The Cecil is the City’s Fault

The Cecil is the City’s Fault

Hotel Cecil Whitewash, Part II

For Part I, click here.

Let me be clear. I’m not mad at the developer. The developer was only doing what developers do. They’ve got an ROI to look after.

Where the story goes sideways is all on our end. The Office of Historic Resources was given materials by the developer with which to determine the validity of painting over the eighty-year-old sign. Let’s look at them.

But first, let’s understand the basics:

There were two versions of the sign. The first sign was painted soon after the building opened, in 1924. It looked like this:

Ca. 1927 and 1938

Then the sign was repainted about 1940 (most likely, when the Cecil became part of the Alberts Hotel chain in early 1941). It looked like this:

The Office of Historic Resources was provided material, however, indicating that the first version was the only one that mattered. That the red sign, pictured above, which had towered over Main Street for the last eighty-some years, had no historic value or meaning. From the evidence presented to OHR, it could be argued, that sign didn’t even exist.

Now, let’s look at the material presented to OHR, for example, this report:

And specifically, this page of said report:

Not 1940s, not looking south, but, nice use of all caps

While there are numerous contemporary shots of the Cecil throughout the Historic Consultants report, there are none showing the just-painted-over 1940s wall signage. Why then did HC only include shots of the first version of the signage? They utilize images from the 1930s to do so. Which they mysteriously label 1940s. (A close look at the license plates reveal these images were captured in 1939—there’s no excuse for such a rookie mistake.) I won’t even go into the fact that that second shot doesn’t look south on Main, but north—all that may be just basic incompetence, but disincluding the historic Cecil signage in general is just…wrong.

Now then, let’s look at the other paperwork OHR used in their “not historic” determination.

Again, note its cover page (with “precedent imagery”) includes four images of the initial 1924-1940 sign. Again, zero shots of what Simon Baron actually painted over, after OHR’s blessing:

This was done despite this wall sign specifically being called out in the Historic-Cultural Monument paperwork:

Thus, we have a character-defining feature of an HCM removed without review; the matter never went to commission and was never permitted. The Cecil is Mills Act so the removal was—money being fungible—paid for by tax savings intended only for work performed under the highest scrutiny vis-à-vis the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties and the California Historical Building Code.

But at the end of the day, despite its documented importance, OHR determined the eighty-year-old sign was not historic and signed off on its whitewashing in place of modern advertising. This is our doing. And it has to stop.

The Cecil’s Ghost

The Cecil’s Ghost

No, I’m not talking about Pigeon Goldie walking the halls. Rather, I speak of the ghost sign on the Cecil’s south wall.

Which, to be correct, is not truly a ghost sign, as it still advertises the famed, magnificent Hotel Cecil.

It is the grandest of our great painted palimpsests, originally added to the wall in 1924, then about 1940 repainted higher, in a bit different configuration—a downtown touchstone ever since.

Easter weekend, though, its lessee decided that space was better suited for, what, giant GTA ads in the manner of the Figueroa

…trouble being, no. No, when you enter into a legal contract with the City of Los Angeles to be subsidized in your restoration efforts, you’re not allowed, legally, to go about effing the place up.

Find out all about it here:

354 North Avenue 53

354 North Avenue 53

No no, it’s still standing, I’m going to snark about this house in a different way today

You know, not everything is about the demolition of our built environment in toto. (Like, say, the razing of an entire Whittlesey.) Sometimes it’s more subtle.

Over in Highland Park, there’s a house. I confess I’m a little confounded about its background. See, we have it in the permits that Fred C. Coryell (the contractor-builder who designed and built his own house at 225 N Avenue 53, which stood until replaced by an unusually ugly and depressing building in 1991) built 354 for Asenath Arick “Jane” Copes Phelps, widow of Harlow Jefferson Phelps, in 1909-10. Here’s the Highland Park Ebell meeting in the Phelps’s brand-new house in October 1910:

Mabel Phelps was 32 in 1910. West Avenue 53 was renamed North Avenue 53 about 1927
Here’s Mabel hosting folk at the home again in the spring of 1911

And the Phelps clan are listed in the directories from 1910 on. However, this rather odd bit of whatnot pops up in July 1911:

Their beautiful home” replaced by this

Which makes no sense, since as far as we know it’s the Phelps’ home. Howard’s obit a year later notes he’s still at 5635 Monte Vista, mind you:

Aaaaanyway, just wanted to give you some early history on the old girl, and point out that her interior remained pretty intact, until hit by the Lowest Common Denominator. It’s the kind of thing you hear a lot about happening in San Francisco. Hey, Los Angeles, I thought we were supposed to be better than up there.

Note the brick fireplace, left, the built-ins, center, and the glass-paned door with glass doorknob leading to the kitchen
Which is now this, all sterile and midmod and “openplan.” Note the original white oak floors were ripped out and replaced with something else, or that may just be the subfloor, which they stained and figured, good enough.
Yep, better spray those windowsills and baseboard white, except the part you paint black, how delightfully Craftsman

Carlos Ascencio, a realtor-flipper who works for ReMax, bought the place in February 2021 and got a permit to remodel the kitchens/bathrooms.

When the permit said “no structural changes” I’m sure blowing out that wall falls under that, um, sorta.

They didn’t paint over the river rock, I’ll give ’em that much

Ascencio/ReMax bought it in February 2021 for $850,000. Blew out the dining room to make a “great room” and sprayed the whole place white. Sold it December for $1,500,000. Made $650,000 with a new kitchen and a whole lot of white paint. Not a bad racket.

No no, it’s still standing, I’m going to snark about this house in a different way today

You know, not everything is about the demolition of our built environment in toto. (Like, say, the razing of an entire Whittlesey.) Sometimes it’s more subtle.

Over in Highland Park, there’s a house. I confess I’m a little confounded about its background. See, we have it in the permits that Fred C. Coryell (the contractor-builder who designed and built his own house at 225 N Avenue 53, which stood until replaced by an unusually ugly and depressing building in 1991) built 354 for Asenath Arick “Jane” Copes Phelps, widow of Harlow Jefferson Phelps, in 1909-10. Here’s the Highland Park Ebell meeting in the Phelps’s brand-new house in October 1910:

Mabel Phelps was 32 in 1910. West Avenue 53 was renamed North Avenue 53 about 1927
Here’s Mabel hosting folk at the home again in the spring of 1911

And the Phelps clan are listed in the directories from 1910 on. However, this rather odd bit of whatnot pops up in July 1911:

Their beautiful home” replaced by this

Which makes no sense, since as far as we know it’s the Phelps’ home. Howard’s obit a year later notes he’s still at 5635 Monte Vista, mind you:

Aaaaanyway, just wanted to give you some early history on the old girl, and point out that her interior remained pretty intact, until hit by the Lowest Common Denominator. It’s the kind of thing you hear a lot about happening in San Francisco. Hey, Los Angeles, I thought we were supposed to be better than up there.

Note the brick fireplace, left, the built-ins, center, and the glass-paned door with glass doorknob leading to the kitchen
Which is now this, all sterile and midmod and “openplan.” Note the original white oak floors were ripped out and replaced with something else, or that may just be the subfloor, which they stained and figured, good enough.
Yep, better spray those windowsills and baseboard white, except the part you paint black, how delightfully Craftsman

Carlos Ascencio, a realtor-flipper who works for ReMax, bought the place in February 2021 and got a permit to remodel the kitchens/bathrooms.

