UPDATE: A Townscape spokesperson told WEHOville on Thursday morning, “The artworks will be restored and returned to the site when completed.”
The much fought demolition of the Lytton Savings bank building on Sunset Boulevard appears to have begun on Wednesday.
Concerned residents reported crews crating and hauling away the statue outside the Lytton Savings building (until recently, a Chase bank), in what appears to be the first step to the building meeting the wrecking ball.
“I’m heartbroken,” said Steven Luftman, who spearheaded the effort to preserve the historically designated Lytton Savings bank building. “We’ve spent four years fighting to save the building. Removing the art certainly looks like the first move toward demolition.”
Resident Alison Martino, a history buff who keeps the Vintage Los Angeles history blog, was tipped off a crew was removing the statue early Wednesday morning and rushed to the site to see for herself.
“I’ve dreaded this day was going to happen,” said Martino. “My fear was that it was being discarded, so I was glad to see they were crating the statue . . . This is certainly the first thing they would remove in preparation for demolition.”
Townscape Partners, which owns the property, declined to comment about any impending demolition plans. However, Townscape, which plans to develop the site into a large retail-residential project, has cleared all the necessary legal hurdles to proceed with demolition.
Located on the southwest corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights boulevards in Los Angeles, just feet from the West Hollywood border, the planned 8150 Sunset complex will have 203 residential units in two 178-foot-tall towers, plus approximately 57,300 square feet of retail and restaurant space.
Architect Frank Gehry’s updated renderings for the project were released last week. These updated plans featured a glass-block motif with the two towers appearing like glass blocks stacked on top of each other.
This glass-block motif is a marked contrast to the earlier version of the building which the Los Angeles City Council approved in 2016. That earlier version appeared whimsical with multiple buildings of different heights and styles.
Luftman and other preservationists tried to persuade Gehry to incorporate the mid-century modern Lytton Savings building into his designs for the 8150 Sunset complex. However, in testimony before the LA City Council in 2016, Gehry said preserving the Lytton building was not possible as a crane for erecting the other buildings in the complex needed to go where the Lytton building stands.
However, Luftman points out that in the new updated glass block version of the project, Gehry has placed a building of almost the exact same height and size as the Lytton building in the space where the Lytton building currently stands.
The Lytton Savings building was designed by noted Southern California architect Kurt Meyer. The highly praised mid-century-modern concrete and glass building with its zig-zag folded plate roof, glass walls and interior artwork offered a radical architectural departure from traditional staid bank buildings when it opened in 1960. The Los Angeles City Council designated it a historic site in 2016, shortly after the Council approved Townscape’s plans for the retail-residential project.
Luftman questions whether Townscape Partners actually has the money to build its 8150 Sunset project, pointing out Gehry’s updated version of the project is smaller than the original version.
Luftman wonders if Townscape is demolishing the Lytton building to make the property more attractive for resell.
“It will be a lot easier to off load this property without a historic building on it than with a historic building on it,” said Luftman.
As for the statue, Martino reported it is named “The Family” and was donated in the 1960s by artist David Greene. Beginning in the 1960s, banks frequently included statues and other art installations to embellish the surroundings, another way of moving away from the staid image banks had up until that point.
“I do hope it ends up in a garden or courtyard area, if not here [at 8150 Sunset], then somewhere on the Strip,” said Martino. “I’m nervous that we’ll never see the statue again.”
While a Townscape spokesperson would not comment about the demolition status, he did tell WEHOville the company plans to return The Family statue to the site after construction is completed. However, he also added it “will be returned to the site if feasible.”
The 8150 Sunset property was once the site of the famed Garden of Allah residential hotel, a favorite hideaway for Hollywood celebrities in the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s. Ironically, the Garden of Allah buildings were demolished in Nov. 1959 to make way for the Lytton Savings building and the accompanying shopping center currently on the site.