Esotouric’s Los Angeles Historic Preservation 2017 year-end list

Gentle reader…

As we slam the door on 2017, it’s time for that annual Esotouric tradition: our very opinionated list of the past year’s Top Los Angeles Historic Preservation Stories.

Because preservation is never as simple as buildings being lost forever or rescued from the brink, the list is split into three sections: the Gains, the Losses, and those Bittersweet moments that hover somewhere in the middle, and keep us up nights. We hope you find the list by turns thought-provoking, infuriating and inspiring, and that 2018 will see some of the Bittersweets tip over onto the Gains side of the fence.

Los Angeles Historic Preservation Gains of 2017:

G1. Angels Sing: After several years of non-operation, during which time the lovely little landmark suffered grave humiliation, Angels Flight Railway returned to daily service, thanks to a private partnership cemented by the Mayor’s Office, in direct response to the pleas of civic petitioners like you.

G2. Such A Lovely Place: After Westlake’s Hotel Californian burned in 1995, only the most optimistic preservationist—is there such an animal?—dared dream its massive, rusting twin neon roof signs would ever glow again. But dreams can come true when people care enough to do the work. And while a recent transformer issue has temporarily shut off the lights, soon you’ll again be able to marvel at that sweet script in the sky.

G3. In Sacred Memory: Angelenos who fell in the Great War have no better friend than Courtland Jindra, the modest preservation powerhouse who sleuths out the locations and histories of local war memorials, and has recently added restoration to his resume. Victory Memorial Grove was a forgotten ruin on the edge of Elysian Park, but thanks to Courtland and his crew, it is once again a beautiful place of remembrance, with new tree plantings to come.

G4. Dream Factory: Against the backdrop of Hollywood’s hyper-development excess, one project stands out for its audacious attempt to redesign Sunset Boulevard itself. Named for the exquisite National Register landmark at its eastern edge, Crossroads of the World seeks to demolish dozens of 1930s apartment units and the historic art deco HQ of The Hollywood Reporter. But not so fast, bulldozers: thanks to the passionate advocacy of local preservationists and historians, our company town landmark now has some civic protection. Special thanks to the Art Deco Society, with its new focus on writing landmark nominations.

G5. Final Exit: The Hotel Cecil was just another of Downtown L.A.’s 1920s-era low-income residency hotels, and occasional stop on our true crime tours, when a pitch-perfect internet-era mystery captured the world’s attention. While Vancouver tourist Elisa Lam’s sad death inside the rooftop water tower was ruled accidental, public fascination with the Cecil’s supposed curse has only intensified. But despite the lobby’s unfortunate recent faux finishes, the old girl has great bones, and new management that’s sought and received historic landmark designation. Restoration coming soon.

G6. Rock On: If you love music history, Hollywood history, civil rights history and great architecture, then Musicians’ Union Local 47 matters to you. Founded in 1897, its members have shaped motion picture soundtracks since the dawn of the talkies, and uncountable hit records. The handsome Vine Street union hall, master architect Gordon Kaufmann’s last commission, became one of the first integrated performance guilds in America in 1953. The union recently sold the building and moved to Burbank, but the future of the old union hall is a little less uncertain now that it’s passed the first hurdle on the road to becoming an Historic Cultural Monument. Cheers to John Girodo of Hollywood Heritage for writing a terrific nomination.

G7. Home Is Worth Fighting For: Hurrah for Lena Kouyoumdjian, who successfully nominated her lovely rental, in one of Echo Park’s rare surviving bungalow courts, as a landmark. These distinctly Southern California compounds are rich with history, and provide a rare sense of community in the heart of the city. But Wurfl Court faced that growing threat: demolition of historic rent-stabilized housing stock for a newly-permitted “small lot development” of high-priced tiny houses. Of note: landmarking is contagious, and successful nominations inspire future fights.