When the permit said “no structural changes” I’m sure blowing out that wall falls under that, um, sorta.

They didn’t paint over the river rock, I’ll give ’em that much

Ascencio/ReMax bought it in February 2021 for $850,000. Blew out the dining room to make a “great room” and sprayed the whole place white. Sold it December for $1,500,000. Made $650,000 with a new kitchen and a whole lot of white paint. Not a bad racket.

The whole rip-it-out spray-it-white reminds me of Jorge Cuevo, who did it to the Pig’N Whistle on Hollywood Blvd. According to this, he intends to do it to 200 restaurants to start.

According to it seems Mr. Cueva finds it appropriate to return the generosity and good fortune found in his adopted country, to Los Angeles specifically, with destroying its unique cultural history. This he does without permits, because why would rules apply to him—he has a red hat!

According to it seems Mr. Cuevas finds it appropriate to return the generosity and good fortune found in his adopted country, to Los Angeles specifically, with destroying its unique cultural history. This he does without permits, because why would rules apply to him—he has a red hat!

4544 Los Feliz Blvd.

4544 Los Feliz Blvd.

So, it’s been a while here at RIP Los Angeles. Is that because the Powers That Be stopped tearing down everything that makes Los Angeles special? Certainly not. In fact, just the opposite. We’ve watched as everyone screamed “but Los Angeles builds no housing!” when all it DOES is build housing, on top of every Tudor house, so that there won’t be a single Tudor house left.

And for whom are all these new units being constructed? Our population is in a freefall. Above and beyond the vast numbers of individuals and businesses who have fled, California has for the first time seen a drop in new entrances (and not by some small number, but by nearly half). Any population dip in California is unprecedented territory but this exodus is extraordinary—for the love of God, California is losing a US House seat for the first time in history.

Dear Lord, what do you have against the Tudors anyway? What did Edward VI ever do to you, you ungrateful wretch? “But,” you squeal, “they’re not building AFFORDABLE housing!” Yes they are, aforementioned ungrateful wretch, in fact therefrom comes the blank check being handed to developers to run roughshod over zoning laws—making developers include Low Income Units is what gives them a big fat zoning variance to build overscaled Jenga boxes with no green space (and for the last time stop calling the zoning variance a “density bonus,” as cutesy euphemisms are not, in fact, cute).

In case you haven’t been paying attention, it’s been absolutely brutal of late. Everything that makes Los Angeles nice and livable and human-scaled is being demolished; Los Angeles is having its heart torn from it. I was blogging about that for a while. It got too disheartening. But I have to return to it. SOMEONE has to make a record of these structures. They’re all going to disappear and a generation from now Zoomers will actually think Los Angeles sprouted up from the earth looking like a bunch of big beige Jenga boxes.

I won’t even go into AB 602 and SB 478. Or SB 9 or SB 10. The very idea that these were “wins” for “pro-housing activists” is ludicrous. Grow up. It doesn’t even matter that these folk are the useful idiots of developers (who live places that will never be upzoned). Ultimately, this is about a new California run by people who hate you.

YIMBYs hate your way of life. They hate that you have landmarks. And green spaces. And views. And history. It’s not enough that converting every possible lot into multiplexes increases the vaunted government tax base; it’s that cheek-to-jowl density is somehow…more moral. More…European. Which is ironic, since all the European architecture in Los Angeles is going to be demolished in favor of vast swaths of Jenga boxes thanks to SB 9. (Heck, even the pro-development LA City Council was against SB 9, citing that it would be bad for communities, and bad for the environment, but Glorious Leader has spoken!)

Oh, anyway, riiight—as I was saying way back there, ultimately Mr. YIMBY (strictly speaking, the YIYBY, Yes in Your Back Yard) and his separated-at-birth-monozygotic-twin Mr. Developer-Speculator is out to destroy every wee Tudor house. Case in point:

Jane Carpenter Gregory was born in Calne, Wiltshire, England 18 December 1864. She immigrates to American in 1879 and lands in the southland in 1888. She is wed to Ambrose Gregory—originally of Melksham, Wiltshire—in San Bernardino in 1899. Yes, they were both surnamed Gregory; his father was William Arthur Gregory and her father was Nicholas Gregory, both of Wiltshire, and I’ve no idea of the relation.

Their daughter, Ada Jane Gregory, was born in 1892. Ambrose passes in 1919. In 1939 the widow Jennie and Ada were living together in the house they’d built in 1920 at 2032 North Vermont, when they decided to build a home of own their a couple blocks east at the corner of Los Feliz Boulevard and Rodney.

They hire architect/contractor/builder Nephi Lorenzo Anderson, president of the local Building Contractor’s Association of California, and, interestingly, Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Anderson is probably best known for his (also half-timbered English-cottage style) Mormon church in La Cañada.

Anderson’s 1952 church at 1830 Foothill Blvd. remains remarkably unmolested after seventy years

English-born Jane chooses to build her 2,226sf house, at 4544 Los Feliz Boulevard, in the English style, with the requisite Tudor half-timbering.

Dig the diamond-mullioned windows and elaborated chimney with double chimney pots
Jane Carpenter Gregory, on her side porch, ca. 1950. The shingle and brick have since been painted and, IMHO, brick should be brick and shingle should be shingle color, but that’s just me. But then, with some effort, reversible. Demolished by backhoe and tossed in a landfill, not so reversible
On the front lawn, looking north toward the famed Los Feliz deodar cedars, ca. 1947. Left to right: Jane Carpenter Gregory; Edith Kate Neads (who had married Herbert Gregory); William Nicholas Gregory (Ambrose’s brother, i.e. Jane’s brother-in-law); Joan Gregory (Edith Neads’ daughter); and Jane’s daughter Ada Jane Gregory. Check out Edith and Joan’s moiré ensembles!

Jennie died in the house in 1954, at age 90. Ada lived in the house until her death in June 1977.

Now, let’s talk for a minute about Los Feliz Boulevard. It is an absolute wonderland of magnificent structures. With which you are intimately familiar, each and every one, have you ever driven the Boulevard, since traffic on LFB is always, invariably, terrible. So you sit in your car and marvel at one great building after another, after another, in an unbroken stretch of glory. Here’s six representative samples:

Of course, more Tudor. Isaac Paacht Residence, 5057 Los Feliz Blvd (S. Charles Lee, 1927). Don’t miss the tudoriffic Hulsman House (A. Godfrey Bailey, 1933) a stone’s throw at 5079 when you’re in the ‘hood
Wouldn’t be Los Angeles without Spanish Colonial Revival. Wiggins House, 5036 Los Feliz Blvd (M. L. Barker, 1929)
Speaking of Spanish, the gorgeous Barcelona/Corunna courtyard apartments, 4615 Los Feliz Blvd. (George Forsayke, 1932)
More courtyard apartments, but in Streamline Moderne, 3747 Los Feliz Blvd (Bob Home Construction Co., 1941). When have you seen Streamline-fu (curved corner windows, porthole windows and ship railings) but with shingle? While you’re checking this out make sure you hit 4207 LFB, another incredible Streamline apartment complex
Harry and Ada Scholer Apartments, 3808 Los Feliz Blvd (Louis Selden, 1947). What really sells this Colonial Revival is the octagonal roof cupola hiding up there behind the deodar branches. If you like Colonial don’t miss the Darling residence at 5110, or the Feigenbaum house at 5015, which has a Regency flair
The Los Capri, 3815 Los Feliz Blvd. (Edward H. Fickett, 1949). The Los Capri is the cousin of Fickett’s Sunset Capri above Sunset. Note the fanciful script; Los Feliz Blvd is replete with mid-Century dingbattian fonts

And that’s just a small slice. Los Feliz Blvd. is particularly strong on Regency Moderne, on which I have not even touched. And the Boulevard has no lack of Châteauesque. Point being with these images you get a feel for the general size and massing of the street. Yes, I am aware there are larger structures. (Yes, I am aware of the existence of the Los Feliz Towers.)

