Posts tagged with "LA Conservancy":

Pereira’s historic CBS Television City achieves landmark status amid redevelopment rumors

The Los Angeles City Council has voted to designate the William Pereira-designed CBS Television City complex in Los Angeles as an official city historic-cultural monument, paving the way for the complex to be preserved or adaptively reused as redevelopment talks for the 25-acre site heat up. The International Style complex was built in 1952 and features gridded expanses of clear glass set along planar geometries. Designed by the firm Pereira and Luckman, the complex is among several of the office's many threatened works, including their LACMA building, among many, many others, and one of the few to glide toward landmark status in recent years, a surprise given the red-hot development climate in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Conservancy nominated the complex for landmarking earlier this year as rumors began to swirl that CBS was interested in redeveloping the complex. Alan Hess, an architectural historian who wrote the building's historic nomination on behalf of the Conservancy, told The Architect's Newspaper that "CBS Television City is a true landmark of the electronic age, and a real testament to the design and planning vision of William Pereira and Charles Luckman," adding, "They built it at the dawn of television, yet it is still in use today for its original purpose. That’s good design. It stands alongside [Richard] Neutra’s Lovell House and Skidmore Owings and Merrill’s Crown Zellerbach tower in San Francisco as one of California’s three greatest examples of International Style architecture." Hess added that the importance of the structure and its International Style design surpass its use as a television facility, as well, saying, "The International Style was inspired by the straightforward functionalism of factories, and CBS Television City is, in fact, a factory building, not a house or office building. CBS can be congratulated for being a good corporate citizen and supporting this designation." The complex came into being as a replacement facility for the Columbia Square broadcasting facilities located just a few miles away in Hollywood, CBS's original home designed by William Lescaze in 1938. Columbia Square was restored, reused, and expanded by Rios Clementi Hale Studios in 2017 as part of a larger project that added a high-rise tower and new office spaces to the site. The award-winning project has been heralded as a marquee approach for preservation-focused adaptive reuse. A potential project for the Television City site has not been announced.

Gehry’s Sunset Strip complex all clear to demolish Kurt Meyer-designed bank in L.A.

In Los Angeles—when it comes to preservation battles and development, at least—history tends to repeat itself.  Such was the case last week, as the Gehry Partners-designed 8150 Sunset complex cleared another legal hurdle in the quest to demolish an existing historic building so that the project might move one step closer to construction. The California Supreme Court refused to consider an appeal brought forth by the Los Angeles Conservancy against a recent ruling that would have allowed developers Townscape Partners to demolish the 1960s-era Lytton Savings bank designed by Los Angeles architect Kurt Meyer located on the project site. The bank itself was built following the destruction in 1959 of the storied Gardens of Allah hotel complex, an elaborate collection of villas surrounding the historic Hayvenhurst estate. In its time, the hotel hosted a who’s-who of Hollywood entertainers and literary personalities, including the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the actress Alla Nazimova—after whom the complex was originally named—Greta Garbo, the Marx brothers, Ronald Reagan, and many others. Urban legend has it that the demolition of the Gardens complex inspired the line "they paved paradise and put up a parking lot" in the Joni Mitchell song "Big Yellow Taxi,” though sources—and Mitchell herself—do not quite agree on the matter. At the time of its destruction, the Gardens complex was seen as representative of an outdated style in need of renewal. Nearly 60 years later, Frank Gehry says the existing concrete folded plate structure that replaced the gardens has “outlived its time” as well, and is incompatible with his proposed design, a rumpled collection of twisted, fluted forms set to rise on what is now the city’s Sunset Strip. Gehry has pledged to “recognize” the Lytton structure as part of the redevelopment, though he has not specified what that means. The latest mixed-use project would bring a clump of segmented towers surrounded by broad public spaces and a stepped plaza to the site. Contained within the three squat towers that make up the project would be 229 housing units, including 38 low-income designated homes. The housing element will be joined by 60,000 square feet of commercial spaces, as well.  It is unclear what’s next for the project. A statement from the L.A. Conservancy website states that the latest ruling “effectively ends legal efforts to stop the needless demolition of the historic Lytton Savings building,” however. A statement put out by Friends of Lytton Savings referred to the ruling as “bad news.” Steven Luftman and Keith Nakata of Friends of Lytton Savings said via email, “Demolishing the Lytton building will be a tremendous loss for Los Angeles. The building represents what was good about the ‘Mad Men’ era of architecture in Los Angeles:  Kurt Meyer and Bart Lytton created a soaring space that brought art, sophistication and the vision of a bright future to the people of this city.’’ A development timeline for 8150 Sunset has not been released.

