Planning Commission OKs demolition of Temple Beth El

Over the objections of historic preservationists, the Planning Commission approved a permit to demolish the Temple Beth El and three related religious buildings at 1317 Crescent Heights to make way for a five-story, 90-unit multi-family residential building.

Built between 1952 and 1968 to house the temple, the complex was purchased by the Iranian American Jewish Center in 1997 and remodeled extensively three years later.

The staff report barely touches on the complex’s history: “The existing church built in 1952 was reviewed during the 2016 Citywide Commercial Historic Resources Survey and found to not be eligible for designation as a state or local cultural resource.”

Antique dealer Lynn Russell wrote in to the commission to express her concerns.

“Although the property was reviewed on the Commercial Survey it surprisingly received a 6Z Status Code the possible result of some arbitrary factors,” she wrote. ( “6Z” is a code indicating not being eligible for historic designation through survey evaluation). “Beyond a survey, a property of this stature architecturally and as a religious facility, rightfully deserves an individual Cultural Assessment which theoretically makes it clear to the public at large and specifically the surrounding neighborhood. This was not properly executed, in this case perhaps in part due to the recent pandemic and factors of inaccurate and possibly arbitrary actions during a review process that should be more attune with correct procedure.”

Victor Omelczenko, board president of the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance, also voiced reservations.

“Something is awry here,” Omelczenko said. “Temple Beth-El, as well as the other three structures, warrants having a specific Historic Resource Assessment (HRA) conducted before any decisions are made about the four demolitions.”

Commissioner Chairperson Stacey Jones shot down requests for a continuance.

“Disagreement with the assessment of the professionals that we have on staff is not grounds for a continuance,” Jones said. “And if a person who is a professional as a historic consultant says that this property does not meet the criteria for historic designation and staff comes to the agreement that it also does not, then I tend to agree with the people who are paid to do this for a living.”

The project can still be appealed to City Council.

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Brandon Garcia is editor of WEHOville. He oversees the website's editorial direction and creates original content such as news reports, photo and video features, digital art work and advertisements. A native of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, he now lives in WeHo and is a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community. @brandoninthebubble on Instagram

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Koweho
Koweho
1 day ago

Not sure about the outrage and if it is correctly directed. The Iranian American Jewish Council/Iranian American Jewish Federation owns this synagogue and are selling it to developers. The city planning commission only weighs in on the proposed future.

Trifecta
Trifecta
1 day ago
Reply to  Koweho

The City erred and violated its own municipal code. The Planning Commission does not understand their duties and protocol. The decision of GPA Consultants during the 2016 Commercial Survey was flawed. They could not see out of their windshield. A trifecta of errors.

Rightful Recognition
Rightful Recognition
3 days ago

Anyone commenting on this thread willing to support an APPEAL may contact Rabbi Norbert Weinberg and sign over the weekend at the TEMPLE BETH EL 323.428.9817.

The plan would be to spare the Temple, have it recognized as a Local Historic Resource, with its history as “Temple to the Stars” retain the congregation and reduce the size of the project footprint in scale with the neighborhood that retains approximately 40 Historic Structures within a 5 block radius. This approach actually reduced the size of the proposed Gehry project at 8150 Sunset Blvd. which currently seems dead in the water.

Rabbi Norbert Weinberg
Rabbi Norbert Weinberg
2 days ago

Please do not contact me in regards to the petition. We are in separate discussions with our landlord at this point.We do appreciate the concernsexpressedand we wish we can get more local support for our activities. Rabbi Norbert Weinberg

CHLOE ROSS
CHLOE ROSS
4 days ago

I have read over all the comments in this thread. And it takes me to the corners of Larrabee and Sunset.

Ethics of Local Land Use
Ethics of Local Land Use
5 days ago

The TEMPLE BETH EL was designed in the Art Deco Revival style by Harry Hillier, former president of the SFValley AIA Chapter. He also designed Mid Century Modern Residential structures. It may have been styled during that period incorporating both Mid Century Form and Art Deco. This is during the period when other notable architects such as Edward Fickett have had their’s protected as West Hollywood Cultural Resources. Erasure of such examples and others gives an incomplete and inaccurate accounting of the Cultural History of West Hollywood. This is often the case with historic Preservation “experts” who take on projects… Read more »

CHLOE ROSS
CHLOE ROSS
6 days ago

I do not understand what the question exactly wants to know in terms of why I spoke out. Happy to address it, but confused as to what the question wants to know.