But, this being RIP Los Angeles, what, you ask, are the density brownshirts and their Malibu-mansion’d developers plopping in place of our twee Tudor? This:

The developer, for the record, is a kid from the neighborhood. Grew up on Cromwell just five blocks from here (before he took off to a gated community in Simi). It’s his first project. You’d think he would have some emotional connection to his childhood home. I want to disbelieve what everyone says about millennials, but…

First of all, let’s talk trees. Trees? Yes, trees:

I mean, I could do a whole blog just about how architects lie and lie and lie in their renderings. Renderings are always BS, because their primary use is to sell projects to local government and placate angry neighbors. I mean, yes, we expect renderings to make the building look smaller if need be, and we know the finished product never looks so nice and high-end (much less incorporate half the interesting touches). But pay attention to the fudged surroundings as well. Look how empty and caaaaaaalm the street is (Los Feliz Boulevard—hahahahaha!). Note the absence of anything ugly and intrusive like stop signs or streetlamps; all is cleanliness and order.

And, as I said, the trees: for now, Rodney, running south, is evenly lined in Phoenix canariensis, AKA Canary Island Date Palms.

Be advised the Canary Island DP is THE KING OF PALMS. Usually architects put them into renderings because they look cool, though when all is said and done the “landscapers” invariably plant a couple crappy $12.99 Home Depot shrubs and call it a day. A mature Canary palm runs $75,000, when you can get one, which you can’t, because when available they always go straight to Vegas casino projects. Here, though, they’re cutting down two of these Canary Island Date Palms, and replacing them with three Washingtonia robusta, AKA the Mexican Fan palm. Who does that? Nobody. (First of all, good luck getting fan palms that tall, and secondly, fun fact: the fan palm is a unique tree in that it produces the VOCs isoprene and monoterpene, particles which pollute the air in hot weather.) In short, the developer apparently intends to cut down City-owned mature Phoenix canariensis just because it will help them in moving around their construction equipment, and replacing them with the world’s only polluting tree. If that isn’t sick and criminal I don’t know what is.

Oh wait I do: along Los Feliz Boulevard, witness the apparent felling of a Deodar Cedar. The removal of which being actually criminal, as it is protected tree. But look! They’ve replaced it with some more fan palms! So they’ll chop down the deodar cedar and say “oops! sorry!” and then shell out to the City the—gasp!—$1,000 fine.

But back to this thing:

Design by Kevin Tsai Architecture, with Gary Benjamin of Alchemy Planning + Land Use

Because it’s near a bus stop—and has three affordable units—this project is eleven feet higher than is allowed by law. Also, the City cut its required open space down by 20%. Beside the three affordable one-bedrooms units, there are twenty-five two-bedrooms. And thirty-seven parking spaces.

Projects just like this, through the TOC program, have added approximately 37,000 housing units in Los Angeles in the last few years, of which about 8,000 are reserved for low-income tenants. Admirable, but not enough, say the YIMBYs, and it will never be enough. They say Southern California requires 1.3 million in the next eight years (um…). The City is, under its Housing Element, is upzoning now to build 455,00 new units. New laws will see to it that these new mulitplexes won’t get built in traditionally underserved neighborhoods—apparently while the poor and disenfranchised need homes, if you build those homes near where they actually live, everyone yells at you for gentrifying. Fear not, all, the fact that this 53-bed monster is going up on the tony corner of Los Feliz & Rodney indicates we’re not in fact gentrifying, so you may cease your pearl-clutching. Sure, it’s all (often ill-informed and historically-inaccurate) good intentions until the YIMBY-developers leave us with a zero control over our neighborhoods, turned into Jengaboxland replete with gridlock, displacement, environmental damage, and, most importantly, no cute little Tudor houses.

A YIMBY always scoffs at the idea that “architecture matters.” That scale or massing or character or community matters. That grass and trees and open space “contribute.” Most importantly, they really, really hate history. Call them on these facts, or assert that these things matter, they will call you stupid, reactionary, apologists, racists, etc. etc. To them, more density is the answer to EVERY PROBLEM, and creates NO PROBLEMS. YIMBYs say they’re doing it “for the people” but damnnn don’t get them into a conversation about the hated second egress in apartment construction…and they’ll actually spit and walk away if you talk to them about embodied carbon, say, via the concept of turning office space into residential. Because you’re failing to address that courtyard apartments are exclusionary, maaaaan.

Aaaaanyway, point being, it’s been a while since I’ve posted, and felt the need for a “re-introductory rant.” Now over. Just saying, Los Angeles has cool stuff, heart and soul, which we are seeing removed bit by bit, piece by piece—like the wise man said, how many petals can you pick off a flower before it’s not a flower any more?

B’nai B’rith—846 South Union Ave.

B’nai B’rith—846 South Union Ave.

For the record, let me state at the outset: I revere the Catholic faith. I believe the Church to have had a vastly civilizing influence on humanity—yes, an enormously unpopular opinion, as society now considers statue destruction and church burning the ideal Sunday outing. Do admit, though, what are your temples of the Enlightenment compared to the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore or York Minster or Nantes Cathedral (or what’s left of it)?

Point being, in that I love its doctrine and architecture (above and beyond any fetish for thuribles and a preference for Jameson over Bushmills) I don’t want it to seem that I’m picking on the Church—but.

The Church in Los Angeles has had a troubling history with historic buildings, religious and otherwise. Let’s look at just a smattering:

The Oviatt Building. James Oviatt’s eponymous high-rise haberdashery/office tower (Walker & Eisen, 1928) is one of the great Art Deco monuments of Los Angeles, and therefore the world, known for its cut glass, rare woods, neon clock tower and incredible penthouse. Mr. Oviatt was renting the land on which the tower sat from the Archdiocese. In the late 1960s-early ’70s, with demand for non-polyester clothing on the outs, Oviatt tried to sell his building, to pay back rent owed to the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese sabotaged several escrow attempts by making financially unfeasible demands (installation of central air, replacement of the elevators, etc.) on potential buyers. James Oviatt died in 1974 and the building’s trustees voted to give the structure to the Archdiocese in forgiveness of past rent. The Archdiocese immediately put the building on the market as a teardown, informing realtors it would provide the ideal site for a multistory parking garage.

Fortunately, Wayne Ratkovich bought the place and saved it in 1977. Image from Floyd Bariscale.

St. Joseph’s. Los Angeles was once a forest of church spires, few as prominent as the twin spires of St. Joseph Catholic Church, dedicated on the Feast of St. Joseph, May 3, 1903, at 12th and Los Angeles Streets. Saint Joseph’s architects were Brothers Adrian Wewer and Leonard Darscheidt, German Franciscan monks famed for their church designs. St. Joseph’s was heavily damaged in a September 1983 fire that collapsed the roof, but the walls stood fast and the towers remained. The Cultural Heritage Board reasoned with the Archdiocese that the surviving elements of the church—declared Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Monument #16 some twenty years earlier, in 1963—could be easily rebuilt. But the Church would have none of it, and demolished the structure, to build a modern edifice.