G8. Sugar Pill: The Cranky Preservationist went down to Sugar Hill, West Adams to gripe about the hipster murals that had defaced a fine old house (inside and out), but it turns out 2200 Harvard has been sold, and is finally getting some respect.

Los Angeles Historic Preservation Losses of 2017:

L1. Joe Friday Wept: The Cultural Heritage Commission tried, but couldn’t overcome City Council’s plan to clear a large plot by City Hall for development. In the cross hairs: Welton Becket’s masterful mid-century Parker Center (“not one of [his] best works” – Councilman Jose Huizar, justifying a travesty), the world’s first modern police administration building and the finest International Style structure in L.A.’s portfolio. Demolition appears inevitable, but first the city must document the building, and ensure the removal and re-installation of integrated art pieces by Joseph Young and Tony Rosenthal. Preservationists and even one of the architects lament the city’s short-sightedness.

L2. Hot Stuff: Since 1910, the magnificent Mission Revival-style Heather Apartments have occupied the slightly sinister address of 666 South Bonnie Brae, but it’s years since anyone has lived inside. In April, the Santa Ana winds picked up an arsonist’s spark and tuned this derelict gem into kindling wood. The fire department’s photos are astonishing, and the Cranky Preservationist aghast.

L3. His Horrid Hobby: Imagine, if you will, spending years painstakingly restoring a magnificent 1902 mansion by Griffith Observatory architect John C. Austin, seeing it declared a landmark, then selling for a pretty penny. A happy ending, yes? Not when the buyer is serial home wrecker Xorin Balbes (not his real name), who felt that all that gorgeous dark wood had to go. Just a few months later, the “protected” Higgins-Verbeck-Hirsch Mansion is languishing on the market, the best illustration we know for how desperately Los Angeles needs an interior landmarking ordinance.

L4. His Excellency Regrets: Sometimes we only learn of a landmark when informed of its pending loss. Such was the case with a fine Koreatown mansion which, we discovered when researching the address, had been the home-in-exile of Mexican Revolutionary General Maytorena. Illegal demolition stymied any attempt at saving the home or its stunning stained glass.

L5. Park It: It’s no secret that we’re in love with John Parkinson’s 1910 design for Pershing Square, and yearn to see it return. But that doesn’t mean we’re enjoying the city’s slow destruction of the extant Ricardo Legorreta + Laurie Olin Brutalist park plan and its integrated artwork. Meanwhile, an unfunded redesign scheme now proposes to block the classic Biltmore view with LED lights. Is it so hard to just do the sensible thing and restore?

L6. No Room To Grow: It’s ironic, as LACMA scrounges around for a billion dollars to finance demolition of its iconic 1965 William Pereira campus for a slightly smaller Wilshire-spanning mausoleum, that it leased A.C. Martin’s & S.A. Marx’ streamline moderne May Company department store to the Academy for a museum of the movies. That project has hit some potholes, but none deep enough to stop the removal of the back half of the building.

L7. Storm The Bastille: When hillside Silver Lake bar-restaurant El Cid demolished half of its sidewalk-facing wall, it broke our hearts. Although altered somewhat since 1925, that windowless facade, with a wide door at the center, was built as a daffy roadside attraction, the Jail Cafe, featuring waiters in prisoner stripes serving swells chicken dinners, with no silverware, inside mock jail cells. The world is a little less weird for loss of that wall.

L8. Lights Out: A concerned fan sounded the alarm that Vermonica, artist Sheila Klein’s beloved 1993 installation of historic L.A. streetlights had mysteriously vanished from its East Hollywood parking lot home. Turns out, street lighting staff had reclaimed the poles, but failed inform the artist. Something that is Not Vermonica currently shines on a nearby city building, but Klein and the Mayor’s office are now in talks to bring the real deal back to the city that loves it.

