Ned Paynter’s Rare Views of Los Angeles Landmarks

One of our favorite genres of photography is architecture shot on slide film by vacationing or itinerant college professors. The images they capture as lecture illustrations aren’t necessarily fine art, but they always present different angles on familiar landmarks. It’s a pleasure to discover and explore a new-to-us collection.

Recently uploaded by the Friends of San Diego Architecture is a large sampling of the 9,791 slides assembled by the late historian Dr. Ned Paynter between 1975 and 2006. He traveled in Europe and throughout America, dug the Art Nouveau, Mission Revival, casino kitsch and Postmodernism, and made a few trips up to Los Angeles to document a pre-gentrification Downtown and some intriguing oddities.

We’re pleased to share a taste of Ned Paynter’s local discoveries, and encourage you to explore the offerings on the Friends of San Diego Architecture site. If you fall in love with something, you can even buy a print. And if you’d like to get to know the opinionated and interesting man who captured these vistas, he blogged until the end of his life.

Aztec Hotel, Magnolia Ave., Foothill, Monrovia. Robert Stacy-Judd, 1925. (Photo 1987).

Bradbury Building, 304 S. Broadway. George H. Wyman, 1893. (Photo 1978).

Duarte School, 1431 Buena Vista St., Duarte. F.S. Allen, 1908 (photo 1991).

Eastern Columbia Building, 849 S. Broadway. Claud Beelman, 1929. (Photo 1989).

“Metropolis” Dress Shop, Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. (Photo 1982).

Pacific Auto Works, Long Beach, Schilling & Schilling, 1928. (Photo 1982, since demolished).

Tail O’ the Pup, Milton Black, 1946. NW Corner Beverly & La Cienega. (Photo 1982.)

Wardrobe Cleaners, 126 Catalina, Redondo Beach, 1950. (Photo 1985).

Mayan Theater, 1040 S. Hill Street, Morgan, Walls & Clements, 1926-27. (Photo 1986).

King Eddy Bar poem (1997)

Do you love and miss the old King Eddy bar as it was before the Downtown L.A. gentrification brush blotted out its soul? Come slip into that dark, cool place in this poem by Bernard Tucker, graciously shared by his sons.

King Eddy Bar

The door yawns

lets in the morning –

a handful of regulars

for breakfast of coffee, beer, boiled eggs.

The fusty 40 x 50 foot saloon

reeks of stale tobacco and cheap booze.

Walls of layered grime

yearn for a coat of paint.

A Jack Palance-of-a-guy

lords over the rectangular bar.

Whiskey runs a poor second to draught,

Christmas lights chase each other

around the top shelf,

feign merriment.

 

By noon two dozen stools and chairs hold

the local fraternity

descended from their cheap nests.

TV is on.

Juke box plays ‘Nights in White Satin’,

a thin bent body yells

“Who put that crap on?”

Late afternoon, the dark hole roils,

the past wrapped around beer glasses

the present seen clearly in refills

and the only sun, a hard boiled egg.

 

I crack the door,

the polite bartender points to the far corner:

my patient dangles his only leg

from a stool,

sugar diabetes and nicotine

claimed the other.

Quick to butt his cigarette

“only have two a day, doc.”

His wheelchair waits by

lifesize sepia Babe Ruth poster

“goes back to the twenties

only thing worth a damn in this joint!”

Not a bad hero for these players,

age wearing heavy on their shoulders,

every day must step up to the plate

handle whatever comes,

and the pitching can be mean.

 

– Bernard Tucker

   March 1997

   Los Angeles

 

Bernard Tucker was a cardiovascular surgeon at Good Samaritan Hospital in Downtown Los Angeles for 30 years before retirement in 1999. Originally from a small silver mining town in Northern Ontario, Canada, Bernard first came to Southern California in 1961 for a medical internship at Memorial Hospital in Long Beach. A lifelong interest in literature spurred him to start writing poetry in the early 1990s and attending workshops organized by Hy Baker and the Pasadena Poets. His poems covered topics ranging from his youth in Canada to nature as well as the more human side of practicing medicine. The people and environs of Los Angeles were of course a major inspiration, and poems covered local matters such as the city’s homeless population, 1992 riots, urban wildlife, and the Los Angeles River. Bernard passed away in 2019.