This is what mass in the 1903 church was like (or at least what it was like before Vatican II) as photographed in St. Joseph’s in 1979 for the period picture True Confessions. Here is what the 1985 St. Joseph looks like (architects Brown & Avila are better known for their 1966 St. Genevieve at Roscoe & Hazeltine, and the 1970 Our Lady of the Valley at Topanga Cyn & Gault).

Cathedral of St. Vibiana. This tale is so famous it hardly bears repeating. But anyway: St. Vibiana’s—our first Cathedral, and parish of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese—was built in 1876 and designed by Ezra Frank Kysor of Kysor & Mathews, basing its design loosely on Barcelona’s 1755 Sant Miquel del Port; famed architect John C. Austin made the façade less Baroque and more Roman when he oversaw additions in 1922. Vibiana’s importance to the Church is one thing, but its importance to Los Angeles in general is so deep and undeniable I won’t even begin to elucidate.

His Eminence Cardinal Roger Mahony wanted to tear down the 1876 Cathedral. After the 1994 Northridge earthquake, his structural engineer told him the structure was sound, although the bell tower required shoring; the Church did not shore the bell tower. In May 1996 Mahony began the process of removing statuary and the windows of the structure; illegal for a Historic-Cultural Monument. On June 1, 1996—early on a Saturday morning (and when, conveniently, all of LA’s top preservationists happened to be away at a conference in San Jose)—demolition crews set to work illegally demolishing the structure. Concerned parties rushed to the site but were ignored by guards at the fence; it took a Superior Court Judge to get him to stop.

Huntington Library


A legal battle ensued, St. Vibiana did not become a parking lot, and Mahony finally swapped his little church for six acres of County land bordered by Grand, Temple, Hill, and the Hollywood Freeway.  Mahony’s stripped-down, deconstructivist, $250 million church broke ground in September 1997 and was consecrated in September 2002.  

Deconsecrated, retrofitted, it has since become an event space. If you’re familiar with John 2:16…

Which brings us to today’s topic.

B’nai B’rith, 846 South Union St. (S. Tilden Norton, 1923). You might be asking, what does a Hebrew congregation have to do with the Catholic church? Well.

First of all, do not confuse the B’nai B’rith about which we are speaking with Congregation B’nai B’rith—LA’s first (chartered) Hebrew temple began in 1862, Congregation B’nai B’rith first holding services in their Ezra Kyzor-designed synagogue on Fort Street (now Broadway) between Second and Third in 1873; in 1896 B’nai B’rith moved further south, to Ninth and Hope, to a grand new onion-domed temple designed by Abraham Moses Edelman (son of chief rabbi, Abram Wolf Edelman); they then moved further west, and built one of the greatest synagogues in the world in 1929, and changed their name to Wilshire Boulevard Temple.

Rather, we are discussing B’nai B’rith, the service organization (which also functioned very much like a fraternal lodge). The International Order of B’nai B’rith, begun in New York in 1843, founded its Los Angeles chapter, Orange Lodge No. 224, in 1874, and another, Semi-Tropic Lodge in 1883; they merged to become Lodge 487 in 1899. In the 1880s B’nai B’rith met at Bryson’s Hall on Spring Street; in January 1904, when they had 170 members, they dedicated a fine new hall at 521 West Pico. By 1918 they had moved to a new lodge hall at 17th & Georgia. In the January 13, 1922 issue of The B’nai B’rith Messenger, under notices about Lodge 487:

Fun fact: the weekly B’nai B’rith Messenger was not a publication of the Independent Order of B’nai B’rith, just as the IOBB was not allied with Congregation B’nai B’rith. Jews just love naming stuff B’nai B’rith is all. (Tr. “Children of the Covenant.”)


It contained “two large lodge-rooms, banquet hall, dancing floors, library, kitchen, elevators, committee-rooms, spacious lobby, gymnasium, shower baths and eight handsome stores” according to this. And its architect was Samuel Tilden Norton. 

S. Tilden Norton is of such glaring importance to Los Angeles’s built environment that…I won’t make this post any longer by detailing his work here. Go read his Wiki page.

Note that the exterior is done in Batchelder tile. Like S. Tilden Norton, I don’t have to tell you of the importance of Batchelder tile.

B’nai B’rith Messenger, 1924

The International Order of B’nai B’rith settled in, and did their good works, having concerts, etc.

By the mid-1930s, the IOBB 487 have moved, presumably because of the Depression, into a room at 742 South Hill St. 846 South Union becomes the home of other fraternal organizations, like the Blue Devils Post of the American Legion and the Los Angeles Aerie 102 Fraternal Order of Eagles. In 1938 it becomes a little more labor-related, when the Safeway Employees Associationmoves in. By 1942 it was a full-blown temple of labor, as the former B’nai B’rith was now home to Bakery Drivers 276, Dump Truck Drivers 420, Warehousemens 598, Grocery Warehousemens 595, Dairy Haulers 737, Milk Wagon Drivers 93, Meat and Provision Drivers 626, Truck Drivers 208 and 403, Hay Haulers 737, Garage Automotive and Service Station Employees 495, Laundry Workers 52, and Wholesale Delivery Drivers and Salesmen 848.

By 1945 it was just known as the “Teamsters Hall,” “AFL Hall” or the “Teamsters Building.” Here’s a shot outside 846, showing worker’s wives protesting the Teamsters’ throwing them out of work for the holidays:

Only vintage shot I’ve found of the exterior, November 1955. The round neon sign (there were two, one on each side of the building) was fabricated by QRS neon and installed in the spring of 1949. It would have looked very much like this.
Inside the hall! LAPL doesn’t give a date for this image—there were so many transit strikes normally it would be impossible to pinpoint this photo, but they do mention it’s during Shrine Week; therefore this was shot during the mass meeting of June 17, 1950
And THAT’s why all along the top of the building you have these nifty medallions that read AFL, and wagon wheels, symbol of the IBT

Teamsters Hall was renamed Roosevelt Hall in 1960. The Teamsters moved out about 1977 and in 1978, 846 South Union became the location of California International University and Southland College, later known as the Southland Career Institute. The Lighthouse Mission Church purchases 846 in March 1989, and it has been a church these past thirty-some years.

And that brings us around back to the Church. The property, and its large adjacent parking lot, was purchased in September 2018 by Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, Inc., which is the social service arm of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Catholic Charities intends to demolish the building:

The Demolition Notice was affixed to the wall a year ago, according to this Instagram post

This, then, is my message to Catholic Charities’ Executive Director, the Reverend Monsignor Gregory Cox, and its Chairman of the Board of Trustees, the Most Reverend José H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles:

I support you, of course, unwaveringly, in your alleviation of the material and spiritual poverty of the poor and disenfranchised. Breaking the cycles of poverty, homelessness, illiteracy and violence is especially important for boys and young men transitioning out of foster care, and I applaud the concept of a village catering to their needs and to that end.