L9. Brookfield Broke It: When the Community Redevelopment Agency demolished every building on Bunker Hill, Los Angeles was promised something new and useful in return for the lost Victorian neighborhood. High-rise developers received huge subsidies to provide public art and amenities, in return for agreeing to maintain these civic handouts. Flash forward to last week, when Brookfield Properties, recent buyer of Wells Fargo Tower, illegally demolished landscape architect Lawrence Halprin’s Crocker Court (1983), an oasis of running water, mature plants and world-class sculpture.  The timing couldn’t have been more shocking: a touring Halprin exhibition was at the A+D Museum, and the Los Angeles Conservancy had just toured the site. The Cranky Preservationist explains where the buck stops, here.

Los Angeles Historic Preservation Bittersweet Moments of 2017:

B1. Bad News: It’s been a long, slow slide for the Los Angeles Times since the Chandler family sold the paper. The Chicago owners continue to bleed its assets, recently selling the landmark (but not actually landmarked) newspaper buildings to Canadian developer Onni Group. Onni is marketing the compound as a hip work space, with Times staff likely evicted by summer. If the newspaper leaves, what of the magnificent Globe Lobby? It would be a civic and aesthetic crime to take it apart, even assuming the newspaper still owns its artifacts, which is uncertain.  As for William Pereira’s masterful, if misunderstood, 1973 addition: Onni wants to demolish it for twin glass towers. There’s a reason no local developer bought the Times compound: if respect for a Los Angeles institution was included in the equation, the financials just didn’t pencil out. That’s not an issue for foreign investors. So if any local billionaires are reading this, it’s your last chance to buy paper and preserve its historic home.

B2. Covina on The Nile: Covina Bowl (Powers, Daly, and DeRosa, 1956) closed last March, leaving fans and preservationists concerned about the fate of the wildest Egyptian-Googie bowling center in the world. Eligible for the National Register, the exotic white elephant patiently waits for a visionary to save it, or a villain to knock it down.

B3. Frank Slept Here: Doug Quill is a filmmaker with an office on the old United Artist’s / Goldwyn Studios lot. When he learned that Frank Sinatra’s personal bungalow was threatened by demolition to make room for a DWP infrastructure project, he petitioned to save it. It seemed the least he could do, since his grandfather had played in Sinatra’s band! After Doug asked for help from the DWP Commissioners, the bungalow got a stay of execution while possible solutions are explored. It’s not saved, but still standing, so there’s hope.

B4. Rhymes With Kitten: We’re big fans of architect Kurt Meyer, who was the firm hand at the CRA that ensured that Central Library was preserved and restored. Now one of his own finest buildings, the marvelous mid-century Lytton Savings, is threatened. Although recently designated as a landmark, starchitect Frank Gehry refuses to adapt his project to spare Meyer’s work. It will be up to the courts, City Council and the continued dedication of Lytton lovers Steven Luftman and Keith Nakata, to keep this art-drenched Sunset Strip gem intact.

B5. Attractive Nuisance: Victorian Los Angeles provided a safe place for its indigent and ill, a vast farm and industrial complex called Rancho Los Amigos, aka The Downey Poor Farm. Today, its decaying buildings are fenced and shuttered, which only sometimes keeps out the urban explorers who have defaced the buildings with graffiti and set a series of major fires. But after decades of indecision, the County is taking a serious look at how best to redevelop the site, and we’re encouraged to hear that preservation of existing structures is on the table.  Hopefully, affordable housing will be on the table, too.

B6. Elegant Decay: Also in Downey, are things finally looking up for the columned Rives Mansion, a National Register landmark badly neglected by its “owners” (owners in quotes, because they stopped paying their mortgage years ago)? Finally, after a fence collapsed from the weight of accumulated garbage, the bank and city took notice. The mansion sold in December, hopefully to a preservation-minded buyer.

B7. Adobe Don’t: One of the oldest houses in Los Angeles County, home to a California Governor, molders away in the middle of a Bell Gardens trailer park, desperately in need of roof and electrical work and informed interpretation. A recent L.A. Magazine feature looks at the Gage Mansion preservation problem, but fails to cover all the drama of our years-long public access battle. For that story, join us on the South L.A. Road Trip!