Richard Schave’s Public Comment to Los Angeles Planning Commission on Times Mirror Square

For context on the below public comment that Richard Schave made on 5/14/20, please see our newsletter post, Listen Live As The L.A. Times Project Appeal Hearing Illuminates City Government’s Corrupt Soul.

So, what happened today at the Planning Commission hearing for Times Mirror Square? Fireworks. And not celebratory fireworks, but the kind of explosion that happens when an errant spark falls on the barge and blows the whole enterprise straight to hell.

You can read our blow-by-blow commentary on Facebook, but in short, the Commissioners told Onni Group:

• That their projects suck;

• That the site deserves an architecturally distinguished building;

• That they were disgusted by the lack of affordable housing;

• That offering to donate $1 Million to Pershing Square was stupid;

• That it was their own fault the project wasn’t moving forward;

• That they had no intention of violating the Brown Act for them;

• That they didn’t care if the funding dried up and the project died.

Then they rejected the appeal and continued consideration of the EIR until July 9, when they expect Onni Group to return with a great design and affordable housing component.

It was glorious! We predict Times Mirror Square will soon be on the market again. And William Pereira’s 1973 addition might yet get the thoughtful vertical expansion it deserves.

Updated May 18: the wild Times Mirror Square Los Angeles City Planning Commission audio is now online! Listen to the hearing here. Read Commercial Observer coverage of the hearing here.


Public Comment: My name is Richard Schave. I am principal author of the Historic Cultural Monument nomination for Times Mirror Square.

A City Planning staffer threatened me over this work. I have shared this information with the FBI.

I am asking the Commission to accept the appeal and deny the EIR.

I hope you have all read the plea released by the US DOJ yesterday, describing how a private citizen worked with Jose Huizar, serving as the Guiliani to Huizar’s Trump, creating an alternative city planning feedback loop, predicated on bribery, extortion, shell corporations, nepotism, and money laundering.

A principal point of public interface for this criminal enterprise is this Commission.

When I went to Huizar’s City Hall office before the PLUM hearing to speak with staff, I found the FBI had sealed the office. When I asked for a meeting with Huizar’s replacement Marqueece Harris-Dawson before PLUM, his staff told me there was no need to meet, since they intended to follow Huizar’s direction on Times Mirror Square.

PLUM rewrote the landmarking designation for the benefit of developer Onni Group. Yesterday’s RICO filings mention Onni’s $50,000 donation to Jose Huizar’s wife’s PAC.

The City of Los Angeles deserves better. Do the right thing, accept the appeal, deny the EIR.

Downtown Los Angeles Development, Jose Huizar and the Bishop Mora Salesian High School Slush Fund

What follows is purely speculative quarantine spitballing.

As politically obsessed Los Angeles reads the tea leaves of the slow drip, drip, drip of Federal charging documents and plea agreements in the ongoing FBI public corruption investigation, anticipating the blast of information that will finally explain how this city got so far off the rails and who steered the train, we find ourselves wondering…

Why did Jose Huizar direct so many Downtown L.A. real estate developers, billboard companies, lobbyists, construction firms and lawyers to donate to his alma mater, Bishop Mora Salesian High School in Boyle Heights, a private college prep institution with only 400 students? Have all donations from developers been reported, or did some come in the form of stacks of cash in a liquor box? Why did his wife Richelle Rios (Ramona Convent Secondary School, class of ’87), a non-practicing attorney, work in the school’s development office from July 2012 to January 2016?

Is it possible that untraceable donated funds from entities seeking Jose Huizar’s PLUM Committee and City Council support for lucrative projects was used to pay off former students seeking compensation for abuse suffered at the hands of pedophile priests and brothers of the Salesian Order who were shuttled between California schools for decades, as detailed in this December 2019 CNN investigation?

Justin Jangwoo Kim’s plea agreement shows that just one corrupt Jose Huizar land use vote came at the price of $500,000. There could easily be tens of millions moving around Huizar’s transactional chess board.

So, where did all that money go? Is the answer back home in Boyle Heights?


Sign The Petition: Los Angeles Citizens Demand: Corrupt Councilmember José Huizar must resign

April Fool: Times Mirror Square EIR Challenge Rejected, or “Nothing to see here, G-Man”

Last October, a passionate band of concerned Angelenos went to Los Angeles City Hall to testify one last time in support of the preservation of William Pereira’s Times Mirror corporate headquarters.