Union Avenue Village is a wonderful concept in achieving your goal. But this is a very large property; the 1923 B’nai B’rith structure takes up only about a third of it. And it was initially constructed with all manner of convenience (showers, gymnasium, kitchens, etc.) conducive to housing young men. Might I suggest adaptive reuse of the property? Rejuvenating this building would certainly fulfill attractive concerns of sustainability and of the circular economy, to be certain, but I would also argue a more esoteric point—that retaining and maintaining a beautiful old building such as this, a touchstone of the neighborhood and link to the past and our shared cultural heritage, is good for the soul. I would say it uplifts the soul, and serves the people of Los Angeles, to retain 846 South Union and incorporate it into the forthcoming Angel’s Flight shelter for homeless boys and housing for Transition Age Youth. Moreover, keeping 846 South Union would reverse the trend of the Church’s propensity toward demolishing historic buildings.

Thank you for your consideration!

Why, it even comes with Calvary stained glass and a neon cross!
3967 Beverly & Friends

3967 Beverly & Friends

There’s a very special part of the world. Beverly Boulevard. You go ahead and cross town on (shudder) the freeways; or traverse the city on, what, Santa Monica (bless your heart); I go in for cruising Beverly when it comes to making my way across Los Angeles.

My favorite stretch on Beverly is this one run, that stretch between Virgil and Western, especially the ten-some blocks between Vermont and Normandie—by and large all one and two-story Spanish-style 1920s structures; the odd car wash; a wonderful 1955 Catholic church by the great Ross Montgomery at Arlington Avenue; an excellent Late Moderne medical building, also from 1955, by J. Don Hartfelder at 3919 (oh wait they just ughed that one up pretty bad); and of course looming above it all the famed 1926 Richard D. King-designed Dicksboro at 3818 Beverly.

I wrote about Beverly in general, and the magical corner of Beverly & Heliotrope in particular, twenty years ago in Los Angeles Neon:

Along the Beverly side of the structure is one of the best 1930s Art Deco neon signs in Los Angeles. Here is an ad for the Beverly Mart from December 1938.

Also smack dab in the middle of it all—at Heliotrope, across the intersection from our beloved Beverly Mart Liquor-Deli—is the Rancho Sinaloa Market, known for its Moderne detailing and corner bar the One Eye Jack.

Take a look at the following images. This is one damn amazing structure.

The left turn spake of in Los Angeles Neon. The market, in orange, at Heliotrope; there’s the Dicksboro in the distance, and the 1965 Beverly-Catalina Car Wash hiding in the foliage at right
Bow before me!
Jeez kinda reminds me of the tower of the old Morgan, Walls & Clements KEHE/KFI building that’s just a few blocks away on Ver—oh wait the City tore it town
Like the painted letters, it once would have had large lettering like this. Gads, what I wouldn’t give for a shot of this market in 1937.

How is it that stepped pylon remained standing after the Parapet Ordinance of 1949, Sylmar, Whittier, Northridge, and a fire in 1985? Incredible. These kind of intact mid-30s Moderne markets are rare as hen’s teeth and a valuable part of the built environment. (Heck, I bet even Kaplan Chen Kaplan would agree with that!) In short, it is a rare surviving example of its type and retains its integrity.

3967-3977 Beverly was designed by Edwin Felix Rudolph (1895-1942) and built in the summer/fall of 1936. It was funded by Mrs. Alice B. Cohen who lived next door at 301 N. Berendo (more on 301 N. Berendo later). In 1939 it was the Continental Grocery, by 1945 it was the B & B Meat Market (although I suspect the B & B Meat Market was located inside the Continental Grocery).

That is, I believe the market rented out to various sub-markets, à la Grand Central Market; case in point, this ad, which dates to September 1939

Who was Edwin Felix Rudolph? He’s not particularly well-known, Sinaloa Market being, in my humble opinion, his best work (or best known work, there’s a lot more research to be done on Rudolph). Here is his 1939 Streamline Moderne industrial building for Central Realty at 3101 East 12th St.—

Look closely and note the glass brick adjacent the rounded corner

And this is his 1937 industrial building for the Brin Brothers at 631 South Anderson:

I’d tell you to personally go take in the glory of that Deco door and marvel at the Streamline pilasters but this building was unfortunately too near the 1932 Sixth Street Bridge. Yeah, they tore that down too.

Rudolph’s also responsible for the 1939 Safeway packing plant on Vernon east of Alameda; a 1939 San Fernando warehouse and feed mill for San Fernando Milling in Van Nuys; a 1934 market at 1070 West Jefferson (damaged in the ’92 riots, it was thereafter helpfully demolished by the nonprofit “Rebuild LA” thus ensuring nothing would be rebuilt there, ever); and was structural engineer for a number of buildings including the recently-landmarked Sunset House/Hollywood Reporter.

In late 1954 the Continental Grocery/B & B Meat Market became the dental offices of the Hotel and Restaurant Union. In 1967 the market became the home of a typography/printing/darkroom shop called Ad Compositors. It reverted back to groceries in 1975 when it became the Wai Wai Market (and one of the few places in town, noted the Times in 1981, to find Thai staples like makrut, nam pla and pickled egg yolks). It was purchased by Vietnamese refugee Luong Truong in 1985, becoming the Cathay market, and although Truong suffered a disastrous fire there that year, he persevered. It became the Rancho Sinaloa sometime around 2000.

Its corner shop at 3977 began life as a malt shop, became a cleaners, was an insurance agent’s office in the 1950s, and got its bar license in 1965, originally called The Yukon—and was a gay bar, according to the records at the One Archives—and was renamed One Eye Jack sometime around 1972.

And because this is RIPLosAngeles, you know where this is going. Yep:

How many kinds of beige is that? I see soiled diaper beige, Depression Beige™, vomit beige and some kind of grayish brown that’s not quite beige but trying very hard to be

Brought to you from the good folks of 4D Development and Investment. The design is by AFCO Development. Every time I do one of these posts I think “well, we’ve finally hit bottom. A rendering can’t get worse than this.” And then I’m pleasantly surprised-horrified.

And yes, it’s TOC-ridden: because seven units shall be low income, it gets a sixteen foot increase in legally allowed height, to sixty-six feet; and a 25% decrease in open space around it. Floor area ratio is upped by 14%, and the whole project has a 70% increase in density. There’s only a half a parking spot for each unit.

So, here’s the Department of City Planning report on the site. It’s prepared by some guy named Jason Hernández who, because he works for the City, God bless him, doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. For example, he states that the 1936 market is built in 1942, and two houses from 1919 are from 1922, etc. I mean why should he bother to be sensitive or accurate? After all he works for the City so kind of has to ensure they get torn down—and the poor kid only makes $92,000 a year (and that’s just part-time), so why should we even expect him to be good at his job?

But then, he’s probably just getting his information from what he was given by Kaplan Chen Kaplan, who did the Historic Resource Eval report for City Planning. Hernández wrote on page 26: “According to the Historic Resource Evaluation conducted by Kaplan Chen Kaplan on November 22, 2019, none of the four (4) existing buildings were found to have historic significance or have the potential to be a historic resource. “ Well of course not! KCK are high-priced consultants-for-hire, utilized frequently by government and developers, routinely hired to tear down your neighborhood, a fact about which I go into some detail here. The Office of Historic Resources also says our subject properties are of no historic importance—but only, it states, did it decide so “after reviewing the Historic Resource Evaluation.” Which was just partisan propaganda and, though I guarantee you it was over 200 pages long, contained less pertinent and accurate information in it than this stupid little post does. C’mon OHR, you can do better.

