Los Angeles Times Globe Lobby Emptied of Historic Resources Ahead of Landmark Hearing

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When the Office of Historic Resources received our nomination to make Times Mirror Square a protected Los Angeles landmark in June, notification was made to property owner Onni Group and to the newspaper’s new owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong that the historic resources described in the nomination were not to be disturbed, pending determination of landmark status. We understand that communication came not only from the Office of Historic Resources, but from the Mayor’s Office as well.

We were particularly concerned, because Dr. Soon-Shiong was giving interviews talking about the museum of L.A. Times history he hoped to build in the paper’s new headquarters in El Segundo, specifically mentioning wanting to move the enormous aluminum globe out of its namesake Globe Lobby.

We heard that workers had measured the globe and had an idea for how to get it off its art deco base and into a moving truck. And when we asked a conservationist who had worked on the lobby’s restoration, they told us that there was no way to remove the stone and metal base without destroying it. The base, too, is an historic resource listed in the nomination.

So we felt great relief once the nomination was received and everyone who might mess with the lobby understood it was not to be touched.

With the first hearing before the Cultural Heritage Commission just five days away, The Globe Lobby was supposed to be safe. But this morning, we saw posts on Times’ employee social media stating that the iconic eagle sculpture by Gutzon Borglum, which had survived the 1910 bombing of the Times and was one of the listed historic resources in the landmark nomination, had been removed.

We raced downtown to see for ourselves, and through the dark glass of the Globe Lobby doors found that the situation was even worse: the eagle was gone, and so were the sculpted busts of the newspaper’s first four publishers (General Otis, Harry Chandler, Norman Chandler and Otis Chandler). The Globe is alone, in a defaced space that looks like a plucked chicken.

We don’t know for certain if this is true, but the buzz on social media is that the sculptures have been removed by the Los Angeles Times and taken to the city of El Segundo.* This is a direct violation of Los Angeles’ historic preservation ordinance, and an action that shows a profound disrespect for the newspaper’s history, for the public and for the law.

Has respect for the rule of law ever mattered more than in 2018?

When we go before the Cultural Heritage Commission on Thursday, we will be advocating for the preservation of buildings that are among the most significant in Southern California. We have limited time in which to abstract the book-length nomination, calling out the important people, civic campaigns, industries and ideas that originated at Times Mirror Square, as well as the compound’s architectural significance. It pains us to have to dedicate some of that precious time to telling the Commissioners about this vandalism. It pains us still more to think that the new owner of the Los Angeles Times would do such a thing.

Please join us, through an email or in person, as we speak for the stone, the neon, the glass and the Globe… before it’s too late!


* update: Laura J. Nelson of the Los Angeles Times tweeted this photo, captioned “The @latimes eagle has flown the coop in downtown L.A. A security guard took this photo over the weekend.”

laura j nelson tweet of eagle removed july 16 2018

How Canadian Developer Onni Group “Preserved” the Art Deco Seattle Times Building

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Stop us if you’ve heard this one before:

A venerable local newspaper, fallen on hard times in the aftermath of the financial crisis, sells its architecturally-significant, centrally-located Art Deco headquarters and two attached buildings, comprising an entire city block, to a multi-national development company. The developer expresses affection for the site’s history, and makes preservation of the main newspaper building the centerpiece of a proposed project. The twin-tower mixed-use residential, retail and public plaza project is vastly out of scale and requires zoning changes. When preservationists express concern about protection of the historic resources, they’re assured that the developer is a good steward with the best intentions. Besides, we’re in a housing crisis, so build, baby, build!

Sound familiar? If you’re a Californian, you might recognize the beats of the recent history of the Los Angeles Times, with the paper’s real estate split off under Tribune’s ownership and its historic headquarters sold to Vancouver-based Onni Group.

But the story you just read is actually about the landmarked Seattle Times ( Robert C. Reamer, 1931), which Onni Group purchased in 2013 and neglected so profoundly that the normal rules for protected buildings were waived: in February 2016, Seattle’s Department of Construction and Inspections approved (archive link) immediate demolition of the landmark for reasons of public safety.