This recognized architectural and cultural landmark had been deliberately cut out of the approved Historic Cultural Monument designation by the Los Angeles City Council, a political body with numerous members under FBI investigation for public corruption in service of real estate interests.

But almost a year after investigators raided Councilmember Jose Huizar’s City Hall office and home, he was still sitting on the council, and questionable projects in his Downtown district continued to get the green light.

Still, it’s important to show up and speak truth to power, even when it seems like the fix is in.

Included in our group that fall day were preservationists, historians, architects, affordable housing advocates, longtime L.A. Times and Times Mirror executives, neighbors, tenants and descendants of the newspaper’s founders.

Although we went into the hearing room expecting to bear witness to the city’s approval of demolition of the great newspaper and media HQ that Otis Chandler built, that didn’t happen. It seemed that the City Planning Department had received a long letter that gave them pause, so they paused approval of the project… “for one week.”

To see what we said in October, learn more about this wild preservation campaign through Fall 2019, and read the letter that gave the city pause, click here.

That letter, from Lozeau Drury, the attorneys for public interest nonprofit SAFER, proved to be the prelude to a legal challenge to Onni Group’s project EIR, citing numerous instances where serious problems had been glossed over or ignored by City Planning in order to approve the enormous development.

One particularly interesting point: although Councilman Jose Huizar continues to promote a streetcar loop through his nonprofit initiative L.A. Streetcar, the EIR provided no analysis of how such a conveyance would impact traffic around the site. Is there going to be a Broadway Streetcar, or isn’t there? In politically supported Downtown L.A. development, it seems you can have it both ways.

One week turned to a month, then to several. Six months later, we’re still holding out hope that the landmark Los Angeles Times complex can be saved.

But on April Fool’s Day, City Planning came out of its slumber and issued a new document, which declared that nothing in SAFER’s challenge letter justified halting the project. Although this new document references a complete rebuttal of SAFER’s claims (“March 2020 Responses”), this rebuttal was not shared by the city, so we’re unable to weigh its merits. [Update: the rebuttal was provided after we requested it, and you can find it here, with the section on Jose Huizar’s Schrodinger’s Streetcar highlighted.]

We hope and expect that SAFER will appeal City Planning’s determination by the April 10 deadline, and that Times Mirror Square may yet be saved.

After all, in recent weeks, the Los Angeles public corruption investigation has once again kicked into high gear. A lobbyist pleaded guilty to bribing a politician, who could only be Councilmember Jose Huizar, with half a million dollars in a liquor box—for just one land use vote. (In response, we have called for his resignation.) A virtual City Council meeting was overshadowed with the news that former Councilmember Mitch Englander had made a deal with the Feds in exchange for leniency on his felony charges.

Court watchers expect more charges, arrests and indictments of sitting politicians, developers, lobbyists and city staffers to happen any day.

So, why did City Planning reject SAFER’s challenge? Perhaps the office felt it had no choice. To acknowledge SAFER’s bold claim that the EIR should never have been approved in the first place would be to admit that politicians like Jose Huizar are able to pull strings at the highest level of land use, for the benefit of their developer and lobbyist friends.

If that’s the case, it will all come out in the coming indictments. And Los Angeles will be left to pick up the pieces of our broken, beautiful city. We hope that, unlike Parker Center, Times Mirror Square will still be standing when we do.

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!)

 

Planning Commission To Decide Fate of Times Mirror Square

The Angelenos who landmarked the Los Angeles Times buildings cordially invite you to be a part of their history, by asking the Planning Commission to “do the right thing” at the Final EIR hearing on October 16 and approve a redevelopment plan that preserves and protects this architecturally and culturally significant place, while rejecting the appearance of political corruption steering land use decisions in Los Angeles. There is still cause for hope that the Times buildings will be treated with due respect during redevelopment, but they need your help!

Please join us at Los Angeles City Hall on Wednesday, October 16 at 10:30 am to give public comment to the Planning Commission on the Final EIR for the Times Mirror Square Project. (Or send an email by October 15; see instructions at the bottom of this page.) (Facebook event link.)

FOR THOSE GIVING PUBLIC COMMENT: If you plan to attend the October 16 hearing, please email us at tours@esotouric.com, and we can give you more info and let you know what to expect. We don’t know exactly when this agenda item will be heard, but the hearing begins at 10:30am in room 1020.

