Dear City of Los Angeles: Please Save the Wyvernwood Garden Apartments

Submitted by email
Mr. Sergio Ibarra
City of Los Angeles, Major Projects
200 North Spring Street, City Hall, Room 750
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Email: Sergio.Ibarra@lacity.org

To Mr. Ibarra,

As preservationists, architectural historians and residents of the east side, we are writing to express our grave concern over the proposed demolition and redevelopment of the historic Wyvernwood Garden Apartments in Boyle Heights. This is one of the best designed and most significant examples of modern architecture on the east side of town, and it ought to be preserved and maintained and not demolished. Similar properties on the west side have waiting lists to live in them, because they are recognized as the best sort of urban residential design.

15 Group has been a neglectful landlord of Wyvernwood for many years, and now wants to evict hundreds of families and build a massive development that is unsuitable for the community and which many people do not believe will welcome the longtime residents back. This is the same out-of-state developer that recently purchased and demolished a beloved Silver Lake coffee shop, The Coffee Table, demolished it for residential redevelopment, abandoned the project and left a vacant lot.

Why should Los Angeles trust 15 Group to do what’s right for Boyle Heights when they have such a poor track record in our communities?

In a part of town which has so many vacant lots and derelict industrial structures, there are simply thousands of better choices for redevelopment than is the Wyvernwood Garden Apartments, and we urge you to consider a plan that will preserve this gem of Boyle Heights.

best regards,
Kim Cooper and Richard Schave
PO Box 31227
Los Angeles, CA 90031

What’s new in our time travel blogs

Recent posts in the 1947project time travel blogs include the surprising link between American Gothic and the Union Rescue Mission, the story of the unique downtown character known as The Potato King and an inquiry into the story that Teddy Roosevelt slept at the King Edward Hotel. Esotouric grew out of these online history websites. Swing by and enjoy all the interesting digging we've been doing.

A Visit to The Downey Space Plant, Birthplace of the Space Shuttle (1929-2012)

On November 29, 2012, Richard Schave of Esotouric visited Jerry Blackburn, President of the Aerospace Legacy Foundation, to talk about the fascinating history of space flight research in Downey, and the heartbreaking view just out Jerry's window of the ongoing demolition of the buildings in which the Apollo Mission and Space Shuttle were developed. This September, the Space Shuttle Endeavor flew over Downey to honor the work done on this site. By the end of 2012, there will be an empty lot where space history was made. The city of Downey and the project developers are in discussions with Walmart to bring a superstore to the site.

For more on the Downey Space Plant and Jerry's educational and archival work, visit www.aerospacelegacyfoundation.com.

What’s new in our time travel blogs

Recent posts in the 1947project time travel blogs include the strange amusements brought to Broadway in 1915, a Depression-era Thanksgiving message from the Union Rescue Mission, and video from a recent lecture on On Bunker Hill favorite George Mann’s Lost Los Angeles. And on In SRO Land, new contributor Jackie Mraz shares her experiences living on Skid Row five years ago. Esotouric grew out of these online history websites. Swing by and enjoy all the interesting digging we’ve been doing.

An Esotouric Road Trip: A Tide Pool Murder Mystery

In June, the Esotouric gang set off to enjoy three days of unhurried exploration along California’s central coast, in search of architectural oddities, elegant decay and berry pie. This is the second of three blog posts in which we’ll share some of the gems we found in our travels. Check out our report from the almost-ghost-town of Guadalupe here.

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Although we are great fans of urban spaces, and can nearly always be found in close proximity to something set in mortar by long-dead bricklayers, we like nature, too. And no trip up the coast would be complete without a visit to a wide, white beach at low tide, to peep into the fascinating ecosystem of its tide pools.

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We love the gently flowing seagrass, the prehistoric trilobites and the jittery, skittery hermit crabs in their varied, borrowed finery.

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But sometimes it seems as if no matter how hard we try — which admittedly is not very hard — we just can’t leave true crime and mayhem behind.

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So perhaps it’s no surprise that while Richard was down at the end of the beach, gazing out to sea past the vast blubbery bulk of a family of seals sunning their flanks on a rocky point, Kim spotted something unusual in one of the shallow pools.

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Was that… could that be… a skull?

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It was in fact a skull, a handsome, narrow, and brilliantly white one, with a pair of sharp horns jutting out from the top. Not very large, but not small either–about the size of a human hand, neatly severed at the neck.