B8. A Dog-Gone Shame: In 1938, veterinarian to the stars Eugene C. Jones commissioned architects Walter Wurdeman and Welton Becket, in a rare collaboration, to design a Streamline Moderne animal hospital. Decades later, the neglected structure was hidden behind overgrown trees, and its provenance deliberately obscured by development-happy politicos. West Hollywood Heritage Project discovered the subterfuge, and have tirelessly campaigned to save this endangered landmark. We were encouraged when the Los Angeles Conservancy joined the cause and sued West Hollywood to compel preservation, then horrified when the back side of the “vacant” building caught fire, with a homeless man, known to the owners to be living inside, killed by smoke inhalation. Arson and murder investigations are ongoing. But a judge has ruled against  preservation, which leaves us hoping developer inertia leaves the door open for the still gorgeous building to be moved. If it falls, it won’t be without notice.

B9. Too Cool Too Lose: After initial discussions about demolishing not just the buildings, but perhaps even the prominent hill on which they sit, serious architectural and landscape guns were brought in to redevelop William Pereira’s neglected Metropolitan Water District HQ, a prime focus of our Pereira in Peril campaign. We’re watching this project with cautious optimism.

B10. Star Power: Another day, another Pereira in Peril (there’s LACMA, too, see L6 above). CBS Television City, the world’s first and most glamorous purpose-built TV production studio, is on the market. Concerned that inflated land values make demolition likely, the Los Angeles Conservancy has stepped in with a landmarking nomination, their first such attempt to preserve an endangered Pereira compound.  In a Times Op-Ed, ironic since their own Pereira building is endangered, Zev Yaroslavsky highlights the need to preserve an architectural and cultural treasure that supports high paying professional jobs.

B11. Pulling Strings: The landmark Bob Baker Marionette Theater will be be demolished, but Baker’s magical puppet shows going to return to a new theater inside the development project slated for the site.

B12. Men Behaving Badly: For film fans, the sudden shuttering of the Cinefamily non-profit was a cultural loss. For emotionally abused employees and volunteers, it was a validation and relief. But preservationists and Hollywood historians lament the closure of the Silent Movie Theatre in its 75th year of operation, and hope this isn’t its final curtain.

B13. Tails We Lose: For all the owners’ big talk about bringing the beloved Tail O’ The Pup stand out of storage and restoring it for a new generation of photo ops and quick meals, nobody did the actual work required to launch a restaurant. The end of the line for the promised roadside revival is a static museum display. And the original wasn’t even in the valley! Meanwhile, to the east, the world’s biggest tamale is also in mothballs.

B14. Daffy Deco Gone Dark: Among our most-missed tour stops is Monrovia’s incredible Aztec Hotel (1924), actually Mayan-inspired and designed by eccentric English architect Robert Stacy-Judd, who held court there in ancient Central American ritual garb. The National Register landmark has had hard times since the start, with repeated foreclosures and some downright peculiar “restoration” work. The hotel reverted to the bank in 2011, and was purchased by a Chinese investor. Although the storefronts remain active, and the restaurant recently reopened, the hotel remains inaccessible, undergoing agonizingly slow renovations. We’re hoping for a grand reopening in 2018.

B15. Band-Aid Solution: New chain-link fencing ruins the beauty of Pasadena’s National Register Colorado Street Bridge. It’s not that we’re insensitive to how important it is to help people thinking of self-harm, but the bridge already has integrated suicide prevention fencing that was installed when it was restored in 1992, which blended in with the design of the span. This new fencing is very ugly, and blocks off the alcove benches that give pedestrians a place to rest and look at the view. The bridge deserves better, and we’re glad to hear the city will be exploring alternative designs.

