Third Strike, Wiseman

Nathan Marsak

Nathan Marsak

· 9 min read

Not that your name is Wiseman, Messrs. Cohanzad, but whoever you are, you have done this for the last time. On behalf of Los Angeles, seriously, enough is enough. As Marsellus Wallace says to Butch, you’ve lost all your LA privileges.

RIPsters, we speak of Michael and Isaac Cohanzad; architect Isaac established Wiseman Residential in 1985. Wiseman Residential put their hearts into designing homes you’ll love.

That may be, but they put their efforts into illegally demolishing homes you already love.

Example #1. This was 419 N. Hayworth:

The Spanish number at left is 413-15 N. Hayworth; designed by the great Joe Eudemiller in 1931, who gave Los Angeles a lot of Spanish charm in the 1930s. The French Normandy with Chateauesque influence, center, is 419-21 N. Hayworth; it was built in 1936 and designed by David C. Coleman (check out his synagogue at 2521 West View) for the Spinning Wheel Corp.

The Spinning Wheel apartments were twins, in fact, facing a common courtyard, and absolutely pristine: original windows, hardwood floors, high ceilings, all of its moldings and turrets and whatnot. Until one day, this happened:

If you look verrrry closely you’ll see it say’s “SAVE THIS BUILDING” in the window on the building at far right. Guess how that turns out?

That day was February 12, 2015. Wiseman began tearing off the turrets, and also demolishing elements of the Spanish next door, without a permit from LADBS. Without green demo fencing. Without a thirty-day notice. Without clearance from HCIDLA. Without turning off gas and electric. There were no repercussions for this and the City gave them a permit to demo on March 13.

Building “Hayworth Hyde

FYI, the _other_ half of the turreted eight-unit 1936 garden court apartments—well, the renters banded together to get it nominated as a Historic-Cultural Monument, citing that it was a rare intact piece of Normandy Revival, and that it was important culturally as an early piece of Jewish-built and owned property for a neighborhood famously Hebraicising in the 1930s. Michael & Isaac voice their “strong opposition to the proposed designation of the Property on both substantive and procedural grounds” and so forth; the Cultural Heritage Commission nix the nomination and this time Wiseman presumably get a permit:

Wisemanizing the whole block. That’s Hayworth Hyde at left. A two bedroom is 968sf. They start at $3895.

Let’s move on to

Example #2. This was 1332 N. Formosa Avenue:

Built in 1925 and designed by D. F. Hancock; check out Hancock’s four-unit at 1145 Gordon St., and 1257 Bronson/5910 Fountain

In this case, Wiseman tossed everyone out via the Ellis Act. Wiseman would be unable to Airbnb the apartments, because short-term rentals of evictions are decidedly, blatantly against that law (and reprobate), so that is therefore exactly what they did. HCIDLA told them to stop, and Wiseman responded by beginning demolition work. Again, without a permit. HCIDLA came out multiple times with stop-work orders and so Wiseman finally destroyed the building—with the electricity and gas still on—on January 21, 2017. Read more about it here and here.

The cute little Storybook had quite a view to the north there…for a little while…

Hey look at that big thing they built there. Because again, not even a slap on the wrist.

Up next is

Example #3. This is 7050-60 Hawthorn Ave:

Yep, you can barely see its Colonial Revival glory behind the foliage. It’s a damn tranquil oasis in the middle of Hollywood

No, seriously: this is the heart of Hollywood (that’s the Hollywood Roosevelt at bottom left) and 7050 Hawthorn, center-right, is the sole, solitary green spot in all of town. We must do away with that grass! say the do-gooders, conveniently ignoring that grass traps stormwater runoff, reduces noise pollution, keeps the air cooler, cleans the air, traps CO2, produces oxygen, reduces dust pollution, and filters groundwater…

7050 Hawthorn was built in early 1941; the architect was Gene Verge. Among his works are Buster Keaton’s pad; St. Luke’s Hospital; and these rather grand houses.

