Save Parker Center

Parker Center (Welton Becket & Associates and J. E. Stanton, 1955) in Downtown Los Angeles is a building that inspires strong feelings.

Architecture lovers admire its beautiful lines and integrated artwork and plantings. Crime historians marvel at the first modern police headquarters with its cutting-edge forensic science laboratory, built to the specifications of the legendary Ray Pinker. Film and television fans enjoy its stylish appearances from Dragnet to Inherent Vice.

But Parker Center also symbolizes the dark side of Los Angeles policing, and was a place where protesters came over many decades to challenge authority that harms their communities. And stakeholders in Little Tokyo regret the loss of a block of small businesses for Parker Center construction.

Despite the advocacy of the Los Angeles Conservancy, the Cultural Heritage Commission and independent preservationists and community members, Parker Center is a cultural and architectural landmark that is in grave danger of being destroyed within the year.

Attempts to preserve Parker Center have been stymied by Los Angeles politicians’ ambitions to redevelop the property surrounding City Hall. These plans have made it impossible to get a fair landmarking hearing for the building, even as the Los Angeles Conservancy’s independent analysis of the project suggests that as much as $100 Million in public funds could be saved if the structure was adaptively reused.

We are very concerned that the process by which landmarks are dedicated is not being allowed to follow its natural course, and that a great building might be lost for what is now only a speculative real estate development. We are also worried about what will happen to the art that exists within and on Parker Center: Bernard J. Rosenthal’s “Family Group” sculpture and Joseph Young’s “Theme Mural of Los Angeles” mosaic, which will be very difficult and expensive to remove from the lobby.

We will continue to advocate for the preservation and adaptive reuse of Parker Center, and will update this page with news as it happens.

A timeline of recent events:

• September 2016 – After City Council’s PLUM committee, headed by Jose Huizar, fails to consider a landmarking application in a timely fashion and internal city proposals recommend demolition, the Cultural Heritage Commission makes a rare attempt to save the building itself.

• December 2016 – Cultural Heritage Commissioner Gail Kennard publishes an eloquent defense of Parker Center in an L.A. Times op-ed, explaining that the building is worth saving for all the reasons some want to see it demolished.

• February 2017 – On political, rather than the legally appropriate historic/aesthetic grounds, Los Angeles City Council denies the recommended landmark status for Parker Center, ignoring the educated determination of the Cultural Heritage Commission.

• March 2017 – At the LAVA Sunday Salon, architectural historians Nathan Marsak, Alan Hess and Richard Schave present an illustrated lecture and walking tour advocating for the preservation of Parker Center. Watch video of the event here.

• April 2017 – City Council promotes the demolition of Parker Center as stage one in the process of creating a clean slate around City Hall that can attract public-private investment partnerships.

Peek inside Frank Sinatra’s endangered motion picture bungalow

For the past few weeks, we’ve been offering support and advice to Doug Quill, the filmmaker who has been petitioning to keep a 1929 bungalow on The Lot (formerly Goldwyn Studios and United Artists) from being demolished for an expansion of LADWP’s electrical distribution system. Doug shares his story with us on the latest You Can’t Eat the Sunshine podcast.

Dozens of creative people have worked in the comfortable Spanish-style bungalow over the decades, but it’s most closely associated with Frank Sinatra. His Essex Productions was based at the Goldwyn Studios in the early 1960s, and the bungalow was his retreat during the recording of The Concert Sinatra (1963) at Sound Stage 7. It is recognized as a primary contributing resource to the studio’s historic fabric.

So it’s Frank Sinatra’s bungalow that’s teetering on the brink, and the reason, naturally, is a woman. After Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks divorced in 1936, she donated the southern portion of the then-United Artists studio backlot to the city, legend has it for a park. Somehow, the land instead passed into the control of LADWP, and it became an essential part of the city’s electrical power distribution infrastructure. A few buildings, the Sinatra bungalow among them, sat all or partly on LADWP land, but functioned as part of the studio for decades. Last month, ahead of a planned expansion, LADWP declined to extend these building’s leases, and the preservation crisis began.

Sound stage demolition in progress

Now it’s up to LADWP and studio owner CIM Group to find common ground with the Los Angeles Conservancy and Hollywood Heritage, two agile preservation organizations that have stepped in to support Doug’s campaign. What will happen to Frank Sinatra’s motion picture bungalow? It will either be moved (but where?) or demolished in the coming weeks. As a tangible link to the golden age of Hollywood and popular music, we think it’s a treasure worth keeping, even as the sound stages behind it are torn to pieces by heavy machinery.

Last week, we attended a site visit to explore the feasibility of moving the building; happily, it is a simple structure that will be easy to lift and transport in one piece. Take a behind-the-scenes peek at this endangered piece of Hollywood history, and please sign the petition to show your support and get updates as they happen.

If this medicine chest could talk…

Episode #118: Adventures in the Hollywood Preservation Trenches: Lytton Savings & Frank Sinatra’s Bungalow

Download Podcast Episode!

Join us this month as we talk with preservationist Steve Luftman about his efforts to save Kurt Meyer’s Lytton Savings, a mid-century landmark threatened with demolition because it sits on the land where Frank Gehry hopes to build a huge mixed use development. We’ll also visit with filmmaker Douglas Quill to learn about his last-ditch campaign to preserve Frank Sinatra’s motion picture bungalow on the old Goldwyn Studios lot in Hollywood.

We’ll also discuss the City of Los Angeles’ plans to demolish Welton Becket’s Parker Center and how Peter Zumthor’s updated proposal for LACMA continues to threaten William Pereira’s 1965 museum campus.