November 2015: “Squatters leave the old Seattle Times building at 1120 John St., after waking up during Thursday’s fire” (Steve Ringman / Seattle Times)

During the first three years of Onni’s ownership, the Seattle Times became a squatter’s den (archive link), home to hundreds of homeless people, their pets and their troubles. Metal thieves operated openly, stripping the landmark of its historic artifacts and plumbing. The squatters were rousted, but immediately returned, prying off the thin plywood panels Onni Group installed to keep them out. When the police ordered the landlord to properly secure the building, Onni Group missed the deadline. Taxpayers covered the costs of constant police and paramedic calls. There were fires, overdoses, gas leaks and suffering that can’t be quantified.

Then came the wrecking ball and bulldozers, spelling the end of the Seattle Times and a clearing a nearly clean slate for a massive development, recently changed from housing to office towers, in the shadow of the Amazon.com headquarters.

February 2017: An old press that once printed the Sunday color comics section is partially exposed. (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)

(But before the walls came down, the newspaper building told one last story. Up on the roof, a hand-made banner went up the flagpole. The Times printed a photo and reported on the common ¢ents activists who were calling for Seattle’s hundreds of vacant buildings to be made available to serve the city’s homeless population. That’s a conversation Los Angeles should be having, too.)

Demolition began in October 2016. Today, just a couple of sad walls from the landmark Seattle Times building survive, and Onni Group is busily building upward.

The Art Deco Los Angeles Times Building is not a protected city landmark like the Seattle Times Building was. We believe it should be a landmark, which is why we’ve filed an Historic-Cultural Monument application, which is now under consideration, with a hearing on July 19 (Update: the second hearing is Thursday, September 20 and we still need your comments and emails!). At the direction of the Office of Historic Resources, our application includes all three entwined historic structures on the site: Gordon B. Kaufmann’s 1935 Times Building (including the Globe Lobby and its fixtures), Rowland H. Crawford’s 1948 Mirror tower and William L. Pereira’s 1973 corporate headquarters. These three buildings together tell the story of the Los Angeles Times and Southern California.

Some people believe that it’s only Pereira’s building that is threatened by Onni Group’s plans. But the Pereira can’t be demolished without tearing a giant hole in the Art Deco Kaufmann building’s west facade. And the Pereira is a good, if unfashionable, building that deserves to be considered on its architectural merits, which are largely invisible from street level, but reveal themselves when you step inside.

As Harry Chandler told the Los Angeles Times, “Developers are wont to change their minds based on market conditions, not preservation needs. [Onni] is not an L.A. company and they don’t have credentials for caring for historic buildings in our city. We shouldn’t leave that to chance.”

He’s right.

Onni Group might prove to be a better steward of our great newspaper’s home than they were in Seattle. It would be hard to be a worse one.

But let’s not just take their word for it. Please join us at the Cultural Heritage Commission on Thursday, July 19 and speak for the stone, the neon, the glass and the Globe. (Update: the second hearing is Thursday, September 20 and we still need your comments and emails!) These buildings shaped the Southern California we love, and they deserve to be preserved.

Workmanship of such poor quality is not acceptable.

Pereira in Peril – The Race to Save William L. Pereira’s Metropolitan Water District HQ (1963), LACMA (1965), L.A. Times (1973, landmark altered by City Council) & CBS Television City (1952, landmarked!)

William Pereira with plans for both UC Irvine and the City of Irvine. 3

Our most active Pereira in Peril preservation campaign has been The Los Angeles Times Mirror Headquarters addition (1973), which is included in our successful (though altered by City Council, see PDF file) landmarking application (PDF file) for the Times Mirror Square complex.

We are grateful to the many passionate people who joined us as we spoke for the stone, glass, neon and the Globe and sought to make preservation of these significant Southern California landmarks part of the public policy of Los Angeles. At the final hearing on September 20, 2018 at Los Angeles City Hall, the Cultural Heritage Commissioners voted unanimously to declare Times Mirror Square a landmark, sending it on to City Council. But on November 7, Downtown councilman Jose Huizar was raided by the FBI, then removed from his powerful PLUM Committee chairmanship. Nevertheless, on November 27, PLUM deferred to Huizar’s request and altered the landmark nomination by removing Pereira’s building. 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 gave Huizar and Onni Group their amputated landmark.