B16. Stone Drag: Charles Fletcher Lummis saved the California Missions, and did much to preserve the history of Native Americans and Mexican California. If only that great Western booster was around to advocate for the preservation and reactivation of his own historic home El Alisal, city owned, minimally managed by Rec and Parks, and brimming with potential. Every year that goes by without regular cultural programming at Lummis House is a heartbreaking civic failure.

B17. Just Because You Can: Everyone loves the Bradbury Building, California’s greatest surviving Victorian commercial space. Well, everyone except the uninspired folks behind the insensitive LED lighting scheme which makes the exterior remarkably ugly after dark.

B18. Doesn’t Mean You Should: When William Kesling’s streamline moderne Wallace Beery House (1936) was recently on the market, the listing highlighted its remarkable condition and unique machine-age charms. The realized price reflected the home’s condition and rarity. What an unpleasant year-end surprise, then, to learn it had been purchased by a developer eager to demolish the house for a dense cluster of condos. Preservationists have kicked into high gear, hoping to protect this gem.

B19. Vegas on Vine: Remember Onni Group, the Canadians eager to evict the newspaper from the Los Angeles Times building? They’re busy in Hollywood, too, with an outrageous proposal to erect a landlocked cruise ship looming over the lovely Afton Square District, which is designed on the California State Register. The project seeks a 35% density bonus, and proposes to move a collection of historic bungalows around like pawns on a chessboard and demolish a fine 1930 Art Deco market. Although presented as 429-unit apartment complex (hey, L.A. needs housing!), we suspect it will be another unpermitted hotel, a destructive model Onni got in trouble over at home in Vancouver before importing to L.A.

B20. Spinning Wheel: On a hot summer’s day in sleepy Arcadia, where the last Googie-style Van De Kamp’s Holland Dutch Bakery restaurant (1967) stands proudly on Huntington Boulevard, Denny’s executives were on hand to throw the switch on the restored, spinning windmill sign, a beloved local landmark brought back to life through the Quixotic efforts of former mayor George Fasching. Last week, after just 18 months of service, the restored Van De Kamp’s windmill blade fell off the tower. A few days earlier, we saw no sign of trouble. Locals are shocked and eager for assurance that Denny’s will re-restore, but as yet there’s been no official word on what went wrong or on plans for the sign’s future.

*      *      *

And that’s our report on the state of Los Angeles preservation for 2017. To see past years’ lists, click here: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012. And to stay informed all year round, see our Los Angeles History Happenings group on Facebook, subscribe to our newsletter and visit the Los Angeles Historic Preservation Hotspots map, where you can find nearby trouble spots.

Our guided bus tours return with The Real Black Dahlia on January 6, on the crest of the 71st anniversary of Beth Short’s disappearance and an especially haunting date to walk in the footsteps of this fascinating and mysterious lady. This tour is nearly full, so reserve soon if you’d like to ride, then stay tuned as we kick off our 11th Anniversary Year of loving, preserving and telling the stories of Los Angeles. See you on (or off) the bus!

yrs,
Kim and Richard
Esotouric

Metropolitan Water District landmarking vote reveals recent gutting of Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission

PETITION: Mayor Eric Garcetti, Fill the Vacant Seat on the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission.

On Thursday afternoon, September 15, 2016 an SRO crowd gathered in room 1010 of Los Angeles City Hall for the final hearing in the historic-cultural monument consideration process for William L. Pereira’s 1963 Metropolitan Water District campus at 1111 West Sunset Boulevard.

Presentations were made by Pam O’Connor and nominator Yuval Bar-Zemer (in favor) and Bill Delvac and Jenna Snow representing the property owner (opposed). Members of the public spoke about the property: two dozen in favor of preserving it (among them, the architect’s daughter Monica Pereira), two opposed. Bar-Zemer also presented the Commissioners with a pro-landmarking petition containing more than 600 names.