Los Angeles Conservancy announces 2017 preservation awards

The Los Angeles Conservancy has selected eight recipients for the organization’s 2017 Preservation Awards. The annual designations, which celebrate “outstanding achievement in the field of historic preservation,” are culled from across Los Angeles County and include physical structures as well as organizations and preservation-minded programs. This year’s Chairman’s Award was given to SurveyLA: The Los Angeles Historic Resources Survey, a program launched by the City of Los Angeles, Department of City Planning and the J. Paul Getty Trust. It aims to survey the entirety of the City of Los Angeles’s historic heritage. The entities behind the program developed a special app that allows surveyors to digitally record survey information and photograph properties and artifacts through the use of a tablet. The survey examined over 800,000 land parcels and 500 square miles of land; the effort represents the largest survey of its kind ever completed by an American city. The survey, structured in correspondence with the city’s 35 Community Plan Areas, seeks to embed preservation awareness with the city’s planning apparatus. The LA Conservancy also made several project-based recognitions, including the recently completed redevelopment and expansion of the CBS Columbia Square complex by House & Robertson Architects, Inc. and Rios Clementi Hale Studios (RCH Studios). The Historic Resources Group served as preservation architect and consultant on the project, which sought to restore what was once the West Coast headquarters for radio and television broadcaster CBS. The restoration of the existing office, commercial, and broadcast structures will be supplemented by a large mixed-use addition located at the back of the site. CBS Columbia Square was designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 2009 and it is currently eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (though it has not yet been listed). A Cultural Landscape Report for the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden, prepared by the arboretum, was also awarded project-based recognition. The report details an extensive survey and planning mechanism for the long-term maintenance and restoration of the complex which contains important works of architecture from the early 1900s and midcentury modern eras as well as ecologically- and culturally-important landscapes. The restoration of the Kinross Cornerstone building in Westwood was also recognized. The project was originally built in 1930 by noted architect Stiles O. Clements—who also designed the Wiltern building in Los Angeles—in the Spanish Revival Style. However, it suffered incompatible alterations in the 1960s and 1970s. The building also underwent a heavy-handed seismic retrofit in the 1990s. Architects Nadel, Inc. has performed a thorough restoration of the property. Frederick Fisher and Partners’ restoration of Glendale’s Grand Central Air Terminal—Los Angeles’s first commercial airport—received an award for its meticulous attention to detail. The project entailed converting certain existing portions of the complex into an events and business center as well as creating a new visitors center to educate the public on the site’s historic significance.   The Preservation Resource Center at the Shotgun House in Santa Monica was recognized for its dogged perseverance. The building, after having been relocated three times and being threatened with demolition, is Santa Monica’s only intact shotgun house and has been repurposed as the headquarters for the Santa Monica Conservancy. The conservancy also recognized the Los Angeles Public Library’s Valley Times Photograph Collection, a digitized archive of midcentury era photographs of the San Fernando Valley originally kept by The Valley Times newspaper, which ran in print from 1946 to 1970. Lastly, the Conservancy recognized the View Park Historic District National Register Nomination in South Los Angeles, one of the largest National Register historic districts in California, the largest district in the country relating to the history of African Americans, and home to the County’s first local landmark.   The awards will be presented at a luncheon on Wednesday, May 3 at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