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Now we know that it’s not nice to take things out of tide pools, but that rule properly refers to living animals and shells and the big rocks themselves. Surely aquatic jetsam, like a fleshless skull that had somehow found its way to be wedged between two rocks, doesn’t count? And so she crept closer, and bent to pick up the prize, intending to examine it more closely and carry it down the beach to show to Richard.

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But the skull was firmly stuck where it lay. Not just stuck–held fast. This skull wasn’t going anywhere, at least not in one piece. After making a closer inspection, Kim determined that the front portion of the skull was firmly stuck inside the center of a large sea anemone, and that the anemone was still actively eating away at a viscous gray sludge that was what was left of the late visitor’s face.

Suddenly a horrifying scenario unfolded in Kim’s mind, because that’s just how Kim’s mind works, as you know, if you’ve ridden the crime bus.

It was a few days earlier. The tide was high. The sun dappled the submerged sand and rocks by the shoreline. Life was good in the shallows. This unidentified sea creature had been happily swimming around among the rocks, nibbling tasty things, minding its own unidentified beeswax, when its face was suddenly seized and held fast by the powerful muscles of the sea anemone!

The creature thrashed wildly, but there was no escaping this fatal kiss.

And while the anemone relentlessly nibbled on those tasty parts of the face it could reach with its tentacles, other animals darted in to take bites out of the defenseless body. Unable to free itself, the creature struggled and finally died in its trap. The doomed head stayed lodged in the anemone, as the rest was reduced to skeleton, and then washed away.

And this drama and horror would have been simply untold fodder for the sands along the shore, had two ghoulish Angelenos not stopped in just the right place, at just the right hour, to witness the bleached white evidence briefly left behind.

Richard was suitably horrified when shown the mystery skull, and refused to come in closer to see the face-sludge which acted as glue keeping it in its trap. As for the seals, they simply basked and barked. Then the tide turned, and we continued on our way.

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An Esotouric Road Trip: Visiting San Dimas’ endangered “Old Western” main drag with The Ukulady

In July 2012, the Esotouric gang went out to explore the offbeat gems in its own backyard, and took along their friend The Ukulady, and her celebrated ukulele. Of course she made a lot of new friends and everyone shared some laughs along the cute Old Western street that is the heart of Old Town San Dimas.

Sadly, there are plans to peel off the 1970s-era faux Western facades of the old brick buildings, and take up the wooden sidewalks sometime soon. There are few things we love as much as old brick buildings, but there's a real charm to this little pocket of fabricated Americana, and we'll be sorry to see it go.

An Esotouric Road Trip: Guadalupe, California

In June, the Esotouric gang set off to enjoy three days of unhurried exploration along California’s central coast, in search of architectural oddities, elegant decay and berry pie. This is the first of three blog posts in which we’ll share some of the gems we found in our travels. Check out the full Guadalupe photo set here.

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Guadalupe is an oil producing and agricultural community of about 7000 souls in Santa Barbara County. It is best known for the sprawling dunes to the east of town where in 1923, Cecil B. De Mille built and then demolished an enormous Egyptian set for The Ten Commandements, and for The Far Western Tavern, a family-run steak house that’s been an anchor on Guadalupe Avenue ever since Clarence and Rosalie Minetti opened it in 1958.

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While bits of De Mille’s astonishing film set are still being brought out of the dunes by eager volunteers, Guadalupe itself has fallen on hard times.

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Years of infighting by the City Council left that body unable to cope with a demand from the State that its tiny central business district retrofit its one- and two-story unreinforced brick buildings. Today, few businesses remain, and the Far Western Tavern plans to relocate to suburban Orcutt as soon as work is completed on its new building.

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But while Guadalupe is obviously dying, and it is sad to see a proud old community bleeding out, there is an undeniable beauty to its quiet, sun-bleached downtown. And if you step inside John Perry’s Napa Auto Parts Store, you’ll find a genial native son with a passion for the history of his community, and an eccentric museum of local lore, from the old post office interior installed against one wall to a stuffed ‘possum to the plaster foot of one of De Mille’s sphinxes, which someone left outside the shop one night, knowing John would give it a good home.

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Just up the street at the Dunes Center, located in a restored Craftsman bungalow, you can see photographs from the De Mille set and excavation, and some striking pieces of the movie set that have been stabilized with foam spray for display.

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And the long walkway leading out across the estuary, where jewel-toned swallows swing over your head while hunting tiny insects, and then the dunes beyond are among the most beautiful, otherworldly spaces in California. A visit to Guadalupe will feed your soul. And as long as the Far Western Tavern remains, it can feed your stomach, too.

Walkway leading out to the estuary and dunes Photo Jun 26, 1 38 48 PM