Questions, questions.
Questions, questions.
5 days ago
Reply to  CHLOE ROSS

While you admittedly indicated you knew nothing about the issues of that particular neighborhood and what they were trying to achieve at PC & CC, why would you speak out in their support?

CHLOE ROSS
CHLOE ROSS
5 days ago

I spoke to the issue of the Iranians and the shul over 5 years ago at a CC meeting because I felt strongly that the issue was unfair and targeted the Iranians and their shul in terms of noise. I am familiar with Jewish celebrations and they can be and often are noisy. And this is not restricted to specific ethnicities of Jews. My feeling at the time was that it may have been lack of the complainant’s familiarity with Jewish customs. Or something else.

Questions, questions
Questions, questions
5 days ago
Reply to  CHLOE ROSS

Au contraire. The Iranians were not targeted. Their celebrations were inside Neiman & Sapper Hall. The issues which were the focus of longstanding Code Compliance concern and Traffic & Safety concerns. The preparations prior to and dismantling of the celebrations occupied hours prior to the events and after until 4am in the morning continual disruption of the peace and enjoyment of their domiciles affecting a wide radius of residents. The traffic and safety concerns were numerous. The IAJC showed no concern even for the guests who unfortunately had to traipse through tree limbs, excessive leaves, discarded furniture and junk perilous… Read more »

CHLOE ROSS
CHLOE ROSS
5 days ago

May I also add that I did and do know the neighborhood – WeHo is a small city. I have lived here for over 30 years.

Questions, questions
Questions, questions
4 days ago
Reply to  CHLOE ROSS

Living in a small city for 30 years does not insure any degree of awareness or possessing an inquisitive eye.

trackback

[…] Thursday there was a Planning Commission public hearing and commotion in Weho about an approved “development” that had taken many Jewish Weho […]

Rose
Rose
8 days ago

SECOND – NOT PERSONALLY NOT A RELIGIOUS PERSON BUT… ZONING FOR PLACES OF WORSHIP ARE VERY VERY STRICT, AND ONCE GIVEN, ARE USUALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO REZONE FOR OTHER USES. SO FAR THE OLD CHURCH ON FAIRFAX & FOUNTAIN HAS BEEN REZONED AND IS A NEW HOUSING & SOMETHING. NOW THE TEMPLE ON CRESCENT HEIGHTS? TWO ZONING FOR HOUSES OF WORSHIP (thankfully not based on any one religion) not REZONE in our TINY LITTLE CITY. LOOK OUT IS THAT A REAL SNAKE SLITHERING OUTSIDE MY WINDOW …HELP OMG … OH NO ITS WORSE. HEILMAN, THE CREATOR OF THE 2010 REZONING MAP… Read more »

Snake Detector
Snake Detector
8 days ago
Reply to  Rose

Thank you, will check this out.

Stephanie Harker, OTW
Stephanie Harker, OTW
8 days ago
Reply to  Rose

FYI- the church on Fairfax and Fountain is a locally protected, designated historic building and is not being demolished.

CHLOE ROSS
CHLOE ROSS
9 days ago

Just as I thought. This is a temple that has a large Iranian congregation. I recall speaking up for them in a CC meeting years back when neighbors were grousing about the way in which they celebrated special occasions and religious holidays. So can one assume that any secular apartment building proposed for this property will also carry noise rules that restrict celebrations as well. Methinks the rub here is who these Jews are and how they observe their faith. Could be wrong, but it is not the first time “these Jews” have been before the CC to speak out… Read more »

Ethics of Local Land Use
Ethics of Local Land Use
8 days ago
Reply to  CHLOE ROSS

They never made any gracious efforts to the neighbors and obviously failed to respect the Code Compliance citations.

stefano
stefano
8 days ago

This is a tale of 2 congregations. The Ashkenazi congregation – the original owners of the building – are being kicked out by the Iranian American Jewish Center. The IAJC are the people you speak of.