Anyway. The other day this image appeared on Esotouric’s IG:

The writing on the side of the building reads “I am a moral leper, do us both a favor and cut off my hands”

So that, being demo fencing, is that. But wait! Don’t answer yet! You’ll also receive THE DEMOLITION OF THESE THREE SINGLE FAMILY HOMES!

There’s our market bottom left, but they’re also tearing down the SFD to its north at 306 N Heliotrope, and the two houses to its west, at 301 & 307 N Berendo

That’s right, immediately to the east, at 301 North Berendo (where Alice B. Cohen lived, who built the Continental/B & B Market, remember?) is this lovely little house, which the City report refers to as a “commercial building,” which I suppose is fair. It began as an SFD, and became a commercial building, converted to a restaurant:

301 was constructed in 1919 by builder Samuel W. Spangler, who acted as its architect; Spangler was one of the many LA entrepreneurs who built and sold concrete bungalows in the teens. It was a restaurant by 1942, when owned by Lucille Rowley, and through the 1950s was Lucille’s Cottage.

Women cooks only!
I see you, rock chimney hiding in the foliage

In 1961 it became, briefly, Young’s Oriental Inn—”The Oriental Gourmet Spot of Los Angeles.” In 1963 it became the site of the first Peruvian restaurant in the United States. Others would follow, but Inca’s was first and always considered best, a highly-regarded red table-clothed affair run by Carlos and Ofelia Binasa and managed by son Gabriel, as the only Peruvian easting establishment to feature serious and authentic dishes; it also had art showings. The space became Atlactatl in September 1989, and has (had) the best pupusas in town (the southland’s best pupuserias are located in my neighborhood, but these, these merited driving to).

This it Atlacatl’s neighbor to the north, 307 North Berendo:

Like Spangler, Ira Allison Marshall was a local realty man, who built, bought and sold bungalows across Los Angeles in the teens, perhaps as many as 250, mostly in the Westlake district. Marshall built this in early 1919. It has a wonderful clipped gable roof, and the traditional American Colonial boxed eave return above the porch. Look at all those original windows! In December 1979, 301-307 N. Berendo became the International Institute of the Maitre-D’, which transformed into the National Restaurant Academy in September 1980, and which apparently dissolved in mid-late 1983.

To the west of our friends on Berendo, at the north of our market, is 306 North Heliotrope:

Look at the pride of place here—Google Street even managed to capture the gardener plying his trade

Again, American Colonial built in 1919, this time for a Ms. Gretta C. Sutherland; the builder was Charles MacMillan. Gable roofed, hipped n’ clipped, with a wonderful matching clipped hip porch gable. Tough to see through the security bars but, like the house behind it on Berendo, original sidelights and windows (double hung in this case) and, I hope I don’t have to point out, marvel of marvels, neither house has been stucco’d.

Also, in the late 40s this is where you’d go for your colon hydrotherapy—including expert manipulation by a Graduate Nurse

So as I was saying. All this gets dumpster’d in favor of this—

Yes, build this and the neighborhood will populate with scissor-door cars and baby strollers

Built to the edges of the street—and monstrous—is a fate we must accept solely for no other reason than it having seven affordable units within. Because you cannot disagree with housing, because we don’t build housing! Except…there’s a million of these things going up every day, everywhere. There were 58,437 market-rate units built in Los Angeles in 17-18-19, plus another 10,877 low-income units; for example, in 2018 specifically, Los Angeles gained only 2,000 residents yet built 16,525 units. And the number of units added to market in 2020 (although I am without precise numbers as the Department of Finance has yet to release them) has skyrocketed, in part because of implementation of the ADU Ordinance, even despite COVID (not to mention the 8,000 new units for homeless families, built via PropHHH).

So why, then, are rents so high? Well, as regards newly-built units added to the housing stock, it has much to do with the exorbitant cost of building in Los Angeles—apart from our high land acquisition costs, it runs about $400/sf to build here, given the very steep cost of labor, high cost of construction materials, and meeting our particular building regulatory codes (solar, sprinklers, etc.); our permitting fees, which are nothing compared to all the escalating school, parks, and other government-mandated fees (LAUSD’s fee alone for this project will run about $425,000); the pricey soft costs of architects and engineers, and then you have to deal with property taxes, and so on. No-one is going to build if they can’t recoup their investment (unless it’s a government project, of course) and they wouldn’t build this if it wouldn’t turn a profit; not turning a profit makes people get fired. It stands to reason, then, someone is paying $4,000/mo to live in a studio.

That said, there has been much talk about how many of these new units are built as luxury units, and many sit empty, and the answer therefore is slapping the owners with a vacancy tax. I would contend, however, that it is not the private sector’s responsibility to alleviate social ills. But they do, in fact, indirectly—the bulk of LA’s upkeep is paid for by real estate: of the City of Los Angeles’ $5billion annual budget, $3.5billion comes from property taxes and permitting/fees. This year we’ll spend nearly a half-billion of that haul on the homeless crisis, which many contend is not nearly enough. You know, $130million of this year’s budget is going to the City Attorneys office—that could build subsidized units rather than pay for those endless $400/hr attorneys, right? $52million is earmarked to pay salaries at City Planning, who—as I’ve demonstrated—hire incompetents and worse, pay for expensive, lavish studies written by venal jackals (who, in their defense, are at least competent at turning out those depressingly repetitious “this significant structure is insignificant!” studies). Cut their budget and spend that money on affordable housing—you know, without cutting Office of Historic Resources, naturally.

But forgive my thinking out loud—I’m neither an authority on housing crises nor their resolutions, so don’t take to me task on the previous paragraphs. I just like to look at old buildings. Which is becoming an increasingly difficult pleasure, since developers keep tearing them down, aided and abetted by a local government that’s making bank on the process.


Saving the world from the Streamline Moderne one 1936 market at a time
The sad end of 307 N Berendo, which survived unmolested for over one hundred years…
Atlacatl must die, because some Westside YIMBY said so, you racist
A Word or Two on Density

A Word or Two on Density

I am forever fascinated by GrowLA’s Facebook page. They are first-tier density cheerleaders, fervently committed to tearing down any and all Los Angeles and replacing it with vast swaths of multi-units. Here is their cover page:

Advocacy group CA-YIMBY is funded by the Building Industry Association, Construction Trades Council, Regional Council of Carpenters, and the Plumbers & Pipefitters Union, God bless ’em

Need I say, the opposite of this graphic is the actual truth. According to studies by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and all their various graphs involving demographic cross-tabulations of USFPP vs PPB (Unit Square Footage-Per-Person, Person-Per-Bedoom) and so forth, Americans in houses are “overhoused,” meaning they have more elbow room, while Americans in denser areas and multiunits are “underhoused,” i.e., suffering from overcrowding. This is true across all spectrums of race and ethnicity, income, metropolitan area, citizenship, etc. Don’t know if the YIMBYs made an honest mistake here, or they’re just lying liars who lie. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, of course.

What sort of thing gets posted on GrowLA? This is typical:

It’s like looking down the Norden bombsight

There’s you answer, “get” the City of Los Angeles to “do this,” what, through eminent domain? Tearing down single family homes is always the answer. (We’ll ignore the fact that 5,000+ units are already under construction for UCLA right now.)

And what are we to replace Los Angeles’ single-family-dwellings with? Micro-Units, of course!

How can it be spread, John? Like any infectious disease, I suppose…

When you read this article, you’re supposed to feel warm and fuzzy because look! there’s more units and they COST LESS! Win for millennials!