To support preservation in your public comment, please include these words, then add your own personal reasons for speaking: “I oppose the Project because under CEQA, the Executive Building is a recognized historical resource eligible for the California Register for its association with the Times Mirror Company and Otis Chandler, and is a significant example of the work of master architect William L. Pereira. I urge you to select Alternative 5, Full Preservation Alternative, the environmentally superior alternative.”


THE SITE: A square block sitting kitty corner from Los Angeles City Hall, comprised of Gordon B. Kaufmann’s 1935 L.A. Times Building, Rowland Crawford’s 1948 Mirror Tower, William L. Pereira’s 1973 Executive Building, and a Pereira-designed parking garage.

THE THREAT: Canadian developer Onni Group wants to demolish the garage and Executive Building to build two high-rise towers. The Executive Building is fully integrated into the 1935 L.A. Times Building. This project would not only destroy a significant work by William Pereira, but leave a gaping hole in the side of the most architecturally significant structure on the site.

THE STORY: On September 20, 2018, the Cultural Heritage Commission accepted our Times Mirror Square landmark nomination in full, disagreeing with the Office of Historic Resources’ claim that Pereira’s Executive Building should not be included. The nomination would next go to City Council’s PLUM Committee, where we were concerned that the chair, Councilman Jose Huizar, would reject it outright, to clear the way for Canadian developer Onni Group to erect two towers. However, between the CHC and PLUM hearings, the FBI raided Huizar’s City Hall office and home, and Huizar was removed from PLUM. Nevertheless, on November 27, 2018, PLUM deferred to Huizar’s request and altered the landmark nomination by removing Pereira’s building. The altered nomination was then approved by full City Council. In February 2019, the Los Angeles Times reported that developer Onni Group had given $50,000 to Huizar’s political fund two months prior to the PLUM vote. It is against the backdrop of this appearance of quid pro quo vote buying that the Planning Commission will decide the fate of Times Mirror Square.

To learn more about the L.A. Times landmarking nomination, and the wider Pereira in Peril campaign, click here.

To read the Final EIR for this project, and our feedback, click here.


FOR EMAIL SUPPORTERS: You can also send a statement of support via email ASAP, but no later than end of day Tuesday, October 15.

Below is an example of how a statement of support should be formatted.
Subject line: ENV-2016-4676-EIR
Email to: william.lamborn@lacity.org
cc: tours@esotouric.com (that’s us, the landmark team)

Dear Planning Commission,

I oppose the Project because under CEQA, the Executive Building is a recognized historical resource eligible for the California Register for its association with the Times Mirror Company and Otis Chandler, and is a significant example of the work of master architect William L. Pereira.

I urge you to select Alternative 5, Full Preservation Alternative, the environmentally superior alternative.

sincerely, (your name, your address, your email)

PLEASE NOTE: Uniquely personal remarks, even just a line or two, really make a difference. Please consider adding this sentence and filling in the blank: These buildings are important to me because ____________.

 

City Librarian John Szabo unveils The Well of the Scribes at Central Library

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Feeling quite awed to see this Los Angeles treasure in the flesh (photo: Stephen Gee)

We had the opportunity today to attend a small ceremony in which a section of sculptor Lee Lawrie’s Well of the Scribes fountain was unveiled in the Rare Books room of Los Angeles Public Library.

The bronze fountain has been missing since 1969, when Central Library’s garden became a parking lot and its decorative elements went into city storage… only to vanish. Had the fountain been stolen away by a private collector, misplaced in some remote storage area, or melted down for scrap?

For fifty years, its fate remained a mystery. But answers may be forthcoming: one panel was recently found in the care of Arizona antique dealer Floyd Lillard, after he reached out offering to return the lost treasure.

While the relief sculpture is in remarkably good condition for its decades on the road, it needs a little love. So following today’s ceremonial return to the building it was designed for, it will be sent to a conservation lab for cleaning and stabilizing. Then it will go on public view in a location yet to be determined at Central Library.

While you wait for that auspicious day, enjoy these close-up views of the Well of the Scribes and the happy folks from the library and Alta Magazine, publishers of a recent feature story which helped to bring this beautiful object back home. The Library and Alta are eagerly seeking the remaining two sections of the fountain, so keep your eyes peeled in your travels for Pegasus and his scholarly pals.