L.A. Conservancy sues City of Los Angeles over Frank Gehry project

The Los Angeles Conservancy is suing the City of Los Angeles for “blatantly disregarding environmental law” and violating the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by approving the Gehry Partners—designed 8150 Sunset development last month. The $300 million mixed-use project has faced community push-back from all sides, especially from wealthy neighbors who contested the project’s height, density, and parking provisions, even though the project is located on the Sunset Strip commercial corridor. Those partisans won out over the course of the approval process, as developers and even Frank Gehry himself, in an in-person testimonial before the Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM), pledged to rework the project to ameliorate community concerns. At that meeting, the starchitect said, “I’m going to make it, as best I can, something special for the community. Something that we would all be proud of.” The development was ultimately approved by PLUM and, later on, the L.A. City Council, but with a few caveats. In a nod to the neighbors’ concerns, the project’s residential towers were approved with a 56-foot height reduction, an additional number of affordable housing units, and increased number of parking stalls. Overall, the project will contain 229 market rate units, including 38 affordable units, 65,000 square feet of commercial space, and 494 parking spaces in a group of rumpled towers located on a site featuring multiple public plazas and ground-floor retail. But one point the designers and developers behind the project would not flex on—and that neither PLUM nor the L.A. City Council were eager to emphasize—was whether to save the historic, modernist-style Lytton Savings bank building currently occupying a portion of the site from demolition. The iconic structure, which features a striking folded concrete roof and large expanses of glass, became a rallying point for preservationists who were not necessarily against the project, per se, but hoped the developers would incorporate the structure into the proposal. The bank building was designed in 1960 by Kurt Meyer and since plans were announced, a group of preservationists rallied around saving the structure. The structure was quickly nominated as a Historic Cultural Monument (HCM) status by Friends of Lytton Savings. HCM status offers some degree of protection against demolition, except that PLUM delayed the structure's nomination and the L.A. City Council was able to approve 8150 Sunset in the augmented form described above. The building’s existence is now in peril, and as a result, the Los Angeles Conservancy has filed suit to “force the City of Los Angeles’s compliance with (CEQA).” The Conservancy argues that under CEQA regulations, a project must “avoid significant impacts such as the demolition of a historical resource if the fundamental project objectives can be met without demolition.” The Conservancy’s logic stems from a series of development proposals incorporated into the Environmental Impact Report (found here) developed as part of the project’s approval process that called for reusing the structure as part of the commercial component of the Gehry Partners development (the building currently operates as a Chase Bank branch). Those alternatives, however, were shut out of consideration by the developers, who simply preferred to start with a blank site. Previously, Adrian Scott Fine, director of advocacy for the LA Conservancy, had told The Architect’s Newspaper that the Gehry project would “unnecessarily demolish a historic cultural monument,” and added,  “there’s a very clear way for this project to move forward while preserving the bank building.”  Friends of Lytton Savings founder Steven Luftman told The Architect's Newspaper via email that his group is "still proceeding with the Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument (HCM) application with the full support of Councilmember David Ryu. The application goes to a vote with the LA City Council on Wednesday December 7th."  When asked whether the group would support relocating the endangered structure as part of a comprehensive preservation approach, Luftman replied, "We continue to believe the best solution is for the building to remain at its current site. Incorporating this city's rich architectural past with the new project can lead to an exciting and vibrant development," adding "(Lytton Savings) functions beautifully as a bank and it has wonderful potential for adaptive reuse. Once the alternatives are appropriately explored, as a last resort we would consider a sincere commitment by the developer to relocate the building." For now, however, the Lytton Savings bank stands imperiled as part of a long line of Modernist structures falling to the wrecking ball and the project stands to move forward as approved.

Gehry Partners’ 8150 Sunset unanimously approved by L.A. City Council

After much political wrangling and the promise of several key changes to the project, Gehry and Partners’ $300-million mixed-use project, 8150 Sunset, has been approved by the Los Angeles City Council, taking the controversial project one step closer toward beginning construction. Designs for 8150 Sunset, which was originally designed to add 249-units of market rate housing, 37 units of affordable housing, and 65,000 square feet of retail space to the Sunset Strip, were originally approved by the Los Angeles City Planning Commission back in August. The project features a cluster of five buildings grouped around public open spaces with commercial areas along the ground floor and a 15-story tower marking the northwestern corner of the site. The L.A. City Council’s approval comes a week after the project cleared the city’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee in a five-hour long meeting that included community input, as well as an in-person testimonial by architect Frank Gehry in support of the project. At that meeting, local Councilperson David Ryu dogged the project for its height, density, and paltry affordable housing component while also citing worries among community members that the project, as proposed, would badly increase traffic in the area. The meeting resulted in developers Townscape Partners agreeing to shorten the tower to 178-feet in height, increase the overall affordable housing allotment slightly, and provide an additional $2 million in funding for traffic mitigation measures. At the meeting, Ryu highlighted the project’s passage as the result of healthy compromise, stating, “8150 Sunset Blvd. is a much better project today” because of the agreed upon changes. Although developers Townscape Partners and the architect have wrestled with neighborhood and City Council opposition for months, the question of whether—and how—to save the historically significant Lytton Savings Bank building currently occupying the site is still an open question. Designed by Kurt Meyer in 1960, the late-modernist bank building is capped by a distinctive folded concrete roof plane and was recently approved as a city historic-cultural landmark in September. Back then, Adrian Scott-Fine, director of advocacy for the Los Angeles Conservancy, told The Architect’s Newspaper that the Gehry project—as presented—would “unnecessarily demolish a historic cultural monument,” adding “there's a very clear way for this project to move forward and preserve this bank building.” Consideration of the historic building’s future will be taken up by the City Council in November, when it will be decided whether to save the building or not and if so, whether to incorporate the structure into Gehry’s scheme or simply relocate the relic to a different site.

