“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

 

Celebrate William Pereira’s 110th Birthday by Taking A Selfie With Buildings You Love

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

Today, in partnership with The Late Group, we celebrate the 110th birthday of William Pereira, one of the most influential shapers of mid-twentieth-century California. His scope and innovations range from the LAX Theme Building (our Eiffel Tower) to LACMA (the cultural crown of midcentury Los Angeles), from Marineland of the Pacific to CBS Television City, from the Disneyland Hotel to UC San Diego’s Geisel Library, from the Transamerica Pyramid to UC Irvine. At dynamic aerospace and university campuses, Pereira defined the look of Imperial California when the state’s high-tech industries, media, recreation, and lifestyles were spreading across the nation and circling the globe. It was an up-to-date Modern architecture that was pushing into new creative territory as seen in the work of Craig Ellwood, John Lautner — and William Pereira. His buildings embodied the self-confidence and creativity of Californian’s in this progressive era.

Today this legacy — and this self-confidence — is under threat as Pereira’s L.A. Times Chandler Wing, LACMA, and the Metropolitan Water District face demolition.

On the map below, Pereira designs that are at risk of being lost are shown as flaming points. Help raise awareness and show your love for Pereira by visiting your favorite local landmark, taking a selfie with the building and sharing it on social media with the hashtag #PereiraForever, from April 25, 2019 (William Pereira’s 110th birthday) and all through California’s Preservation Month of May. Vintage photos are also welcome, or landmark only shots if you are shy. Learn more about the Pereira in Peril campaign here.

Who Blew The Whistle On the USC Architectural Artifacts Warehouse Heist?

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Freeman House by Julius Shulman, 1953 (Getty Research Institute Los Angeles)

In exposing one distressing historic architecture world mystery, The Los Angeles Times might have just solved a second one.

As we read The Times’ story about the unreported theft of significant decorative objects from a Los Angeles warehouse, we were reminded of a lingering question regarding the curatorship of Greene & Greene’s Gamble House, a landmark that is jointly managed in a partnership between the University of Southern California and the City of Pasadena.

Below are several news stories and events, all related to significant Los Angeles County architectural landmarks with links to USC.

February 3, 2019 – Based on an investigation sparked by an anonymous tip, The Los Angeles Times reveals that priceless Frank Lloyd Wright and Rudolph Schindler furniture and artifacts were stolen from a USC warehouse circa 2012, but that no police reports were ever filed.

June 7, 2018 – Chicago auction house Wright sells a single textile block from the USC-owned, Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Samuel Freeman House, an artifact with poor provenance, for $5000. Weeks later, “The Times received an anonymous email describing the warehouse theft. The author also included a link to the auction and wrote that even if the sale was not connected to the theft, it was troubling. How could the tile have fallen into private hands when its ownership had passed directly from the Freemans to USC, the writer asked.”

August 10, 2018 – It is announced that Gamble House curator Ted Bosley intends to depart at the end of the year after 28 years over “differences of approach between himself and USC School of Architecture leaders over the future of the Craftsman icon.” No explanation of the differences of approach is given, leaving lovers of Greene & Greene’s great residential commission concerned, especially in light of the recent series of serious administrative scandals at USC.

We can’t help but wonder if recently departed Gamble House curator Ted Bosley is the anonymous tipster who alerted The Los Angeles Times to the USC warehouse theft, and if he lost his university position because the administrators who covered up the theft learned that he blew the whistle.

The community deserves to know the truth—about the warehouse theft, about any other losses of significant historical material in USC’s care, and about exactly how USC intends to do things differently at the Gamble House. It would be very sad if a dedicated professional was dismissed for doing the right thing, when USC would not. For while USC is charged with the responsibility of maintaining these landmark properties, they actually belong to you.

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

LATEST NEWS: On May 20, 2019, we submitted public comment on the Times Mirror Square redevelopment project Draft EIR. You can find it at a blog post entitled “Frankly, it smells.”

On May 12, 2019, we published hundreds of emails received by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors prior to their approval of LACMA’s FEIR, and petitioned them to reconsider their decision to demolish the historic 1965 William Pereira campus.

On May 12, 2019, The Los Angeles Times reports troubling news about cracks appearing inside and out of the newly landmarked Los Angeles Times buildings– damage which might further slow progress on Metro’s Regional Connector, which could fail to hit the 2023 deadline for a $670 Million Federal Grant.

On April 9, 2019, the Los Angeles County Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the LACMA redesign project, which would require demolition of the 1965 Pereira campus. Enjoy it while you still can.

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)

June 12, 2019: The Architect’s Newspaper – Cracks found on L.A. Times building ahead of controversial development.

May 12, 2019, The Los Angeles Times reports troubling news about cracks appearing inside and out of the newly landmarked Los Angeles Times buildings– damage which might further slow progress on Metro’s Regional Connector, which could fail to hit the 2023 deadline for a $670 Million Federal Grant.