What’s next for the landmarked buildings of the Los Angeles Times, as a developer with no historic preservation track record attempts to scrape an important modernist building off the protected 1935 Art Deco Kaufmann building? We’ll be there to tell the story, and continue to advocate for the history and built environment of our beloved Los Angeles!

RECENT PRESS CLIPS – TIMES MIRROR SQUARE LANDMARKING CAMPAIGN (more below)

December 12, 2018: NPR – When they write the history of the sale of the historic Los Angeles Times buildings and the possible demolition of William Pereira’s 1973 corporate HQ, they’ll have to consider Michael Ferro’s fundamental misunderstanding of Los Angeles, and his racism.

December 5, 2018: Curbed L.A. – Times Mirror Square, longtime home of the LA Times, is now a landmark. / Los Angeles Times – Council backs historic status for just two L.A. Times buildings, clearing way for redevelopment. / MYNewsLA.com – L.A. Times Complex’s Addition Likely to be Demolished Following Council Vote.

December 5, 2018: L.A. Taco – L.A. Times Building Could Be an Unintended Casualty of Councilman Huizar’s Legal Troubles. Who’s in charge? Marqueece Harris-Dawson or Jose Huizar?

November 29, 2018: Curbed LA – City committee approves landmarking some—but not all—of Times Mirror Square.

November 28, 2018: The Architects Newspaper – Too Little, Too Late Modern / Landmark status denied for Pereira’s LA Times building addition.

November 27, 2018: Los Angeles Times – Times building designed by William Pereira not a monument, council committee says.

November 27, 2018: Courthouse News Service – Split Decision in Bid to Save Landmark LA Times Buildings.

November 27, 2018: NBC / City News Service – Committee to Consider Significance of L.A. Times Complex’s 1970s Addition.

November 26, 2018: The Globe and Mail – “Vancouver developer faces key test as preservationists fight for Los Angeles building.” Ms. Cooper, looking at the Pereira building, declared: “You can’t just clear cut and put up towers. You have to come up with something more sophisticated. It takes more money, more time, and more heart. I don’t think Onni feels the heart of how important this place is.”

September 27, 2018: Amended Cultural Heritage Commission language for our Times Mirror Square nomination, explicitly calling out William Pereira as a master architect (correcting the wishy washy staff report). (PDF link)

September 25, 2018: The Architects Newspaper – Opinion (Alan Hess): It’s time to recognize Pereira’s LA Times building.

September 24, 2018: The Architects Newspaper – William Pereira’s LA Times complex one step closer to being landmarked.

September 21, 2018: Curbed LA – Landmark effort for Times Mirror Square breezes through cultural heritage commission.

September 20, 2018: Courthouse News Service – Historic LA Times Building Wins Wrecking-Ball Reprieve.

September 20, 2018: Los Angeles Times – Cultural Heritage Commission supports monument status for former L.A. Times buildings.


Metropolitan Water District: In 1963, William L. Pereira designed a stunning headquarters for the Metropolitan Water District on a circular hilltop site overlooking Sunset Boulevard and Downtown Los Angeles. Ten years later, he completed the west side of the campus with a tower.

The tower has been fully restored as The Elysian apartments, developed by Linear City. But the 1963 low-rise campus buildings, recently purchased by Palisades Capital Partners from the bankrupt church owner, are in imminent danger, with a demolition notice posted on the fence.

William Pereira is an iconic Southern California architecthis projects include LACMA, CBS Television City, LAX, JPL and the Disneyland Hotelbut his work is being lost at a frightening pace. So on July 10, 2016, architectural historian Alan Hess and Esotouric’s Richard Schave met at the endangered Metropolitan Water District Headquarters to talk about why it’s so important that the buildings be landmarked and preserved. On August 18, 2016, we attended the Cultural Heritage Commission’s landmark consideration site visit. Please watch and share the videos, listen to the Pereira in Peril podcast episode and stay tuned to the Esotouric newsletter for more news about how you can help save William L. Pereria’s Metropolitan Water District headquarters.