Ethics of Local Land Use
Ethics of Local Land Use
7 days ago
Reply to  stefano

If you watch the testimony during the Planning Commission Hearing you can see and hear the subtly disparaging remarks by the President of IAJC and son.

CHLOE ROSS
CHLOE ROSS
4 days ago
Reply to  stefano

When was this shul Ashkenazi because I spoke up over 5 years ago.

The Facts
The Facts
3 days ago
Reply to  CHLOE ROSS

The original TEMPLE BETH EL which is the subject here has always been Ashkenazi from inception. The Iranian American congregation purchased it. Both had/have dwindling congregations, the Ashkenazi largely composed of Film Industry congregants and many Holocaust Survivors. the other Persian whose congregants moved to fancier premises in Beverly Hills as their station in life rose or in order to elevate their image. They then rented it out as a party palace venue. Now with their wings clipped they want to further disrupt the neighborhood by eliminating the temple and its congregation who support it. It was plainly devastating the… Read more »

Questions, questions
Questions, questions
6 days ago
Reply to  CHLOE ROSS

On what basis did you speak up for the congregation?

Lacking Awareness
Lacking Awareness
4 days ago
Reply to  CHLOE ROSS

The fact that the nuisance makers were Iranians or little green men from Mars is not the point. A nuisance is explicitly that defined by the City Code Compliance Ordinance(s). Likewise the Historic Preservation Ordinance in place has been weakened by the City’s failure to obtain an inclusive review of the portfolio of properties deserving if protection . Not only individual buildings but significant structures of a lower profile, significant in creating neighborhood ambiance and continuity. The original layout of West Hollywood was not random but carefully thought out. There is sit a single individual with the City possessing expertise… Read more »

CHLOE ROSS
CHLOE ROSS
9 days ago

The point is this is a religious structure. How many churches have been demolishes to build apartments? How many active schools have been destroyed to build apartment houses?

Rose
Rose
8 days ago
Reply to  CHLOE ROSS

Again, very good question, but it’s not the building that is zoned, THE ENTIRE LOT OF THE PROPERTY AND AND/EVERYTHING ON IT IS ZONED FOR RELIGIOUS WORSHIP. That almost NEVER CAN BE REZONED. Somebody told some very very big lies in the 2010 massive rezoning that in and into itself is made and almost set in stone by THE COUNTY OF LIS ANGELES HEILMAN was leading a massive team to submit for rezoning which can only be done if there has been some fundamental change of use and purpose of the original zoning, which, again, is almost NEVER CHABGED. The… Read more »

CHLOE ROSS
CHLOE ROSS
8 days ago
Reply to  Rose

So glad you have explained how this property is zoned and the fact that it CANNOT be rezoned should make it the focus of a lawsuit and closer look. When the Iranian members of that shul were at a CC meeting years back I signed in to speak on the subject. Not because I am Iranian, but as Jew I am quite aware of how my fellow Jews worship and celebrate. Over in the neighborhood near Formosa and Willoughby there is a Chabad Shul. My son was Bar Mitzvah there . Our celebration was inside, but there was singing and… Read more »

Ethics of Local Land Use
Ethics of Local Land Use
8 days ago
Reply to  CHLOE ROSS

There is/has been nothing else annoying the residents. Residents not in favor of demolishing entire complex however a smaller version of what is proposed could be a harmonious proposal if indeed it is an amenable design and not 6 stories which would be massive, exceeding the historic structures on Crescent Heights and The Fontaine on SW Corner of CHB & Fountain. The neighborhood respectfully welcomes the congregants of TEMPLE BETH EL and the adjacent school.

Lacking Awareness
Lacking Awareness
4 days ago
Reply to  CHLOE ROSS

The information regarding the zoning is only partially correct. A simple google of State Law will give you the complete answer. It pays to be accurate.

