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.
Posts tagged with "Townscape Partners":
Frank Gehry must have a green thumb. First he snags the Los Angeles River and now Townscape Partners has released renderings and a model of the $300 million development on the site of the Garden of Allah, a former Mediterranean hotel rich with bohemian lore on the Sunset Strip. But what exactly is he growing? “It was all white, the Garden of Allah. It was low rise, a lot of incense burning, and people in flowing gowns,” Gehry recalled to Architectural Record. The new project replaces a strip mall and the design shows a typically Gehry Partners scheme: buildings clustered around a plaza. The firm used a similar strategy on a small scale with the 1984 Edgemar development in Santa Monica and on a grand scale with the proposed designs for Parcel Q across from Disney Hall. Gehry’s compositional jumble of mixed-use development adds up to 333,600 square feet, with 249 residential units and retail spaces. Two residential towers—one 11-stories along Crescent Heights Boulevard and one 15-stories—flank the glassy, mall-esque central building, which will feature shops, cafes, and restaurants, topped by penthouses. According to Record, the design is meant to be responsive to the scale of the street and partner Anand Devarajan was mindful about making the site feel “porous.” This need for approachability may be in response to a group called Save Sunset Boulevard, which is fighting to block the project. In March, AN reported that anti-development lawyer Robert Silverstein, objected to “the project’s potential to add to congestion, dwarf local historic buildings, block views, and waste water and other resources.” Townscape Partners plans to submit an Environmental Impact Review in the near future, with the hopes of breaking ground in winter 2016/17. (You can read the Draft Environmental Impact Report (PDF), here.) Update: After seeing the new Gehry designs, the folks at Save Sunset Boulevard have had a change of heart. In a blog post on their website, Andrew Macpherson wrote: "As one would expect Frank Gehry has transformed the project from something that looked like an airport hotel into a landmark design. That Townscape listened to the voices of the neighborhood and brought in a great architect gives me great hope that they will continue to address our other concerns."