(Supplementary material: landmark application documents; applicant’s response to initial hearing questions. Also, please read our post about the 2-2 vote at the landmarking hearing and see our successful petition asking that Mayor Garcetti fill the empty seat on the Cultural Heritage Commission.)

PRESS CLIPS & UPDATES – ALL PEREIRA IN PERIL CAMPAIGNS

December 12, 2018: NPR – When they write the history of the sale of the historic Los Angeles Times buildings and the possible demolition of William Pereira’s 1973 corporate HQ, they’ll have to consider Michael Ferro’s fundamental misunderstanding of Los Angeles, and his racism.

December 10, 2018: Curbed L.A. – Unlike Times Mirror Square, CBS Television City, newly landmarked, is one Pereira that’s not in Peril. New owners Hackman Capital Partners will maintain the historic features of this groundbreaking modernist production factory—and perhaps use it for its original purpose.

December 5, 2018: Curbed L.A. – Times Mirror Square, longtime home of the LA Times, is now a landmark. / Los Angeles Times – Council backs historic status for just two L.A. Times buildings, clearing way for redevelopment. / MYNewsLA.com – L.A. Times Complex’s Addition Likely to be Demolished Following Council Vote.

December 5, 2018: L.A. Taco – L.A. Times Building Could Be an Unintended Casualty of Councilman Huizar’s Legal Troubles. Who’s in charge? Marqueece Harris-Dawson or Jose Huizar?

November 30, 2018: Fullerton gets it, even if Jose Huizar and the PLUM Committee don’t: William Pereira’s Hunt Branch Library named a protected Local Landmark!

November 29, 2018: Curbed LA – City committee approves landmarking some—but not all—of Times Mirror Square.

November 28, 2018: The Architects Newspaper – Too Little, Too Late Modern / Landmark status denied for Pereira’s LA Times building addition.

November 27, 2018: Los Angeles Times – Times building designed by William Pereira not a monument, council committee says.

November 27, 2018: Courthouse News Service – Split Decision in Bid to Save Landmark LA Times Buildings.

November 27, 2018: NBC / City News Service – Committee to Consider Significance of L.A. Times Complex’s 1970s Addition.

November 26, 2018: The Globe and Mail – “Vancouver developer faces key test as preservationists fight for Los Angeles building.” Ms. Cooper, looking at the Pereira building, declared: “You can’t just clear cut and put up towers. You have to come up with something more sophisticated. It takes more money, more time, and more heart. I don’t think Onni feels the heart of how important this place is.”

October 16, 2018: CBS Television City reportedly selling to Hackman Capital for over $700M.  Happily, this Pereira (previously) in Peril is partially protected by its recently obtained HCM status.

September 27, 2018: Amended Cultural Heritage Commission language for our Times Mirror Square nomination, explicitly calling out William Pereira as a master architect (correcting the wishy washy staff report). (PDF link)

September 26, 2018: Save The Hunt Library tour and Pereira talk hosted by Alan Hess.

September 25, 2018: The Architects Newspaper – Opinion (Alan Hess): It’s time to recognize Pereira’s LA Times building.

September 24, 2018: The Architects Newspaper – William Pereira’s LA Times complex one step closer to being landmarked.

September 21, 2018: Curbed LA – Landmark effort for Times Mirror Square breezes through cultural heritage commission.

September 20, 2018: Courthouse News Service – Historic LA Times Building Wins Wrecking-Ball Reprieve.

September 20, 2018: Los Angeles Times – Cultural Heritage Commission supports monument status for former L.A. Times buildings.

September 14, 2018: LAist – Here’s Why Some Officials Think The LA Times’ Former HQ Should Be Preserved.