Lacking Awareness
Lacking Awareness
4 days ago
Reply to  CHLOE ROSS

That is not the point or proper question in this case.

CHLOE ROSS
CHLOE ROSS
4 days ago

I would agree that anything can be demolished. We do it everyday. My point was the decency and reasons for destroying any religious building . And in fact a natural disaster can impact anything. Notre Dame is a good example. (Proper? What an odd word to use.)

Joel Peel
Joel Peel
9 days ago

This is a terrible decision: depriving the easy accessibility of this Temple for many Jewish people who have seen this complex as a longstanding community/religious resource for its congregants.

CHLOE ROSS
CHLOE ROSS
9 days ago
Reply to  Joel Peel

My point exactly.

Rose
Rose
8 days ago
Reply to  Joel Peel

I went to Wilshire Blvd Temple. Not by choice, but I did marvel at the great sanctuary. A true architectural landmark and nice to look at when dragged their by family … Only for show ‘ look we are a happy together family”. We were none of those things – hence my distaste for using a religion to hide what was really going on behind closed door in my so called family. Not my point. It fell into disrepair as Korea Town grew and moving to the Westside became more popular. It almost was ready for wrecking ball but for… Read more »

CHLOE ROSS
CHLOE ROSS
9 days ago

I want to know who in the Temple community agreed to this.


Ethics of Local Land Use & Department
Ethics of Local Land Use & Department
9 days ago
Reply to  CHLOE ROSS

They were apparently in the dark through the 6 year development process. The IJAC/IAJF would have kept this under wraps. Seems as if may have germinated during the same period as the the suit against the City.

Joel Peel
Joel Peel
9 days ago
Reply to  CHLOE ROSS

good question.

pat russell
pat russell
9 days ago

Are these the same developers who are doing the Fairfax & Fountain HUB project? Building the Ghetto is going full speed ahead.!!!

Ethics of Local Land Useg Department
Ethics of Local Land Useg Department
9 days ago
Reply to  pat russell

No, the Applicant is the IAJC/IAJF who have been an irresponsible nuisance in the immediate community for a period of 10 years to their guests at social events, members of the IJAC/IJAF and residents. An adjacent property owner prevailed in the following litigation against the City. They appear to be demonstrably bad actors and are now factoring in development benefits and financial reward based on questionable circumstances. Oddly, Councilmember Sepi Shyne, residing in a rental complex three properties south on Crescent Heights has been mute for the entire period apparently unaware of the community around her for which she has… Read more »

CHLOE ROSS
CHLOE ROSS
9 days ago

Is this “nuisance” yo mention the weddings and religious celebrations that take place after dark and outside?

Ethics of Local Land Use
Ethics of Local Land Use
8 days ago
Reply to  CHLOE ROSS

Yes. and then truck loading and considerable noise until 4 am. Code Compliance on speed dial. There were hearings about their parking structure which was to solve the problem, which was rather a superficial claim, the uninformed on CC voted in favor after which the city was demonstrably sued and lost. During the hearings held at the former auditorium, having a clear view of their members, is when the audience pledged allegiance to the flag, not a single one of them responded. Refugees fleeing Iran? Not happy to be here? But happy to take part in out traditions and benefits… Read more »

Ethics of Local Land Use
Ethics of Local Land Use
5 days ago

The answer should have been NO. The celebrations were conducted inside Neman and Sapper Halls rented out as party venues. The nuissance surrounded these celebrations prior to and after each event which were conducted by a variety of Party Planning folks and Food Service entities.

Ethics of Local Land Use
Ethics of Local Land Use
8 days ago
Reply to  CHLOE ROSS

The celebrations took place inside but the production of these was disruptive and in addition the traffic snarls a recurring nightly nightmare.

Ethics again in Question
Ethics again in Question
9 days ago
Reply to  pat russell

The developer there is Empire Properties whose architect apparently.just passed away. That project was appealed and the final outcome and miscellaneous entanglements uncertain.at the moment. There are however, multiple similar types of their projects scattered around the city

CHLOE ROSS
CHLOE ROSS
9 days ago
Reply to  pat russell

What Ghetto is that?

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