WeHo’s Hot Topic: Preservation

WEHOville - El Mirador

El Mirador, built in 1929, stands at the northeast corner of Fountain and Sweetzer Avenues

The City’s Growing Preservation Agenda:
Here’s Where Things Stand

The national debate is the economy and the inextricably linked Presidential election. The talk in California is the economy and Proposition 30. In West Hollywood, the conversation, often heated, centers these days on historic and cultural preservation — one of the motivations, some claim, for the city council term limits campaign. Residents are even organizing the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance.

Under debate now are the fate of Fiesta Hall, Long Hall-Great Hall in Plummer Park, the El Mirador apartment building on Fountain Avenue, the Sunset Lanai apartment complex on Sweetzer Avenue, and the Writers Building, Fairbanks Building and Editorial Building at Pickfair Studios on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Residents concerned about preserving those structures will remember that it was only a year ago that the City of West Hollywood, with no advance notice to residents, bulldozed the original city library. It was designed by Edward H. Fickett, recognized for his work by everyone from President Bill Clinton to former Gov. Gray Davis and the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department. Fickett also was recognized by Hollywood celebrities, earning the sobriquet “Architect to the Stars.” Preservationists had opposed plans to level the library, arguing that it could be adapted for other uses after the new library was built.

When Assistant City Manager Joan English was asked why residents weren’t notified in advance of the demolition, she blithely responded ‘”we don’t give notice of phases of construction projects.” That remark enraged preservationists, setting the tone for the debates that have followed.

Here’s a look at where current preservation efforts stand, and a look back at one that failed.

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WEHOville El Mirador Still at Risk
El Mirador, designed by Charles Lee in a Churrigueresque Spanish Colonial Revival style.

Not So Fast: El Mirador Still At Risk

The future of the landmark El Mirador apartment building is uncertain after property owner Jerome Nash said the city left him with limited options that are pushing him toward demolishing the 83-year-old building located on the northeast corner of Sweetzer Avenue and Fountain Avenue.

A city official and a team of engineering consultants from VCA Code Group met with Nash outside the seven-story, Spanish Colonial Revival apartment building on Tuesday, Sept. 18. According to Nash, the engineering inspection was part of the process to move forward with demolition. However, West Hollywood Building and Safety Manager Steve Bailey said that was not the purpose of the inspection.

“The engineers are here to see if the building is an imminent danger, and I don’t think it is,” Bailey said before the inspection.

The inspection took place about two weeks after West Hollywood’s City Council finalized approval of an agreement for the 32-unit apartment building to be converted into either condominiums or an urban inn.

The agreement would require Nash to pay more than $900,000 in fees if he decided to switch El Mirador from a residential building to an inn or hotel, according to West Hollywood Senior Planner Francisco Contreras, The agreement would also require Nash to reduce the number of units from 32 to 28.

Nash said he had no intention of signing the agreement, despite reports it constituted a win for the property owner.

“They basically said, ‘No option,’” Nash said. “They want to de-incentivize an inn, and they sure did it with an extra million odd-dollars in fees and also reducing the amount of units.”

Nash did not directly answer the question of whether he would demolish the building, but did say the fate of the building was up in the air and would likely result in a lawsuit.

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Three Other Controversial Projects

(Click on the photos below for details)

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Plummer Park’s Fiesta and Long-Great Halls

Redevelopment Plans in Limbo as City Addresses Funding, Community Concerns

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Pickfair Studio’s Editorial, Fairbanks and Writers Buildings

Pickfair Studio’s Editorial, Fairbanks and Writers Buildings

Two Legendary Movie Studio Buildings Razed; Future of Others Uncertain

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The Sunset Lanai Apartments

The Sunset Lanai Apartments

A “Cultural Resource”? The Owner Says “No”

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Icons Standing and Fallen

 


WeHo’s Lost Landmark: The Dodge House

WeHo’s Lost Landmark: The Dodge House

NYT: “Tragic Commentary on How We Throw Our National Heritage Away”

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SEE: WeHo’s 14 Most Historic Places

WeHo’s 14 Most Historic Places

Take a photo tour.

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What are your thoughts on historic and cultural preservation? Does it hinder essential development? Or is it important to preserve the look and feel of West Hollywood and its quality of life?

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