Of course, what they fail to explicate: When you spend that $2,305 for a one-bedroom you are getting on average 768 square feet. That is because average rent around there is $3/sf. Ergo, the 265 square foot apartment at MicroUnitz should cost $795 a month. Why then would you pay $1500, or $5.66 a square foot, for your tiny place, when $5.66/sf is the going rate in Beverly Hills? But think of the amenities! Like not…having…parking…or a closet.

But you’re not supposed to ask these questions. You’re supposed to just accept that we can add millions of new people to Los Angeles—it will all be ok because we can tear down the old neighborhoods, those homes and lawns and trees, and learn to live with less. (I wrote a little bit about glorified dorm life in this post.) It has been said that living with less is good for the environment, and far be it from me to argue with that. What it does to your soul be damned, of course. The individual (and certainly the soul) are outdated concepts, anyway.

The new way of living is certainly the pod. All hail the pod! Here is General Pod discussing life in the Pod. Moscow-born Elvina Beck, CEO of PodShare, formed PodShare “like the idea of the government giving you everything in a Communist state”…though you still have to pay $1200 for the privilege. Which I suppose is a step up from living in disused sewer pipes:

I like the big glass wall that underscores “your basic human right to privacy is a lie”

Los Angeles has been criticized as an exclusionary region for homebuyers, though at least homes kept selling, which prevented their demolition. As those monied, home-buying types depart California in general and Los Angeles in particular, the powers-that-be are only interested in filling the void with a vast sea of perpetual rent serfs who will never know antiquated concepts like “elbow room.” I’m not sure how these PodPeople™ are going to pay the rent; Lord knows they won’t be working for Disney or Universal or Warner Brothers (if any of us are left alive; at 59 people per acre, Los Angeles is considerably more dense than New York or Chicago [47 and 41 people per acre, respectively] and we are being absolutely hammered by the plague thanks to that). Maybe they can get a service industry jo—oh, damn. Wait I know, government can subsidize their rent, via the money-making Californians paying 62¢ out of every $1.00 they earn—oh that’s right, those people moved out of California because the government took 62¢ out of every dollar they earned.

Well then I guess I don’t know what will happen. People like me will keep complaining I suppose, but I am after all the problem, according to our pals at GrowLA:

Yeahhh, my property taxes prop up your teacher’s union, so you’re welcome

People will know about it! Me and that pesky politician who sides with the homeowner. (Because this blog exists to recount all those times pesky politicians keep stepping in to save houses from becoming multiunit Jenga boxes.) But goddamn the homeowner! Who owns their home at the expense of everybody else! I can’t wait till we do away with that pesky private property and fix that!

Whither Los Angeles? Will we end up living as atomized ants in a great isolating colony? These kooky kids of to-day love them some globalism, and the Great Reset promulgated by their kreepy king Klaus Schwab, who is working for the abolition of private property (of your private property, that is; elites buy up everything with the money you gave them). So when Los Angeles becomes this, and I hear you say “once in awhile I get annoyed about the fact that I have no real privacy. No where I can go and not be registered. I know that, somewhere, everything I do, think and dream of is recorded.” but at least it’s “much better than the path we were on!” I will punch you in the…no, I’m sure I will say Hail General Pod.

Easing Back Into It, via 915 S. Grand View

Easing Back Into It, via 915 S. Grand View

Can’t believe it’s been nigh on four months since I’ve posted. I must beg your forgiveness—in September we birthed the Bunker Hill book with Angel City Press, thereafter doing lots of publicity, while at the same time I was compiling and designing my self-published Bunker Noir! magazine, so it’s been a busy autumn. But I’ve been keeping an eye on things, and there’s a lot to talk about.

Of course during these lock’d-down times (to think, I remember when they were just loc’d out) the demolition of Los Angeles has managed to continue apace. While the act of your shopping six-feet-apart at the local mom& pop is definitely going to kill our collective grandma (and no, you’re not allowed to go to her funeral either), a yard full of dudes shoulder to shoulder yelling and sweating and tearing down vintage houses to build Khrushchyovkas, well, that in fact makes those fellows immune to Coronavirus. Trust the science.

Now then. Let’s talk for a sec about a building that has no immediate threat of which I am aware. No permit has been taken out in anger against it. But still.

Here she is, 915 South Grand View St.

The cornice return says Greek Revival but the little swoop to it almost says Japanesque, which jives with the Craftsmany exposed beams. Homina homina homina

George W. Stimson, prominent Pasadena developer and prolific builder of early Los Angeles, without whom we’d have no West Adams-Normandie neighborhood, on October 11th 1902 pulled permits to erect three grand homes: 1312 West Fifth Street (demolished in 1954), 457 Westlake Avenue (lost to the Hollywood Freeway), and 915 Grand View. The architect here is George Lawrence Stimson, who did all the architectural work for his father. Read more about G. Lawrence Stimson here and here and here.

Note the stone wall hiding behind the fence. And check out that porte-cochère.

915 Grand View was purchased from developer Stimson by William Horatio Sanders, who, though his parents were English, was born in Scotland, in June 1839. He came to America in 1860 at twenty, going to work on the railroads; he married Emma Ellsworth in Minnesota in 1878. He and Emma came to Pomona in the eighties, where W. H. worked as a civil engineer. He became a partner in the Los Angeles-based engineering firm of Quinton, Olmsted & Sanders, and moved from Pomona to Los Angeles to be closer to the action. W.H. also worked as an engineer for the newly-formed United States Reclamation Service Railroad when he and Emma pulled up Pomona stakes and bought Grand View. They lived there until he passed away in the house, in 1924; Emma moved back to Pomona and passed in March 1942 (she was fifteen years his junior).

After 1924 it becomes the home and chiropractic offices of Dr. George Shabo (who builds the garage in back in 1932); he and his wife Vera live there until his death in 1949. It remains single family until owner Joseph Gary converts a couple rooms to apartments in 1961.

A view down the street

So why do I bring up this charming old home? It sold last week, on December 21st. The realtor copy—as penned by Paul Yoo of Keller Williams— reads thus:

The mention that 915 is an “excellent opportunity for developers to acquire prime property on an R4 zoned and TOC Tier 3 lot” is what, I would wager, sealed the deal. Therefore, according to its TOC, this 117-y.o. two-unit with the hedges and the rock wall will likely become a thirteen-unit, pushed right to the sidewalk, 22′ higher than surrounding buildings, etc. On the other hand, maybe the new owner will keep it a duplex with the church, or heck, even return the whole thing to an SFD! Because that happens so often.

Meanwhile, you shelter in place. Your whole neighborhood is clamped down tight. Then why is there no calm in the world? Why, when you are trying to sleep at eight in the morning—because Lord knows you can’t go to work—there’s hammering and high-pitched tile saws everywhere? Because the building of high priced condos is essential work. Everybody knows that.

So keep an eye on your neighbor. No, not to spy on their mask-wearing. On their purchase of moving boxes. Chances are good they’re getting the hell out. Then a bunch of investors will swoop in, purchase their place. These newfolk will gleefully tear down what’s left of Old LA, and haul in a hundred heavy-breathing workers, a-hammering furiously. A million units built nice and dense, housing crisis ended! Just like the last time a bunch of new units were added to the stock, which certainly cured us. This time it may be a little different though. New immigrants into California will pay the rent with…what? The odd $600 check?

I’ll just be sad when they tear down 915 Grand View.