Two historic L.A. structures saved from demolition (for now)

Two historically-significant structures in Los Angeles were temporarily granted a reprieve from the wrecking ball last month when both were approved by the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Committee (CHC) to receive cultural landmark status as a Historic-Cultural Monument. One structure, the Charlotte and Robert Disney House, a craftsman bungalow that served as Walt Disney’s first Los Angeles residence and the location of his first animation and production facilities in the region, was recently being eyed as a potential tear-down property. A demolition permit was filed by the owner to remove the one story structure and garage to enable new construction. Located in the Los Feliz neighborhood, the house originally owned by Walt Disney’s uncle and aunt, and was used by the visionary storyteller as a temporary residence in the early 1920s when he first moved to the Los Angeles area.  The structure was recently listed on the Los Angeles Conservancy’s preservation watch list, a designation that brought public attention to its impending demolition and helped convince the CHC to take action on the structure's nomination. Adrian Scott-Fine, director of advocacy for the Los Angeles Conservancy, credited a diverse partnership between activists and city officials for the preservation success, telling The Architect's Newspaper (AN) over the telephone, “The Disney residence represents another threatened building where the Department of City Planning stepped up to the plate and initiated the nomination process.” Community and political will toward preserving the vernacular structure was anchored by the cultural and symbolic importance of Disney’s work in that community and in Los Angeles at-large. A second structure, the midcentury modern Lytton Savings Bank building designed by Kurt W. Meyer in 1960 , has also cleared the CHC’s vetting process. That structure has been under threat of demolition to make way for 8150 Sunset, a Gehry and Partners-designed development proposed by Townscape Partners. The $300-million complex is organized as a pair of towers stacked above an articulated podium, rising between five and 15 stories above the city, on a site carved into multiple, leafy public plazas fronting the Sunset Strip. The design for 8150 Sunset was approved by the Los Angeles City Planning Commission (LACPC) in August and aims to add 249-units of market rate housing, 37 units of affordable housing, as well as 65,000 square feet of retail space. One problem: The developer’s preferred scheme calls for a blank site, wiped clean of the historic bank. The bank’s architectural features, a roof made of folded concrete plates and expanses of glass and stone, invigorated preservationists to make a case for the structure. Scott-Fine told AN that the Gehry project, as presented, would “unnecessarily demolish a historic cultural monument,” and that “there's a very clear way for this project to move forward while preserving the bank building.” The developers were prepared for this turn of events and presented various options for the development to the LACPC in an Environmental Impact Report, including several of which called for the preservation and restoration of the bank structure. The project has been controversial on multiple levels, with other neighborhood factions decrying the project’s density, height, and massing. The LACPC’s project approval itself was contingent on the developers boosting the affordable housing component of the project by nine additional units, from 28 units to 37 units. Regarding where preservation in relation to other complex urban issues like affordability, gentrification, and development, Scott-Fine told AN, “One doesn’t trump another, nor are they mutually exclusive. You can achieve multiple goals at once,” adding, "Starchitecture doesn't trump our heritage." Next, both of the structures will head to the City Council's Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee for final approval of their nomination status. So far, Townscape Partners have not issued a statement on the bank's nomination. 

Finally! Frank Lloyd Wright Ennis House Sold After Two Year Wait

Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis House in Los Angeles, which went on the market back in June 2009 for $15 million has finally sold for less than a third of that: $4.5 million. Local business mogul Ron Burkle, who also owns the historic Greenacres/Harold Lloyd Estate in Beverly Hills, is, according to Ennis House Foundation Chair Marla Felber, "committed to complete rehabilitation" of the beleaguered house, which despite a recent rehabilitation still needs a lot of work. "While we did receive some other offers, they didn't come from sources that could meet our main objective of finding a good steward for the house," Felber told AN, adding that the Foundation was "thrilled," to find the right buyer for the house, despite the lower sale price. The 6,200 square foot Ennis House, designed by Wright and built in 1924 by his son Lloyd, is the most famous of Wright's Textile Block Houses, made of more than 27,000 concrete blocks. The house had deteriorated over time and was especially hard hit by the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and record rains in 2005. Despite a significant rehabilitation that stabilized the house and replaced more than 3,000 of the house's tiles, the house still needs millions of dollars worth of more work (including the repair of many more concrete blocks) and the Ennis Foundation lacked the resources to complete the work, putting the house on the market. Felber says that according to the terms of a conservation easement Burkle must provide some form of public access to the house for a minimum of 12 days per year, although the specifics of that deal haven't been worked out, she said. Another easement permanently protects the house's interior and exterior from "excessive alteration." The house payment will help the Foundation pay off its construction loan, said Felber.