September 12, 2018: Los Angeles Times – Office of Historic Resources recommends that Times Mirror Square be named an historic-cultural monument of the City of Los Angeles.

August 31, 2018 – You Can’t Eat the Sunshine podcast Episode #130: Once Upon A Time At Times Mirror Square features Harry Chandler on his family’s newspaper empire and Carolyn Strickler, former Times historian.

August 30, 2018 – Larchmont Chronicle preservation columnist Christy McAvoy on landmarking Times Mirror Square: “If there ever was a site to preserve intact, this is one.”

July 31, 2018 –  You Can’t Eat the Sunshine podcast Episode #129: Preserving Dynastic Los Angeles County Landmarks in the 21st Century: The Chandlers’ Times Mirror Square & The Bixbys’ Rancho Los Cerritos features Alan Hess talking about efforts to landmark William Pereira’s Times corporate HQ building

July 20, 2018 – Los Angeles Times: For a brief, shining moment, Times Mirror Square was L.A.’s Camelot. Plus: Inside the historic buildings that have defined the Los Angeles Times

July 19, 2018 – Los Angeles Times: City commission will consider bid to declare Los Angeles Times buildings historic-cultural monuments (discusses battle brewing over who owns the Globe Lobby artifacts and if they can be moved)

July 19, 2018 – Curbed LA: LA will consider landmarking Times Mirror Square—including 1970s addition

July 19, 2018 – KTLA: Group Pushes to Make DTLA Los Angeles Times Building a Historical Site

July 19, 2018 – City News Service: Commission Will Consider Historic Preservation Status of L.A. Times Complex

July 19, 2018 – Cultural Heritage Commission hearing #1 for Times Mirror Square landmarking video

July 17, 2018 – Los Angeles Times: Ugly carpets and green marble: The design of the Los Angeles Times buildings changed along with the city, though not always gracefully.

July 15, 2018 – Los Angeles Times Globe Lobby Emptied of Historic Resources Ahead of Landmark Hearing.

July 13, 2018 – Curbed LA: LACMA is #1, MWD is #2 and Times Mirror Square is #5 on Curbed’s list of LA’s most endangered buildings. “Led by groups like the Los Angeles Conservancy, the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles, and Esotouric, LA has a strong community dedicated to historic preservation.”

July 12, 2018 – New York Times’ California Today: Los Angeles and Its Newspaper, Explained by Three Buildings

July 10, 2018 – KPCC-FM Take Two: The Los Angeles Times buildings apply for Historic Monument Status (Segment starts at 31:14)

July 6, 2018 – Curbed LA: Longtime LA Times headquarters nominated for landmark status – An addition by architect William Pereira is under threat.

July 5, 2018 – KPCC-FM Airtalk: Reporters bid farewell to the landmark (but not landmarked) Los Angeles Times buildings.

July 3, 2018: Los Angeles Times feature about our campaign to landmark Times Mirror Square – “Preservationists call for historic status for Los Angeles Times buildings, threatening redevelopment plans.”

July 3, 2018: Los Angeles Times feature on fundraising trouble for the proposed LACMA campus demolition and redesign.

June 26, 2018: Cheers to our pal Alan Hess, who wrote the LA Conservancy’s successful landmarking nomination for CBS Television City, and to CBS for coming to the table to craft a preservation solution for the future of its historic broadcast production campus.

June 18, 2018: The Los Angeles Times is sold to Patrick Soon-Shiong, who has previously announced his intention to move the newsroom to the city of El Segundo. The future of the unlandmarked buildings of Times Mirror Square, including the vacant 1973 Pereira addition, is uncertain.

June 2018: Another fine mid-century Pereira in Peril, but the citizens of Fullerton aren’t taking the risk to their Hunt Branch library lightly. Can this gorgeous gift from Norton Simon be saved?