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“Frankly, it smells.” – Our Public Comment on the Times Mirror Square Draft EIR

A week ago, after the Los Angeles Times broke the story that cracks had started to appear inside and outside the landmark Los Angeles Times buildings in January, and that Metro had prepared a report for Federal regulators, we asked the Los Angeles Planning Department to extend the period of public comment on the Times Mirror Square Draft EIR until that report was made public. The city declined, though it left the door open to accept additional comments.

So we submitted the following public comment on the proposed redevelopment project today.

 

William Lamborn
Major Projects
Department of City Planning
221 North Figueroa Street, Suite 1350
Los Angeles, CA 90012
<william.lamborn@lacity.org>

Re: Case No. ENV-2016-4676-EIR
Times Mirror Square Project
Public Comments

May 19, 2019

Dear Mr. Lamborn,

I am a cultural and architectural historian focusing on Los Angeles in the 20th Century, and the applicant who submitted the Historic-Cultural Monument nomination for Times Mirror Square (Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #1174).

This letter represents the public comment on the above noted Draft EIR both for myself, and for the Historic-Cultural Monument nomination team.

The Project has adverse impacts to the historic Times Mirror Square complex, and should under CEQA’s standards revert to one of the lesser impact Alternatives. A landmark of this caliber should not be subjected to a diminution of its cultural and architectural integrity through demolition of a contributing structure, nor through the creation of an historically inappropriate commercial Paseo.

1. DAMAGE TO TIMES MIRROR SQUARE BUILDINGS CAUSED BY METRO CONSTRUCTION

I write this public comment with a significant disadvantage, not having seen Metro’s report prepared for Federal regulators regarding cracking to interior and exterior walls that has been noted on the Project site as beginning in January 2019. The existence of the damage report was reported in the Los Angeles Times on May 12, 2019 (see attachment 1).

Without knowing the extent of the damage, which is apparently related to ongoing work for the Regional Connector Project, its current and potential future impact on the landmark structures and the cost and time needed to stabilize them before restoration can begin, it is difficult if not impossible to comment appropriately on the proposed Project and its Alternatives.

However, since my request on May 13, 2019 that, in light of the questions raised by the Los Angeles Times’ reporting, the period of DEIR comment be extended for one month was not granted, I will comment on the DEIR as it stands. I appreciate your responding on May 14, 2019 “in accordance with the CEQA Guidelines, that while not required, the Lead Agency may also respond to late comments that are received,” and trust that future public comments will be incorporated into the DEIR as more information is made public.

It is essential that Metro’s report be made available to the public, Office of Historic Resources and the Department of Building and Safety and additional comment taken before any decisions are made on the proposed Project and its Alternatives.

QUESTION #1: Will a full reporting of damage to Times Mirror Square be made available to the public and appropriate city agencies, and additional comment accepted, before this Project moves on to the next stage of the EIR process?

2. SEEMINGLY ARBITRARY DELETION OF BUILDINGS PROTECTED UNDER THE LANDMARK ORDINANCE, OCCURRING AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF AN FBI INVESTIGATION INTO ALLEGATIONS OF PUBLIC CORRUPTION

The process by which Times Mirror Square, the Historic-Cultural Monument impacted by the Project, has moved from the nomination process through the Cultural Heritage Commission, then to the Planning & Land Use Management Committee and then to City Council is highly unusual, and should be noted by the Planning Commissioners.

2a. BACKGROUND ON THE HISTORIC-CULTURAL MONUMENT APPLICATION

More than a decade ago, Ken Bernstein in the Office of Historic Resources informed me that his office would not accept a landmark nomination for anything less than the entire block, Based on this direction, I adjusted my plan to nominate the 1935 Times Building to include the Plant, Mirror and Executive Buildings. This more complex nomination, encompassing the work of three architects and spanning five decades of architectural advances and site history, required significant additional research and the assistance of numerous scholars.

Bafflingly, after the nomination finally was submitted to the Cultural Heritage Commission, the Office of Historic Resources staff report of July 2018, signed by Ken Bernstein and colleagues, stated that the Executive Building, which Mr. Bernstein had explicitly instructed me to nominate, was not significant. The Cultural Heritage Commission disagreed, and demanded that the staff report be amended to note the significance of William L. Pereira (architect of the Executive Building) and publisher Otis Chandler (who commissioned it). In the Commissioners’ opinion, the Times Mirror Square landmark includes the four interconnected buildings.

