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It’s Up To Angelenos To Save Los Angeles: Here’s How

January 23, 2022 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Virtual Event Virtual Event

Join Esotouric, L.A.’s most eclectic sightseeing tour company, for an immersive cultural history webinar that admits things are pretty screwed up in Los Angeles—but refuses to accept that it has to be that way.

Our guests for this program are some of the Southland’s most passionate, informed and dedicated citizen-activists and historians, who look at old buildings and see a fresh canvas where Angelenos can live, work, create, feast and connect. From San Pedro to Hollywood, Watts to Downtown L.A., Boyle Heights to Pico-Union, The Fairfax District to Los Feliz, you’ll learn about fascinating landmarks that are taking on a new life, and some of the threats and challenges their champions are fending off in an effort to preserve the places that matter most to Angelenos.

To sign up, enter your name and email address and click the “Buy Ticket” button above. If for any reason the check out page doesn’t appear, just click this link.

City Hall has completely failed to deal with land use problems big and small, from metal thieves snatching bronze lamps off the historic Glendale Hyperion bridge to a tenant illegally gutting the landmark Pig ’N Whistle restaurant, to a housing crisis exacerbated by real estate investment trusts that evict renters and take rent stabilized units off the market in return for illegal Airbnb listings and vast swaths of blighted, boarded up buildings. If Los Angeles is going to be saved, it will be done building by building at a neighborhood level, by Angelenos who care and know how to get things done. In such a challenging time for the city, the stories of people who are stepping up to save the places they love are what we all need to hear. Tune in to find out what’s happening, how you can get involved, and how to launch this kind of campaign in your own community.

Our special guests are:

  •  RITA COFIELD (Friends at Mafundi). Rita will share the story of the Mafundi Center, a modernist, city-owned Watts cultural hub that was threatened with demolition for redevelopment until the community came together with a successful landmarking nomination. Now a protected Historic-Cultural Monument, Mafundi Center is drawing on its rich history and looking to the future, with plans to restore the building and fill it with cultural programming. In the meantime, the Watts Happening Coffee House serves the best breakfast around.
  •  EDWARD LANDLER (film maker, “I Build The Tower”). For four decades, Ed has been deeply involved in the interpretation and preservation of Simon Rodia’s world renowned folk art environment, the Watts Towers and the wider Watts community. Now, he’s sounding the alarm about an enormous, fast-tracked mixed-use development project by Thomas Safran & Associates and the Housing Corporation of America that would straddle the rail tracks near the 103rd Street/Watts Towers A Line Metro station. The proposed new buildings are completely out of scale with the historic neighborhood, and would split Watts in two while destroying the Watts Towers viewshed, an important criterion for the site to achieve UNESCO World Heritage Status. Even worse, the proposed mega-development would break a decades-old promise that open green space will connect the train station and the Watts Towers in a linear park and community space called the Cultural Crescent.
  •  EMMA RAULT (Friends of Walker’s Cafe). When Emma moved to San Pedro from Downtown L.A., she quickly found a favorite local joint on the bluffs at Point Fermin, the time capsule diner Walker’s Cafe. But shortly after, Walker’s closed with no notice. Concerned that it might be sold for redevelopment or sit vacant for years, Emma gave herself a crash course in Los Angeles preservation law, then researched and wrote a historic landmark nomination for this very special place. From its neon and incandescent sign to the hand painted menu, vintage knickknacks and “Chinatown” cameo, Walker’s has a story worth telling, about San Pedro, legacy businesses, and what it means to be part of a community.
  •  MIKI JACKSON (AIDS Healthcare Foundation / Healthy Housing Foundation). Miki is a lifelong activist whose current focus is on the intersection of affordable housing and historic preservation. She’ll talk about HHF’s strategy of buying up vacant Skid Row residency hotels like the King Edward, Baltimore and Barclay and fixing them up for low-income tenants at a fraction of the cost of new affordable housing construction. In addition to welcoming residents to call these buildings home, HHF is submitting landmarking nominations and restoring and documenting significant historic features.
  •  JAMES DASTOLI (@WindowsReplaced on Twitter). James is an Angeleno with a finely tuned eye for architectural integrity. When he noticed that buildings he admired in Los Feliz were changing for the worse, he started documenting the difference between original wooden windows and the cheap, ugly vinyl windows that often replaced them, and highlighting the aesthetic and environmental benefits of restoring rather than replacing historic home and apartment windows. James will share what he’s learned, and the informative video short he produced to encourage landlords and homeowners to give their old windows a second chance.
  •  STEVEN LUFTMAN (Art Deco Society of Los Angeles). Preservationist and community activist Steve will talk about his successful campaign to designate the derelict Fairfax Theatre as a protected national and local monument, how Historic Preservation Overlay Zones can preserve affordable housing and good buildings, and the redevelopment threats facing the Carthay Circle community.
  •  NATHAN MARSAK (R.I.P Los Angeles / The Cranky Preservationist). Half architectural historian, half performance artist, Nathan wields his acid wit to shine a light on the lies of the urban density movement, contrasting dense, green, attractive historic structures with the upzoned file cabinets for humans that too often replace them. He’ll highlight some of his favorite neighborhoods and the multi-family housing threatened by the wrecking ball, and remind us that while we can’t go back in time and save Bunker Hill, it’s not too late for Pico-Union.
  •  DAVID SILVAS (Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council). Realtor and preservation advocate David will talk about his work to foster community around historic buildings in the Boyle Heights neighborhood, where his family has deep ties, including campaigns to celebrate the neighborhood mom and pop corner stores, legacy businesses, and the Brooklyn Avenue Commercial District. As President of the Planning and Land Use Committee for the Neighborhood Council, David believes that tools like the Boyle Heights Community Plan, if properly implemented, can help protect this dense, historic neighborhood from gentrification and displacement.
  •  GORDON PATTISON (On Bunker Hill). Gordon is a native son of the lost Victorian residential neighborhood of Bunker Hill, where his family’s historic homes were seized under eminent domain, landmarked and moved to Heritage Square, then tragically destroyed in a fire set by vandals. He speaks eloquently about the lasting impacts of poor planning on his family and the wider Los Angeles community, and advocates for the preservation of our precious historic buildings and neighborhoods.