Development would bring Downtown high-rises to Echo Park’s doorstep (Eastsider L.A., 1/11/18)

Downtown L.A.’s development boom heads west with a big new housing and retail complex (L.A. Times, 1/11/2018)

Developer renderings for demolition of most of MWD site (1111 Sunset) published (January 2018)

JANUARY 2018: Developer Palisades Capital Partners proposes demolition of much of William Pereira’s Metropolitan Water District headquarters. However, renderings do show retention of the central low-rise building connected to Pereira’s later tower (now called The Elysian), and reconstruction of that building’s iconic sunscreens that were removed, we believe, to hinder the landmark nomination. As this project moves forward, we will continue to advocate for a sensitive restoration of the extant Pereira campus, and of the 1960s-era water features and landscaping.

Op-Ed: Los Angeles should preserve CBS Television City before it’s too late (Zev Yaroslavsky, L.A. Times, 12/10/2017)

Edifice Complex Mars L.A. County Museum (Sam Hall Kaplan, 10/14/2017)

SOM and James Corner to rework Pereira’s Metropolitan Water District in Los Angeles (The Architect’s Newspaper, 10/18/2017)

Another Pereira in Peril: Redevelopment Plans for CBS Television City? (Curbed L.A., 9/27/17)

Fresh Renderings for Onni’s Times Mirror Square Redevelopment (Urbanize. LA, 6/29/17)

First Look at the Times Mirror Square Redevelopment (Urbanize L.A., 1/24/17)

Can Preservationists Save L.A.’s Late Modernist Landmarks From the Wrecking Ball? (L.A. Weekly, 1/5/2017)

Pereira addition of Los Angeles Times complex to be demolished in redevelopment (The Architect’s Newspaper, 12/09/2016)

What’s Next for Times Mirror Square? (Downtown News, 11/2/2016)

William Pereira – modernism on a massive scale (The Soul of California podcast, 10/13/2016)

Which William Pereira Buildings Are Worth Preserving? (Architect, the journal of the AIA, 10/4/2016)

Periera in Peril: Time is running out for William Pereira’s modernist legacy (The Architect’s Newspaper, 9/26/2016)

William Pereira building denied landmark status, paving the way for demolition (Curbed LA, 9/15/2016)

Got questions for the LACMA makeover? Bring them to a “scoping meeting” Wednesday (KCRW’s DnA, 8/23/16)

Inside the William Pereira buildings on Sunset in danger of demolition (Curbed, 8/22/16)

Photos: Inside The Former Metropolitan Water District Building, Now Under Threat Of Demolition (LAist, 8/19/2016)

A Rare Interior Tour of the Endangered Los Angeles Times Compound (Esotouric, 6/18/2016)

A Rare Interior Tour of the Endangered Los Angeles Times Compound

When the Chandler family relinquished ownership of the Los Angeles Times in 2000, it sounded a discordant note all across the southland.

For while the Chandlers and ancestor Col. Otis before them were imperfect stewards, they were undeniably devoted to the growth and dignity of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Times, that city’s newspaper. Chicago-based Tribune’s tenure has been closer to Animal House than Pulitzer territory, as the once great paper has hemorrhaged staff while failing miserably to comprehend the challenges and opportunities of the digital era.

Which brings us to this week’s announcement that Tribune Tronc is close to selling the “landmark” Times-Mirror compound at 1st and Spring Streets, landmark in quotes because not one part of this magnificent compound is a protected Historic-Cultural Monument. Not Gordon B. Kaufmann’s broad-shouldered 1935 Art Deco jewel box with its glowing neon clock, not Rowland Crawford’s boldly vertical 1948 Times Mirror addition, not William Peirera’s elegant, and widely misunderstood, 1973 black glass corporate headquarters.

Although the lobbies of the Kaufmann and Crawford buildings are accessible, much of the compound remains a mystery to the public and sadly, in recent years to newspaper staff as well.

With a sale possible and no civic protection for these important buildings, as a public service we share these interior photos, shot last fall while scouting locations for an Angels Flight Railway benefit. In the end, we held it at the Million Dollar Theater. But we sure did enjoy our spin around the old Times HQ, and think you will, too. Long may she stand.

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Post updated to include a link to our colleague Nathan Marsak’s appearance on “Press Play with Madeleine Brand” talking about the preservation concerns surrounding the proposed sale.