2b. FBI RAID OF JOSE HUIZAR’S CITY HALL OFFICE AND SUBSEQUENT PLANNING AND LAND USE COMMITTEE HEARING AND CITY COUNCIL VOTE

On November 7, 2018, Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar was raided by the FBI, then removed from his Planning and Land Use Management Committee chairmanship. Nevertheless, on November 27, 2018, the Planning and Land Use Management Committee deferred to Councilman Huizar’s request and altered the landmark nomination by removing the Executive Building. Thus, the nomination reverted to the opinion in the July 2018 Office of Historic Resources staff report and rejected the later determination of the Cultural Heritage Commission to amend the staff report and accept the nomination.

On December 5, 2018, City Council took up the matter of Times Mirror Square’s landmarking as part of a multi-item block vote, and with no comment or discussion, unanimously approved the altered landmark.

2c. REVELATION OF $50,000 DONATION BY TIMES MIRROR SQUARE DEVELOPER TO POLITICAL COMMITTEE ASSOCIATED WITH JOSE HUIZAR

On February 7, 2019, the Los Angeles Times reported that shortly before the Planning and Land Use Management Committee vote, developer Onni Group had donated $50,000 to a political action committee with ties to Councilman Huizar and his wife (see attachment 2). The appearance of a pay-to-play agreement between a politician and developer, in which a landmark was arbitrarily altered by the Planning and Land Use Management Committee in such a way as to ease the development of two towers on the property is deeply troubling, especially against the backdrop of a still developing FBI investigation in which other City Hall figures have been named, and even more so when it threatens the preservation of so iconic a Los Angeles landmark as Times Mirror Square.

Frankly, it smells. Times Mirror Square’s fate should not be decided under a cloud.

QUESTION #2: Will you wait until the ongoing FBI investigation involving Jose Huizar’s activity as the chair of the most powerful land use committee in Los Angeles is resolved before this Project, in which Mr. Huizar took a particular and personal interest, moves on to the next stage of the EIR process?

3. PROJECT ALTERNATIVES

Under CEQA, a project EIR must include a range of plausible alternatives, with the environmentally superior alternative designated as the best option.

3a. PROJECT ALTERNATIVES REFLECTING THE CULTURAL HERITAGE COMMISSION’S DETERMINATION

In the DEIR, there are three Alternatives, which reflect the determination of the Cultural Heritage Commission that the four main structures of Times Mirror Square, not including the Pereira-designed parking garage (see section 4. below), merit preservation.

These Alternatives are:
Alternative 1: No Project / No Build Alternative
Alternative 4: Partial Preservation Alternative
Alternative 5: Full Preservation Alternative

Additionally, these three Alternatives retain the eligibility of the entire Times Mirror Square complex to be listed as an Historic District on the National and California Registers, something that might not still be the case were the Executive Building removed and the west facing facades of the Times, Plant and Mirror Buildings altered with the creation of a commercial Paseo.

Alternative 4 has the additional environmental advantages of Reduction of Solid Waste and Reduction of Energy Use.

QUESTION #3: Will you only consider Alternatives that respect the determination of the Cultural Heritage Commission and treat the Executive Building as a protected historic resource?

3b. PROJECT ALTERNATIVES IGNORING THE CULTURAL HERITAGE COMMISSION’S DETERMINATION

The Alternatives that fail to meet the standards of being environmentally superior are:

Alternative 2: 20 Percent Reduced Density Alternative
Alternative 3: All Office and Residential Alternative

In the case of Alternatives 2 and 3, the architecturally and culturally significant Executive Building would be demolished, thus resulting in the necessity to restore the west facing elevation of Times Building. This facade was lost when the Executive Building was constructed, creating a new, integrated north and west facing elevation representing master architect William L. Pereira’s adaptation of master architect Gordon Kaufmann’s design.

3c. WHY ALTERNATIVES 2 AND 3 ARE ENVIRONMENTALLY INFERIOR CHOICES

Note that the Historic Architectural Resources Survey states that the Executive Building appears to be an historic resource, specifically “The Executive Building appears eligible for listing in the California Register and as a HCM under Criterion 1 for its association with the Times Mirror Company and under Criterion 2 for its association with Otis Chandler.”