An Appeal to Reason at 1537 South Wilton Pl.

An Appeal to Reason at 1537 South Wilton Pl.

Let’s say you’re living peacefully in your vintage home on your block of gracious low-slung craftsmans when some developer decides to tear down the house next door to put in something grossly out-of-scale. You’re shocked that it will block light and air and views and ruin parking and cause noise and destroy the historic fabric of your neighborhood and the whole magilla. Surely you can lay out your concerns to the Powers That Be in the form of an appeal to which they’ll listen thoughtfully and say, My God, You’re Right. Maybe in this case we shouldn’t worship at the altar of Scott Wiener and fall in lockstep with the abjuration of zoning ordinances.

Or, the City might tell you to go screw.

Take for example 1537 South Wilton Place. It was built in 1905 and designed by Charles F. Whittlesey. The F is for Effing, because this house was designed by CHARLES EFFING WHITTLESEY.

That’s quite the cross-gable! Dig those rafter tails, the balconette railings, and that Swiss Chalet balcony. Check out the flare wingwall!
An older Google StreetView shot when it was painted slightly differently. Before the nice new owners who bought the house in mid-2018 let the lawn die.
Lookit that door. And those stained-glass transom windows will emit a satisfying crunch come the bulldozer.
The Staff Response to the neighborhood appeal was, and I’m not kidding, that the block does not have uniform character in regards to height and scale. Compare the above two images with what the developer is building. Yeeeesss, Director of Planning Vincent P. Bertoni, the block is just FULL of five-story cubes all OVER the damn place.

So, demolish the hell out of the Whittlesey, and in its place, Gabriel and Tomer Fedida propose building this five-story, fifty-five-foot, twenty-one unit, 22,313 square foot apartment complex. The City is awarding them a collection of zoning variances, allowing the Fedidas to build eleven feet higher than permitted by law; decreasing the side yard requirement 25%; and giving them a 20% decrease in the open space requirement.

As rendered Micheal Ko of KSK Design

So the neighbors approached the City and said, hey, we’re filing an appeal, in that there’s a few problems here. They pointed out that the South Los Angeles Community Plan Design Guidelines/Citywide Residential Design Guidelines require new developments to respect the scale and architecture and identity of the surrounding historic neighborhood, especially as this neighborhood falls under the Character Residential Overlay as implemented by the City Council to protect the historic neighborhoods in South Los Angeles. Plus the developer screwed up the math on the TOC Incentives, getting them all kinds of wrong, as further miscalculated by City staff. And you can’t just make the project vested for land use entitlements and CEQA exempt because you feel like it. And so on.

And to all of this the City replied. They replied well, you say your neighborhood has a certain character, but we say your neighborhood has all sorts of weird buildings, so stop worrying about it, and so as to you and your Citywide Design Guidelines, we dismiss your concerns utterly. For example, when you say two stories is the prevailing height on the block, we reply with, basically, sure, true, but so what (and implying as well, you terrible people, if we don’t hand the developers the extra height then the project won’t “pencil out” and then how, oh how can we have those two whole low-income units?). Oh, and all that stuff about entitlements and TOC? Well, don’t even try to argue TOC. It’s TOC, man.

But, said the Department of City Planning’s City Planning Commission, we do agree that neither the developers nor us gave one piddling iota of thought or care as to whether 1537 might be a potential historic resource, so tell ya what, we will hire some real live architects, Kaplan Chen Kaplan, to do a Historic Resource Evaluation Report on this here Whittlesey house.

KCK came back and said the Whittlesey house was absolute worthless crap, devoid of all merit in every conceivable way. KCK’s report was some 100+ pages and, since they bill on average at $200/hour, I can assure you, was not cheap. Your tax dollars at work! For example, KCK hired an RPA Certified Archaeologist to check records, which is akin to hunting mosquitos with an elephant gun; it’s the kind of work you give to Bob the Unpaid Intern and and he does it on his lunchbreak. Hell, it’s the elemental gruntwork I save for when I’m hungover and do it in half my lunchbreak.

KCK’s report was written primarily by “historic consultant” Pam O’Connor, whom you specifically hire when you want to make sure something is described as “unworthy of preservation.” When Mayor of Santa Monica, she fought to remove landmark status and tear down landmarks. O’Connor is best known as the only Santa Monica council member to lobby against Millard Sheets. Look at these Late Moderne and Modern buildings on North Central in Glendale. Does O’Connor understand them at all? No, she does not. (Or maybe she secretly does, but still has to recommend their destruction, because that’s her damn job.)

In any event, some snorty guffaws and one Very Expensive and Useless Study later, and the City sat down to thoughtfully consider the neighborhood’s appeal. Which is precisely why they own a comically oversized rubber DENIED stamp they use to pound upon appeals with an embarrassingly ebullient and theatrical flourish.

One more shot—check out the neighbor to its immediate south. 1543 was designed by the great Edward Butler Rust, who we discussed here
Ok, another one more shot. 1517, two doors north, here in the Crenshaw Heights tract, built by George Crenshaw in 1910 as the home of Loren Crenshaw. Yep, nothin’ historic around here.
Hey everybody, here’s an update! The Whittlesey has been replaced by a lone potipotty. In case I wasn’t clear above, in summation: the City is corrupt; Kaplan Chen Kaplan are expensive and corrupt; Gabriel and Tomer Fedida are profiting off this; and all laugh as they piss on your history and culture. Thank you for your attention.
10912 West Blix St., No. Hollywood

10912 West Blix St., No. Hollywood

Up in the Valley there’s an indication as to how we used to live. Low slung structures, lots of open space. Cool shade from the towering trees. This is, of course, a rare, precious, disappearing commodity.

In the autumn of 1939 a fellow named P. N. Morgan designed and built a twelve-room, four family residential structure just off Lankershim in North Hollywood, at 10912 Blix. Then, a chap named W. Charles Swett saw what Morgan did, and liked it so much that in the spring of 1940 he pulled permits to put up one very much like it on the adjoining property at 10916, hiring engineer/architect Edward Rudolph to design another one-story, twelve-room four-unit.

Look how nicely the two work together. See how they form a sort of allée, passing through a planted boscage.

10912, left; 10916, right

Needless to say, 19012 was marketed as a development opportunity:

Yeah, you market those condos to the Warner employees.

And the lot, being 57×170, is going to lose any vestige of open space to absorb a five-story, eighteen-unit structure:

Here’s an overhead—that tree canopy is about as dense a green spot as you’ll ever find that close to Lankershim.

Sorry to see them go. But at least we can revel in the irony that it’s the people who yell loudest about climate change are also those who yell loudest about building more housing. Sweet, sweet irony.

And yet… The footprint of the four-unit structure now is 41×80. Were Boyajian & Co. to build on that same footprint, with three stories of four units and two stores of three, up five stories, well, there’s your eighteen units, with trees left intact, and—

Oh wait nevermind, I just found the rendering for the thing. I was right, it eats up every inch:

By the way, proving again that architects always…improve…when making their renderings, it should be noted that in some weird attempt to ameliorate the fact their client is ripping out a whole bunch of mature trees, they’ve invented a bunch of trees for the rendering. Literally none of the trees on the surrounding properties actually exist. Neither does that nice fence, which in reality is chain link, behind which there are no crepe myrtles. They also took out a telephone pole and apparently added an encroaching red tile-roofed structure? I bet those ladies are Warner employees, too.