This webinar is an illustrated lecture packed with rare photos that will bring the history and future of many precious Los Angeles landmarks to life, while inspiring you to look around your own community for ways you can help to keep old places around with fresh new uses. And you’ll find the look of an Esotouric webinar is a little different than your standard dry Zoom session, with lively interactive graphics courtesy of the mmhmm app.

Our guests are eager to answer your questions, so get ready to be a part of the show.

Can’t join in when the webinar is happening? You’ll have access to the full replay for one week. Please note: the 2-hour running time is just an estimate, and we often run long because the stories take on a life of their own. You can always come back and watch the last part of the webinar recording later.

So, tune in and discover the incredible history of Los Angeles, with the couple whose passion for the city is infectious.

FYI: Immediately upon registering, you will receive a separate, automated email containing the link to join the webinar. The webinar is reliable on all devices, Mac, PC, iOS and Android.

Please visit our FAQ for details about our webinars.


RITA COFIELD received her BA in Architecture and Planning from Howard University and has recently received a Masters in Heritage Conservation from the University of Southern California. She freelances as a cultural resource manager and Public Historian with valuable experience in community-based projects. She is passionate about finding ways to re-insert multiple perspectives into the larger narratives of our history. She enjoys activities and projects that foster innovation when it comes to caring for historic resources in underserved neighborhoods. She also feels a moral responsibility to expose the youth in her community of Watts to preservation education, hands-on training in building conservation, and its rich history as a means to community engagement and pride. (Visit https://www.friendsatmafundi.org/ for more info)