The Times Building stood intact for 37 years (1935-72). It has existed in its present form, joined to the Executive Building, for 46 years (1973-present). As explained in detail in the landmark nomination, the Executive Building is the physical manifestation of the Los Angeles Times as a mature, progressive and award-winning newspaper, and of Times Mirror Company as the first media corporation in America, an enormously successful and influential organization. The Executive Building is the only structure in the Times Mirror Square compound associated with Otis Chandler, who transformed the backwater Los Angeles Times into a respected newspaper of national significance. Otis Chandler is explicitly named in the landmark findings, which note that “However, it was under Otis Chandler that the newspaper arguably made its greatest strides in the publication circuit. During his tenure as publisher, from 1960 until 1980, the Times was retooled from a small-scale publication into a nationally-acclaimed news outlet. He professionalized the paper by significantly investing in newsroom staff and expanding into other media markets. It was during this time that the paper was thrust into the front ranks of American journalism. Circulation doubled, and the paper won more Pulitzer prizes under the leadership of Otis Chandler than it had in all other eras combined.”

Any Alternative that requires demolition of the designated historic resource Executive Building erases the property’s association with Otis Chandler, and is inherently inferior to Alternatives that preserve the Executive Building.

Further, the landmark findings state that “Times Mirror Square also ‘represents a notable work of a master designer, builder, or architect whose individual genius influenced his or her age’ as a significant work of master architects Gordon Kaufmann, Rowland Crawford, and William Pereira…. The subject property is… a noteworthy project by Pereira. Throughout his architectural career, Pereira designed few, if any other, additions to existing buildings and the Times-Mirror Headquarters Building represents a unique commission within his body of work.”

Any Alternative that requires demolition of the designated historic resource Executive Building erases the association with William Pereira, and is inherently inferior to Alternatives that preserve the Executive Building.

QUESTION #4: Will you respect the determination of the Cultural Heritage Commission and consider the Executive Building as a protected historic resource, eligible for inclusion on the California Register?

3d. THE UNSUITABLE PASEO PROPOSAL

Finally, Alternatives 2 and 3 each call for the demolition of the Executive Building and the parking garage in order to create space for a block-long commercial Paseo pass-through. Such a development is directly contrary to the history of the site.

In the years following the bombing of the Los Angeles Times Building in 1910, newspaper publisher Harrison Gray Otis, and his successor Harry Chandler, chose to commission buildings that were physically hardened against potential attack. The Times Building is a solid cube of stone, steel and concrete, with few windows and limited means of access. There was never, even before the construction of the Executive Building, any public access along the west facade of the building. To pierce the west facade of the Times Building with commercial storefronts would create a false narrative that diminishes the imposing physical sense of the landmark, and erases the structure’s history as a building that intentionally is somewhat inaccessible and only entered through the Globe Lobby.

QUESTION #5: Will you reject Alternatives that call for demolition of cultural resources including the Executive Building to clear space for any such historically inaccurate Paseo pass-through?

3e. THE MISSING ALTERNATIVE

There is no Alternative presented which breaks down the environmental impacts of Partial Preservation with a taller South tower, preservation of the Executive Building and no Paseo.

QUESTION #6: Will you require the developer to show the impacts of such a Partial Preservation / Taller South Tower Alternative?

4. CORRECTING THE RECORD ON THE MATTER OF THE PARKING STRUCTURE

Finally, note that in Section VI-I (Other CEQA Considerations – Significant Unavoidable Impacts), a footnote states that “on September 20, 2018, the Cultural Heritage Commission recommended the designation of the entire block and found that the Executive Building and parking structure were significant for the association with Pereira.” This is not accurate. The parking structure is not included in my landmarking nomination, and there was no discussion of its preservation during the Cultural Heritage Commission hearings. The commissioners amended the nomination to protect and designate the Executive Building, not the parking structure.

5. CONCLUSION

You do not have the power to reverse the Planning and Land Use Management Committee’s seemingly arbitrary decision to declare the Executive Building insignificant. However, you do have the ability to take the unaltered Historic-Cultural Monument, as determined by the Cultural Heritage Commission, as your base for determining historic context. Under this criteria, only Alternatives 1, 4 or 5 are acceptable.