March 2019 – Draft EIR for Times Mirror Square development project published. The public can provide comment on the project by May 1320, 2019. (See our comment here.)

February 11, 2019: The Real Deal – Forget celebrity mansions, this tour would highlight LA councilman’s alleged misdeeds. Preservationists plan to show people spots tied to Jose Huizar scandals, anti-corruption crusades.

February 7, 2019: Los Angeles Times – Real estate developer Onni Group wants to raze a 1973 office building designed by William Pereira, part of its plan for building two residential towers. Onni gave $50,000 to a committee with ties to Councilman Jose Huizar two months before a crucial vote on the site.

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

July 9, 2019, L.A. Times – A devastating take down of the planned, mindless destruction of 50 years of curation and collecting at LACMA, in the form of an open letter to Peter Zumthor, who is over in the old country, fingers in his ears, singing “La la la, I can’t hear you!” (But the last lines are wrong: the Pereira must go to clear room for this dog.)

July 3, 2019, Curbed L.A. – LACMA architect Peter Zumthor comments on revised design “So far, I see no difficulties”

June 25, 2019, Los Angeles Times – LACMA opposition group vows to keep fighting the museum’s Zumthor plan.

June 12, 2019: The Architect’s Newspaper – Cracks found on L.A. Times building ahead of controversial development.

June 10, 2019 – CBS Television City logo removed, in violation of the landmark designation (PDF) which protects the original eye graphic. Following public outcry, it returned.

May 30, 2019, Los Feliz Ledger survey of the upzoned TOC projects along Sunset Boulevard, including the enormous 1111 W. Sunset, which threatens William Pereira’s Metropolitan Water District campus.

May 28, 2019, Fix The City Files Lawsuit Challenging the LACMA EIR on the Ogden Garage.

May 16, 2019, Larchmont Buzz – coverage of publication of emails sent to the Los Angeles County Supervisors and the LACMA Lovers League petition

May 15, 2019, artnetNews – A New Petition Calls on Los Angeles’s Board of Supervisors to Reconsider LACMA’s Controversial Redesign

May 13, 2019, The Architect’s Newspaper – LACMA Lovers League starts petition to pause Zumthor’s new building

May 13, 2019: Los Angeles Times critic Christopher Knight finds Peter Zumthor’s gallery interiors old fashioned, and completely unsuitable for hanging art in earthquake country.

May 12, 2019: We published hundreds of emails received by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors prior to their approval of LACMA’s FEIR, and petitioned them to reconsider their decision to demolish the historic 1965 William Pereira campus.

May 12, 2019: The Los Angeles Times reports troubling news about cracks appearing inside and out of the newly landmarked Los Angeles Times buildings–damage which could further slow progress on Metro’s Regional Connector, which might fail to hit the 2023 deadline for a $670 Million Federal Grant. It is unclear what damage, if any, has been found in the Pereira building.

April 25, 2019: We celebrate William Pereira’s 110th birthday in partnership with The Late Group encouraging people to take selfies with favorite Pereira buildings. Find your nearest and dearest landmark on the map and share on social media today and all through May (California Preservation Month) with the hashtag #PereiraForever

April 9, 2019: Ignoring widespread critical and public calls to reject an EIR that raises more questions than it answers, the Los Angeles County Supervisors, joined by celebrity pals, voted unanimously to demolish Pereira’s historic 1965 LACMA campus. The project now requires City Council to give the museum the air space above Wilshire Boulevard. (L.A. Times, New York Times, Curbed L.A.)

April 9, 2019: Los Angeles County Supervisors to vote on LACMA project. Public feedback can be made by email or in person.

April 5, 2019: L.A. Review of Books – LACMA: Suicide by Architecture. “The County Board of Supervisors is now scheduled to vote on April 9 to approve funds based on a deceptive document without having seen a fully documented project or accurate square footage numbers.”

April 2, 2019: L.A. Times – LACMA, the Incredible Shrinking Museum: A critic’s lament.

March 29, 2019: L.A. Times – In a new redesign LACMA experiences shrinkage — and shapeshifts yet again.

March 25, 2019: Curbed L.A. – LACMA by Zumthor, 2019 edition: “under the newly released plans, the building would be 347,500 sq feet—40,000 sq feet smaller than the last version and more than 45,000 sq feet smaller than the four existing [Pereira] LACMA buildings that will be razed.”

February 11, 2019: The Real Deal – Forget celebrity mansions, this bus tour would highlight LA councilman’s alleged misdeeds. Preservationists plan to show people spots tied to Jose Huizar scandals, anti-corruption crusades.

February 7, 2019: Los Angeles Times – Real estate developer Onni Group wants to raze a 1973 office building designed by William Pereira, part of its plan for building two residential towers. Onni gave $50,000 to a committee with ties to Councilman Jose Huizar two months before a crucial vote on the site.

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.