Mark Your Calendars: July 16 Is John Lautner Day

Now you've got another date to look forward to next month besides July 4. The city of Los Angeles has officially declared July 16, 2011, which would have been John Lautner's 100th birthday, John Lautner Day. That event will kick of the John Lautner Turns 100 Series, created by the John Lautner Foundation, which will feature a ridiculous amount of exhibitions, film screenings, home tours, symposia and receptions. By the way, if you haven't visited a Lautner house before, you better do it now. A full list of activities below, and here July 16, John Lautner Day July 16-22, John Lautner Exhibit at LACMA, featuring Lautner's Goldstein Office July 23, MAK Center John Lautner 100th Birthday Tour, including the Sheats/Goldstein House, Schwimmer House, Harpel House and Jacobsen House. Tickets available here. July 24, Lautner Gala + Auction, Harpel Residence July 30, Lautner in Film, including the Lautner Documentary films John Lautner, the Desert Hot Springs Motel; The Spirit in Architecture: John Lautner; and Infinite Space: The Architecture of John Lautner , Egyptian Theater, Los Angeles. August 19-Nov 13, John Lautner: A Life in Architecture exhibit at DeVos Art Museum at Northern Michigan University Fall 2011, Lautner Preservation Symposium, co-sponsored by the LA Conservancy Fall 2011, Behind The Scenes: The John Lautner Archive Collection at the Getty Center For more information, including tour times and events in other cities, go here or here.    

LA Conservancy Votes To Preserve Community Redevelopment Agencies

As California's redevelopment agencies face possible extinction, one notable group has thrown its hat into the ring. The LA Conservancy has announced that it will give its annual President's Award to the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles (CRA/LA) for "Its commitment to reusing historic structures—and promoting historic preservation" in its redevelopment plans. "We thought it was a timely way to recognize what they’ve been doing and their role in trying to foster strategic investments across the city," said Adrian Scott Fine, the Conservancy's Director of Advocacy, who pointed to the agency's help with, financing, surveys, and in some cases purchase of historic buildings to  attract investment in historic conservation. Fine added that while redevelopment agencies have not always had a great relationship with preservation (think Bunker Hill), the Conservancy is against efforts to abolish all state CRA's. "It’s an essential function for cities to have the ability of a redevelopment agency to encourage, facilitate, and make projects happen that otherwise wouldn’t," he said. Recent CRA-supported preservation projects include the Hollywood Palladium, the Downtown Women's Center, and the still-pending Westlake Theater. The  Conservancy's awards will be handed out at LA's Millenium Biltmore on May 12. The California Assembly missed eliminating state CRA's by one vote on March 16, but the issue will resurface when the state works to approve its budget later this Spring.

Another One Bites The Dust

At the same time that Palm Springs is celebrating all things Modern at its Modernism Week, we just came across the pretty-much-completed demolition of Beverly Hills' 1961 Friars Club at 9900 Santa Monica Boulevard. The windowless, space age Modern building, designed by  Sidney Eisenshtat, was one of several important structures by the architect, including Temple Emmanuel in Beverly Hills, Sinai Temple in Westwood, and the Wilshire Triangle Center. It was also the home of famous roasts by the likes of Jack Benny, Frank Sinatra, Milton Berle, Sammy Davis Jr. and Billy Crystal. "This is an important building by an important architect, and it will very soon be lost to us forever," said Scott Fine, director of Advocacy for the LA Conservancy. Despite being eligible for listing in the California Register of Historical Resources, it was unprotected because Beverly Hills has no protections for historic resources. That's right, none.  Whatsoever.  (love it or hate it, the building at least deserved a fair shot..) Meanwhile there are no immediate plans for a replacement building. So this will just be an empty lot for now. So much for a celebration of all things Modern in Beverly Hills, huh?

RIP Columbia Savings Bank?

Curbed LA reports that LA's 1965 Columbia Savings Bank on Wilshire Boulevard, which we just discussed in our recent preservation feature, is now all-but doomed. On December 1 the city's Planning and Land Use Management Committee approved developer BRE's plans for a new apartment building on the site. BRE's six story development, designed by Thomas P. Cox Architects, would include 482 apartments and have about 40,000 square feet of retail. The LA Conservancy  nominated the unique midcentury structure, designed by architect Irving Shapiro, for listing in the California Register of Historical Resources, but the nomination won't be heard until next year, which is too late.  City council will vote on the BRE project's EIR tomorrow, but many sources say it's a fait accompli. Those who want to save it can go to the meeting tomorrow and speak out.