QUESTION #7: Will you respect the determination of the Cultural Heritage Commission and consider the Executive Building as a protected historic resource, eligible for inclusion on the California Register, and not consider Alternatives that call for its demolition?

Thank you in advance for your thoughtful attention to this most complicated, interesting and, dare I say, historic matter before you.

With All My Regards,
Richard Schave

Attachment 1 – Richard Schave DEIR public comment – Los Angeles Times article
Attachment 2 – Richard Schave DEIR public comment – Los Angeles Times article

 

Robert Luthardt’s Lost Skid Row, 1967

As we dug into our back pages to revive an early Esotouric sightseeing tour, John Fante’s Dreams from Bunker Hill (returning to the streets on Saturday, April 27), we got a hot tip about a new-to-us archive of Downtown streetscape photographs held at UCLA Special Collections, and booked a rare trip to the west side to have a look.

The writer John Fante, Colorado born, arrived in Los Angeles at the perfect time to forge his talents in the fires of economic uncertainty, boom town eccentricity, earthquake, redevelopment and the Hollywood hustle. Although he would find success and a happy home on the edge of Point Dume, Malibu, it was the crummy, crumbly, honest streets of his youth on Bunker Hill and Skid Row that resonated in his head. At the end of his life, blind and bedridden from the effects of diabetes, he surprised his wife Joyce by dictating a last novel, which was a return to the lost Bunker Hill he had loved.

Bunker Hill was redeveloped out of existence in America’s largest eminent domain land seizure, with 9000 people displaced and a charming neighborhood demolished. But there are yet some Downtown time capsules that still vibrate with the energies that fed Fante. We’ll visit them, including the incredible ruined speakeasy beneath the King Edward Hotel which features in his best-known novel Ask The Dust, on Saturday’s tour.

While Bunker Hill’s ill-favored redevelopment plan is widely known, Skid Row’s retail and cultural life was also erased in the name of blight eradication. Bunker Hill’s Victorians live on in popular memory, because artists and filmmakers rushed to capture views of the charismatic neighborhood ahead of the bulldozers. Nobody rushed to document Skid Row’s tattoo parlors, diners, XXX book stores, taxi dance halls, flop houses, rescue missions, pawn shops, laundries and slave markets (halls where skilled workers could snag a gig when they were on the wagon).

Well, not quite nobody. Art director Robert Luthardt (1917-77) came down to Main Street around 1967. He was ostensibly capturing settings that could be suitable for location filmingand he found the King Edward Hotel, which would be home to ABC television’s Beretta but it’s obvious from what he shot that Luthardt was captivated by the street life, the faces, the signage, the layers of the old stone and marble Los Angeles underneath the neon and plastic new.

Today, urban historians study the failures of the Bunker Hill Redevelopment Plan, and laugh bitterly at developers’ attempts to reinvent the thriving Victorian coral reef that was an organic mixed-use, mixed-income, multi-generational community. But let’s spare a moment to lament the lost world of Skid Row Main Street, where generations of anonymous people found companionship, amusement, work, cheap goods, a haircut, trouble, something to eat.

In the 1980s, whole blocks of historic storefronts were demolished for parking lots, glorious neon signs tossed in dumpsters and aging shopkeepers closed their doors for good. Although public policy shaped these changes, there was no single incident like the removal of Angels Flight Railway or the demolition of the Melrose Hotel to galvanize public sentiment towards preservation. Unlandmarked, unpopular, under populated, disenfranchised, old Main Street simply melted away, like a sleazy sand castle.

Thanks to Robert Luthardt, we can visit this incredible lost part of Los Angeles. In these photographs, all taken near the iconic intersection of Fifth and Main Streets (“The Nickel”), you’ll find tattoo artist Captain Jim surrounded by his flash designs, the impressive monster mask selection at the adult novelties shop, and glimpses of a beguiling character we’ve nicknamed Knee Socks, the Soul of Main Street. Wouldn’t you love to hear his story?

If you dig these views and yearn to know more about old Skid Row, we’ll be going there Saturday on the John Fante tour, and in weeks to come on our Charles Bukowski and Tom Waits tours. And from now on, we’ll be walking in Robert Luthardt’s footprints, too.

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