Saving Los Angeles Landmarks Tour

“Los Angeles doesn’t have any history”—or so snicker snooty people from more conventional places.

Nonsense! Since its founding in 1781, this improbable town on the edge of the continent has attracted visionary dreamers who have left their marks on the built environment, in building, sculpture and landscape. Through cycles of redevelopment, neglect, earthquake, fire, flood, drought and riot, many remarkable relics of an earlier Los Angeles have survived, only to be threatened with demolition today.

But all across Los Angeles, a plucky crew of devoted citizen-preservationists are fighting hard to protect the places they love, through social media savvy, dogged attendance at public hearings, submitting landmark nominations and by bringing old places back to life by telling their stories so that YOU fall in love with them, too.

These thrilling David and Goliath stories of devoted citizens taking on wealthy developers and powerful politicians are evolving narratives in the history of Los Angeles that will forever change the way you navigate the city.

Please join us for a very special Esotouric excursion that celebrates Los Angeles cultural history on a trip through the preservation trenches, where you’ll meet some of the passionate people who are keeping local history alive at the very places that inspire them. Come discover a city worth falling in love with, and the rich and layered history that knits us together as Angelenos.

Each edition of this tour will be different, because historic preservation and the wrecking ball never stand still. Tour stops on the September 2019 debut excursion are scheduled to include:

Lytton Savings, 8150 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood (Kurt Meyer, 1960)

This modernist jewel-box bank with its jazzy folded plate roof and integrated sculpture and stained glass panels was constructed by the pioneering architect- preservationist-policy maker Kurt Meyer for business innovator and arts advocate Bart Lytton. Erected on the former site of the Garden of Allah hotel (RIP), the “protected landmark” bank building is slated for demolition to clear space for a Frank Gehry mega-project, thanks to some sneaky paper shuffling by Los Angeles City Council, and Gehry’s and developer Townscape Partners’ refusal to integrate the Lytton Saving building into their project. Can the enormous concrete and steel landmark be moved someplace safe, or will it be lost forever? We’ll meet preservation activist Steve Luftman at the beautiful bank where he fell in love with architecture as a small tot, and learn about how Friends of Lytton Savings is working hard to preserve this poorly understood icon at the gateway to the Sunset Strip.

Vermonica, Santa Monica & Vermont, East Hollywood (Sheila Klein, 1993-2017) / xVermonica, 4550 Santa Monica Blvd., East Hollywood (Los Angeles Bureau of Street Lighting, 2017-present)

In 1993, in the aftermath of the Los Angeles riots, artist Sheila Klein worked with volunteers from the city’s Bureau of Street Lighting to install a row of vintage L.A. street lights in the parking lot of the Hollytron mini mall at Santa Monica & Vermont. Vermonica, which the artist saw as an “urban candelabra” and symbol of civic renewal, captivated the public, predated Chris Burden’s similar “Urban Light” at LACMA by 15 years, and was a beloved part of the East Hollywood environment. Then one day in late 2017, it vanished, only to reappear—scrambled and cramped—in front of the Bureau of Street Lighting office a block away. Your tour guides Kim Cooper and Richard Schave have been working with artist Sheila Klein to try to get the city to put up a sign explaining that xVermonica is not Vermonica, and to let Sheila restore the sculpture and have it accessioned by the city as a protected piece of civic artwork. Can this wonderful lost public artwork be saved?

Metropolitan Water District, 1111 W. Sunset Boulevard, Victor Heights (William L. Pereira, 1963)

William Pereira is an iconic Southern California architect—his projects include LACMA, CBS Television City, LAX, JPL and the Disneyland Hotel—but his work is being lost at a frightening pace. That’s why since 2015, your tour guides Kim Cooper and Richard Schave have been working with architect and historian Alan Hess to raise consciousness about why it’s so important that his buildings be landmarked and preserved. In 1963, Pereira designed the stunning fountain-encircled MWD headquarters on a hilltop site overlooking Downtown. Ten years later, he completed the west side of the campus with a tower (restored as The Elysian apartments, developed by Linear City). Under separate ownership, the low-rise campus is threatened by a proposal to turn the eastern side of the hill into a multi-tower hotel, apartment and retail complex. But as Pereira’s star has brightened anew, Palisades Capital Partners’ redevelopment plan has been updated to include replicas of Pereira’s iconic sunscreens, previously removed to stymie a landmark nomination. We’ll visit the scene with architect and historian Alan Hess to explore the unusual site and learn about restoration of the tower and the project’s significance in Pereira’s career.

Jeanne D’Arc statue (1964, MIA) at the historic French Hospital / Pacific Alliance Medical Center, Yale and College streets, Chinatown, (1869, endangered)

When Los Angeles was still a small frontier town, its French community was woven into every thread of public and social life. But as the city grew, French Angelenos assimilated and scattered, their early influence forgotten. In 2016, native Angeleno C.C de Vere launched the blog Frenchtown Confidential as an offshoot of her genealogical research, revealing a lost history of Los Angeles through the activities of its French citizens, from vintners to Mayors and much between. Recently, C.C. has been sleuthing the disappearance of one of her favorite pieces of public art, the statue of Joan of Arc erected in 1964 in front of the old French Hospital (later Pacific Alliance Medical Center, and recently shuttered) in Chinatown. But when she started looking into the statue’s status, she uncovered an even bigger mystery: what had become of the French Benevolent Society (founded 1860) and its millions in charitable assets? We’ll visit the scene to discover the secrets of French Los Angeles, hidden in plain sight in gentrifying Chinatown.