Our guests:
Friends of Lytton Savings campaign (Facebook, Twitter)

Frank Sinatra bungalow petition

Closely watched trains:

Parker Center: Los Angeles Conservancy action alert webpage, LAVA Sunday Salon walking tour video, vintage photos from LAPL’s collection

LACMA: newest redesign renderings, Pereira in Peril webpage featuring video from our LACMA walking tour

Upcoming events:

LAVA Sunday Salon – April 2017 (Fort Moore Hill Pioneer Memorial)

LAVA Sunday Salon – May 2017 (S.A. Griffin on Charles Bukowski)

Esotouric’s Tenth Anniversary special event calendar

Episode #117: SeaView, a Mid-Century Time Modern Capsule on the Palos Verdes Penninsula

Download Podcast Episode!

Join us as we go deep inside master architect Paul R. Williams’ SeaView tract home development in Rancho Palos Verdes, as architect and historian Alan Hess and resident-historians Price Morgan & Larry Paul share insights into the tract’s development and style, topographical quirks and how preservationists are taking a stand to maintain this mid-century modern time capsule.

We’ll also discuss the restoration and rededication of the historic Hotel Californian neon roof sign and the big news about the future of Angels Flight railway.

Upcoming events

Upcoming events

Closely Watched Trains


Episode #116: Miracle Mile and a Mid-Century Master

Aaron Green's Anderson Residence in Palos Verdes

Aaron Green’s Anderson Residence in Palos Verdes

Listen to Episode #116!

Download Podcast Episode!

And we’re back from hiatus! Join us this month as Alan Hess, architect and architectural historian, walks us through his Palos Verdes Art Center exhibition on Aaron G. Green’s mid-century modern organic architecture.  We’ll also visit with land use consultant Bill Christopher, Principal at Urban Concepts, for a deep pe into Wilshire Boulevard development history.

We’ll also discuss Onni Group’s plan to demolish William L. Pereira’s  1973 addition to Times Mirror Square, the disappearance of the Calvin Hamilton plaque from the Bunker Hill pedway, Los Angeles Magazine’s list of essential Twitter accounts and our ongoing Tenth Anniversary celebrations.

Closely Watched Trains & Our Guests

Onni Group’s plans to demolish a Pereira in Peril. See also, our Pereira preservation campaign.

Calvin Hamilton plaque shenanigans.

Los Angeles Magazine: 50 Twitter Accounts Everyone in L.A. Should Follow.

Esotouric’s Tenth Anniversary Schedule

Our guests

Alan Hess’ website & his Aaron G. Green exhibition

Bill Christopher’s website

Upcoming events

Poem Noir LAVA Sunday Salon (2/26)

Making Sense of Parker Center LAVA Sunday Salon (3/26)

Special Event: Esotouric at Los Angeles Breakfast Club (3/29)

Special Event: Palos Verdes Ancient & Modern (4/8)

Forensic Science Seminar: From The Crime Lab To The Coroner’s Office (4/23)

Special Event: Crawling Down Cahuenga: Tom Waits’ L.A. (6/3)

Monument to L.A.’s Visionary City Planner Calvin Hamilton Missing From Bunker Hill


UPDATE: We have learned that someone did steal the plaque, but a Bunker Hill resident was able to retrieve it. That person plans to turn it over to the BID, which awaits city approval to reinstall it. Stay tuned for more details as we have them, and Long Live Cal Hamilton! – UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: As of February 2, the plaque is back! Thanks, Lisa Napoli, for the photo.

ORIGINAL POST: Writer Lisa Napoli alerts us to troubling news from the futuristic 1970s Bunker Hill Pedway system: the metal plaque placed to honor the city’s visionary Director of Planning, Calvin S. Hamilton (1964-1985), is gone!

Lisa noticed last week that Hamilton’s plaque in the center of the Pedway near Bunker Hill Towers was loose, and alerted the local Business Improvement District, but didn’t hear from them that they had come and taken it for safe-keeping.

Today, she saw that it was gone. We are very worried that metal thieves came back and finished the job, and intend to sell the plaque for scrap value.

When Calvin Hamilton came to Los Angeles from Indianapolis, he brought with him the concept of historic preservation as public policy. We owe our city’s strong and early preservation ordinance to Hamilton, and many of our oldest city landmarks are still standing due to his work. The Pedway system was named in his honor. It would be a tragedy if his monument were lost.

Be on the look out, preservation people, especially Downtown. If you see a big, flat metal disc with Calvin Hamilton’s face on it anywhere in your travels, grab it tight and let us know!


Esotouric’s local history talk & book signing at Los Angeles Breakfast Club, March 29

On March 29, Esotouric’s Kim Cooper and Richard Schave are honored to present an illustrated lecture on their offbeat Southern California history research at the legendary Los Angeles Breakfast Club. This will be followed by a book signing, featuring Kim’s newest title, How To Find Old Los Angeles, and other historic books and maps. This is just one in a series of special events celebrating Esotouric’s 10th Anniversary.

Where: Friendship Auditorium, 3201 Riverside Drive, Los Angeles 90027
When: Wednesday, March 29, from 7-9am
Cost: First-time visitors may attend for free; hot buffet breakfast is $15

So what is this Los Angeles Breakfast Club? Just one of the oldest social clubs in the city! Since 1925, congenial Angelenos have gathered at the foot of Griffith Park for hearty eats and stimulating conversation. Learn more about the club and membership benefits here.