fred Krinke, third generation proprietor of The Fountain Pen Shop—founded in Downtown Los Angeles in 1922, housed in recent years in a Monrovia industrial park—died on Sunday.

Fred was a cool, wise character who is probably responsible for turning more Southern Californians on to the frustrations and fussy pleasures of fountain pen use than anyone else. A visit to his shop was always a kick for us, with Richard testing nibs of newly manufactured daily pen options, while Kim, who owns more vintage fountain pens than she’ll be able to wear out in this lifetime, explored Fred’s mini-museum in the front room.

The future of the family-run Fountain Pen Shop is uncertain, but Fred’s sweet influence will never be forgotten. Our sympathies go to his family, and to the extended family of scribers who will start feeling anxious as their stock of Fred’s Secret Sauce pen cleaner runs low.

We hope you enjoy these photos of Fred’s magical shop, taken on a visit in April 2017, when we were able to share with him the happy news that Angels Flight Railway would soon be running again. With his passing, a door closes on a lost era of Downtown Los Angeles, and a golden thread of generations of writers creative and practical, who appreciate the old ways and the cultured gentleman who always kept their pens, and by extension their thoughts, flowing. Farewell and thank you, Fred!

Public Benefit Corporation SAFER challenges validity of Onni Group’s Times Mirror Square EIR

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Last Wednesday morning, we joined a passionate band of concerned Angelenos at Los Angeles City Hall in a last ditch effort to halt the runaway Planning Department train that appears intent on approving demolition of half of the historic, landmark Los Angeles Times Mirror Square compound, despite the stench of civic corruption surrounding the project.

Included in our group were preservationists, historians, architects, affordable housing advocates, longtime L.A. Times and Times Mirror executives, neighbors, tenants and descendants of the newspaper’s founders. You can read their comments, and see full video, here.

We did our best to give the planners pause, pointing out the ongoing FBI investigation that has ensnared Councilman Jose Huizar, the bizarre alteration of the landmark designation by Huizar’s PLUM committee, the architectural and cultural distinction of the threatened buildings, the significant impact on those living and working close to the project site, the mediocrity of the proposed towers, the glut of market rate housing and office space in the Downtown market, the project’s failure to do anything to alleviate our city’s horrific homeless crisis, and the risk that in approving the project the city would incur significant legal settlement costs and enable money laundering.

Did they listen to us? Politely, to be sure, and with no time limits. But does Eric Garcetti’s Planning Department ever truly listen to concerned citizens?

Still, something had their attention. During the hearing, project lead William Lamborn mentioned that his office had received a significant written response to the EIR that morning. This mysterious comment hung over the room all through the public comment period.

Then Alan Como, who led the hearing, closed public comment with the following words: “So, given the discussion and testimony today, including the item that was received this morning—the letter, which I believe you said Will was rather lengthy—I’m going to take this under advisement for a period of approximately one week to give planning staff an opportunity to review that letter. And so, yeah, no action will be taken today.”

We of course requested a copy of that “rather lengthy… item,” which was promptly provided by Mr. Lamborn, and have read it with growing and complete fascination, awe and gratitude.

(Parenthetically, do you ever stop to wonder just how it is that corruption has run so utterly amok in our City of the Angels? Do you think, like we do, it might have something to do with our checked-out local media, which cannot even be bothered to send an intern to attend the Planning Department’s final hearing for a huge redevelopment project that is central to the FBI’s investigation of Jose Huizar and his special favors for real estate industry donors, a project which calls for the demolition of the most distinguished newspaper industry landmark in Southern California?)

So yeah, that’s why the blog of a scrappy historic Los Angeles tour company is breaking the news that the nonprofit California public benefit corporation Supporters Alliance For Environmental Responsibility (“SAFER”), which is closely associated with the Laborers International Union of North America Local 300 (“LIUNA”), has fired an astonishing shot across the bow of Onni Group’s Times Mirror Square project, calling on the Los Angeles City Planning Department to halt the EIR approval process and address serious flaws, falsehoods and misinterpretations under CEQA in its analysis of the project’s environmental impact, and then circulate a corrected and factual RDEIR (revised draft environmental impact report) for public review.

Among the serious issues raised by SAFER’s expert analysts in their 100+ page letter, are:

• A flawed interpretation of the state law that protects historic resources like the locally landmarked and California State Register eligible buildings on the site;

• The concern that the project would cause significant bird death, including to locally nesting and migrating Vaux’s Swifts, due to the huge expanse of glass windows;

• A non-trivial cancer risk from the off-gassing of formaldehyde in all the new plywood and other mass produced crap slated to replace the fine materials used in William Pereira’s building;

• An unjustified rejection of project alternatives that would protect historical resources and cause less pollution and traffic, simply because they fail to match the property owner’s arbitrary determination of what “must” be included in their proposed development. 

• And finally, an objection which made us laugh out loud: the incomplete and inaccurate traffic impact analysis must be completely re-done, not least because the EIR fails to account for the impact on and from Jose Huizar’s ridiculous Downtown Streetcar Inc. boondoggle!

All of the above is thoroughly explained in the lengthy letter from leading environmental attorney Richard Toshiyuki Drury of Lozeau Drury LLP sent on behalf of SAFER, which you can read for yourself here.

If you appreciate this information, we are always grateful for your tips (both monetary and in the form of offbeat Los Angeles lore sent via email). Thank you, SAFER. And viva Pereira!

(December 2, 2019 update from L.A. City Planning on Times Mirror Square: Expected letter of determination NOT issued. No scheduled hearings at this time and it’s highly unlikely one will be scheduled this year. We think no news is good news for the Pereia in Peril!)

 

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