EDWARD LANDLER received a B. A. in Literature and Film under the supervision of film historian Jay Leyda at Yale University.  He got his practical film training with Satyajit Ray in India, Luis Bunuel in France, and work on independent feature films in the United States.  His first film, "Pharaoh’s Dream", an experimental short, was shot in Calcutta and Los Angeles. “I  Build  The  Tower” (2006) the feature-length documentary film about Simon Rodia and the Watts Towers of Los Angeles was produced with Simon Rodia’s nephew, Brad Byer. Ed has been an advocate and artist working in Watts for the past 40 years. (Visit Ed’s website https://www.ibuildthetower.com)

EMMA RAULT is a writer and a translator from Dutch and German. Her essays about place and belonging have appeared in Guernica, New York Magazine, the LA Review of Books and elsewhere. In San Pedro, she serves on the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council, works with feral cats and crews a sailboat. As a transplant from halfway across the world, she is endlessly fascinated with LA’s singular history, and in constant pursuit of its pockets of beauty, quiet and kinship. (Visit https://www.savewalkerscafe.com/ to learn more and get involved)

MIKI JACKSON is a gay and lesbian rights activist. In 1990, she and fellow activist Morris Kight founded Aunt Bee’s, a free laundry service for people suffering from AIDS. The Santa Monica Boulevard thrift store attached to Aunt Bee’s helped cover expenses for the laundry service, and was the inspiration for AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s chain of Out Of The Closet thrift stores. Today, Miki is a consultant for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, advocating on policy issues including affordable housing.

JAMES DASTOLI is originally from Stamford, CT, and arrived in Los Angeles in 2007 to pursue a career as a visual effects artist. As a virtual production art director, he studies plans and pattern books to build accurate digital models of historic buildings for film and VR. Renting in Los Feliz and Miracle Mile gave him a deep appreciation of period revival styles, and led to years of research on original wood and metal windows. After seeing vinyl window replacements destroying neighborhood character all over the city, he connected with other preservationists to try to fight it. (Follow James at https://twitter.com/WindowsReplaced/)

STEVEN LUFTMAN born in Hollywood, Steve gained a lifelong appreciation for art and architecture in the mid-century cultural institutions of Los Angeles: at five he opened a savings account at Lytton Savings on the Sunset Strip, he took art classes at the then brand-new William Pereira-designed L.A. County Art Museum, took in movies at the Cinerama Dome, and with his mother and sister experienced L.A. Philharmonic rehearsals at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. After graduating from the Craig Ellwood/James Tyler-designed campus of Art Center College of Design, he moved to New York City to work in advertising. Returning to Los Angeles in 1997, Steve used the seminal Gebhard & Winter’s "An Architectural Guidebook to Los Angeles" in his search to find the perfect apartment. With some luck, Steve and his partner Karen found themselves in what would become the Mendel and Mabel Meyer Courtyard Apartments—LA Historical-Cultural Monument #1096. While always a preservationist and a social activist at heart, it wasn’t until his beloved home of eighteen years was threatened with demolition in 2015 that he wrote his first Historic-Cultural Monument application. To date, Steve has written or co-written ten HCM applications, and has been an active participant in trying to save fifteen historically significant buildings. He also campaigns for affordable housing and is active in the tenant rights movement, and can regularly be found in at City Hall supporting the preservation efforts of others. Steve longs for the day when greedy developers take a break from trying to destroy the historic buildings and neighborhoods of Los Angeles so he can take enough time off to enjoy his other passion, racing his 1978 Crossle Formula Ford. (Follow Steve’s latest campaign to landmark the Fairfax Theatre at https://artdecola.org/fairfax-theatre-2021.)