The Commissioners acknowledged that it had been a long day—we heard that security had already been called during the contentious Miracle Mile HPOZ agenda item, and they also were called during this item—and that they believed that determination on the MWD property was problematic due to alterations, some done by the prior church tenant in the 1990s, others done just a few months ago by the property owner apparently (though the Commissioners did not say this) in an attempt to render the property less suitable for landmarking.

When the vote came, it split 2-2, Commission president Richard Barron and Commissioner Jeremy Irvine somewhat reluctantly opposed to landmarking, Commission vice president Gail Kennard and Commissioner Barry Milofsky in favor.

chc-agenda-header-with-5-commissioners-shown-september-15-2016We had noticed through the whole afternoon that Commissioner Elissa Scrafano wasn’t at the dais. But it wasn’t until the vote was tabulated that her absence was explained, to the great dismay of the many citizens who had taken half their day to attend what they believed would be a fair hearing, with an informed Commission vote determining the fate of the endangered mid-century campus.

Although her name appears on the agenda for the hearing, in fact Elissa Scrafano is no longer a member of the Cultural Heritage Commission!

In July, Mayor Garcetti appointed Ms. Scrafano to the Cultural Affairs Commission to fill the vacancy created by Mari Edelman, who resigned. This appointment leaves both Commissions unbalanced and unable to break tie votes: the CAC now has 6 sitting commissioners, the CHC 4.

In the absence of Ms. Scrafano, there was nobody able to break the tie vote for landmarking the MWD, which means no action will be taken. With no new Commissioner nominated by the Mayor, and no CHC meeting scheduled in the 75 day window from when the property came before the Commission, this important William Pereira campus will almost certainly be demolished by the property owner.

But there is a chance, and we’re asking you to help: we are petitioning Mayor Garcetti and several city councilmembers with significant pending landmark nominations in their districts to act promptly to correct the voting imbalance on the Cultural Heritage Commission by appointing a fifth Commissioner. We are further asking that CHC president Richard Barron extend the period of consideration and/or call a special meeting once the Commission is balanced to hold a fair and final vote on the fate of the Metropolitan Water District campus.

If you share our belief that the Cultural Heritage Commission should be fully staffed for the protection of Los Angeles landmarks, please visit the petition link here, and add your name to send a message to the Mayor, City Council and the CHC.

Video of the September 15 hearing is below. Learn more about the Pereira in Peril campaign, see videos from past site visits and learn how to join us for upcoming tours here.

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 October 18, 2019, we are pleased to announce the launch of Save LACMA, a registered 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Corporation that plans to provide a public forum through which to amplify community voices, so that the most positive future for The Los Angeles County Museum of Art can be achieved.


On October 16, 2019 the Los Angeles Planning Department was scheduled to decide the fate of Times Mirror Square. We invited the public to give public comment or send an email asking the Commissioners to “do the right thing” 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. (Facebook event link.) At the meeting, following passionate public comment as seen in the video above (and partly transcribed on our blog), the planners made no decision. This is likely due to the serious challenge to the EIR submitted by California public benefit corporation SAFER on the morning of the hearing, and reported for the first time on our blog.

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.

PRESS CLIPS & UPDATES – ALL PEREIRA IN PERIL CAMPAIGNS

September 4, 2019, Archinect – With Peter Zumthor’s LACMA in the Home Stretch, Is Los Angeles Entering its Post-Rational Phase? After museum director Michael Govan seeks to convince him of the project’s necessity, John Southern says “I believe that we have entered L.A.’s post-rational period, where cultural institutions are governed by bean counters, lawyers, and social media marketeers…”

August 30, 2019, Le Monde – Coverage of the planned transformation of the LACMA campus, concluding with preservation-minded petitioner Richard Schave’s observation, “Ce n’est pas sérieux.” (“This isn’t serious”). French original, English translation.

August 23, 2019, L.A. Times – Column: LACMA, largely closed, has become an expensive ghost town

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)


Among our most active Pereira in Peril preservation campaigns is 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.)