DAVID SILVAS’ family has a long lineage in Boyle Heights, as it was the first Los Angeles community his family moved to at the turn of the century from when they arrived from Hungary and Romania and were involved with financing the Weber and Spaulding designed International Institute on Boyle Avenue, an important community space that was a stepping stone for immigrants. His passion for historic preservation and architectural properties is matched by few. From Victorian, to American Craftsman, to Hollywood Regency and Mid Century Modern, his admiration for period design in Los Angeles is a driving inspiration in his business as his real estate practice, Engel & Völkers Beverly Hills focuses solely on Architectural and Historic real estate throughout Southern California and has made him one of the most preeminent agents specializing in historic and architectural properties. Concerned about the future of this vibrant and historic community, David has been a vocal advocate for adaptive reuse of current buildings, extensive landmarking and preservation for heritage sites, and advocating harmonious-small scale development that is sensitive to the already established neighborhoods. Community engagement and education is a passion of his, as this is key in preserving this historic treasure.  David holds an MBA from the University of Toledo and is a published author. Organizational memberships include: The Los Angeles Conservancy, Docomomo, The California Preservation Foundation, and The Southern California Paul R. Williams Society. He is Vice President of both the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council and Boyle Heights Community Partners.

GORDON PATTISON is a native son of Bunker Hill. His family owned the Salt Box and the Castle, the last two homes standing after the neighborhood was cleared for redevelopment. To learn more, see Gordon’s LAVA Sunday Salon presentation Old Bunker Hill: One Family’s Perspective. Gordon can also be found talking about Angels Flight Railway on Off-Ramp, visiting the few remaining pieces of his family’s houses at Heritage Square Museum, on KCET’s Lost L.A. series Lost Hills episode, L.A. As Subject’s funicular feature and remembering novelist John Fante at his square dedication and atop Bunker Hill. He can also be found on Esotouric’s The Lowdown on Downtown tours, sharing memories of lost Bunker Hill.

NATHAN MARSAK says: “I came to praise Los Angeles, not to bury her. And yet developers, City Hall and social reformers work in concert to effect wholesale demolition, removing the human scale of my town, tossing its charm into a landfill. The least I can do is memorialize in real time those places worth noting, as they slide inexorably into memory. In college I studied under Banham.  I learned to love Los Angeles via Reyner’s teachings (and came to abjure Mike Davis and his lurid, fanciful, laughably-researched assertions).  In grad school I focused on visionary urbanism and technological utopianism—so while some may find the premise of preserving communities so much ill-considered reactionary twaddle, at least I have a background in the other side. Anyway, I moved to Los Angeles, and began to document.  I drove about shooting neon signs. I put endless miles across the Plains of Id on the old Packard as part of the 1947project; when Kim Cooper blogged about some bad lunch meat in Compton, I drove down to there to check on the scene of the crime (never via freeway—you can’t really learn Los Angeles unless you study her from the surface streets). But in short order one landmark after another disappeared.  Few demolitions are as contentious or high profile as the Ambassador or Parker Center; rather, it is all the little houses and commercial buildings the social engineers are desperate to destroy in the name of the Greater Good. Nathan’s blogs are: Bunker Hill Los Angeles, RIP Los Angeles & On Bunker Hill

About Esotouric: As undergraduates at UC Santa Cruz, Kim Cooper and Richard Schave inexplicably hated one another on sight. (Perhaps less inexplicably, their academic advisor believed they were soul mates). A chance meeting 18 years later proved much more agreeable. Richard wooed Kim with high level library database access, with which she launched the 1947project true crime blog, highlighting a crime a day from the year of The Black Dahlia and Bugsy Siegel slayings. The popular blog’s readers demanded a tour, and then another. The tour was magical, a hothouse inspiring new ways for the by-then-newlyweds to tell the story of Los Angeles. Esotouric was born in 2007 with a calendar packed with true crime, literary, architecture and rock and roll tours. Ever since, it has provided a platform for promoting historic preservation issues (like the Save the 76 Ball campaign and the landmarking of Charles Bukowski’s bungalow), building a community of urban explorers (including dozens of free talks and tours under the umbrella of LAVA) and digging even deeper into the secret heart of the city they love.

Rights and permissions: By attending an Esotouric webinar, you acknowledge that the entirety of the presentation is copyrighted, and no portion of the video or text may be reproduced in any fashion.


January 23, 2022
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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