Well you know where we’re going with this. In every survey commissioned by the City, Verge’s 7050 complex is identified as a historic resource. Did that worry its owners? AKA Isaac, Benjamin, Michael and Lillian TRS Cohanzad and the Family Trust of Cohanzad? Of course not! They had the place half-rented as an illegal short-term rental hotel, and it was time to get the remainder of those pesky long-term renters out. They began Ellising those folk in October 2019—but that’s always a tricky time, ‘cuz Ellising indicates a building is likely to be demolished, and that red flag might trigger a monument nomination.

So in the middle of the night, with the gas still on, no permit from LADBS, no thirty-day notice, no notice to neighbors, no HCIDLA clearances, they started demolition. No no no, they insisted, this wasn’t demolition, this was abatement.

Uh-huh. This was the abatement of the historic, character-defining features, making it ineligible for landmark designation. (A trick they learned, apparently, from Philip Rahimzadeh—another prolific developer who literally knows everything about LA development law—but when he had recently illegally demo’d the facade of an effing Paul Williams he said “gosh, who knew?” and the City said “golly, oh well!”)

Let’s take a look at what _abatement_ looks like. This is the sort of abatement—not demolition, mind you, but abatement—that occurred over the course of one night.


They were abating what, exactly?

And you know what else? The three I’ve spoken about above are just the illegal ones. The Cohanzads have this _pathological fetish_ for destroying particularly wonderful Los Angeles structures. I don’t have an up-to-date list, but I do know that in just 2017 alone, five Historic Cultural Monument applications were filed for buildings owned by Wiseman LLCs. None lived to tell the tale; each met the wrecking ball. Here’s one of the best—moved forward with a positive recommendation from the Cultural Heritage Commission, the whole bit:

106 S. Kings Road. Built by Joseph J. Rees for Samuel Aidlin in 1936, it’s Streamline Moderne, a fine and iconic early representative of the Beverly Square Development Tract. From 1936-40 it was as well the home of Rudolph Ising.

At the bottom of a landfill now.

So that’s my issue. There’s three million buildings in the county, and Wiseman’s abjuring each empty lot and every strip mall in favor of every Streamline-Colonial-Spanish-Norman interbellum apartment complex they can get their hands on, provided they’re pristine and have a surfeit of charm.

And not, you know, the fact that they evict rent-controlled tenants through the Ellis Act and then Airbnb the units, dozens of documented times, which is immoral and illegal. (Which they do because the City will never so much as slap their hand.) They’ve demolished about forty Rent Stabilized apartment buildings in Los Angeles; something like 300-350 RSO apartments removed from the housing stock—all replaced with million-dollar condominiums and $4000/mo apartments. (Which they do because we need housing, says the City.) Hey, remember that piece in Curbed, “Ten of the Worst Landlords in Los Angeles“—no? Probably not, because Curbed retracted it when they were bullied by said landlords! Well, guess what it said.

So if any or all of this irks you, dear reader, I’ve got an idea: you might want to show up at the PLUM meeting on Tuesday, February 4th (yes, tomorrow). 2:30pm. It’s number five on the agenda. Mitch O’Farrell has nominated Hawthorn for Historic Cultural Monument status! Hollywood Heritage and the neighborhood are pressuring for Wiseman to rebuild. If not, they need to get the Scorched Earth punishment (no development on the site for five years). (Personally, given their absurd repeated bad faith, they should be barred from developing altogether—go RICO on them, prevent them from fraternizing with the owners of bulldozers. And so forth.)

Wiseman & Co. are going to be there, lawyered up all and smart-talkin’, so it’s important to have you good folk speak in favor of this nomination at public comment.


Nathan Marsak

About Nathan Marsak

NATHAN MARSAK says: “I came to praise Los Angeles, not to bury her. And yet developers, City Hall and social reformers work in concert to effect wholesale demolition, removing the human scale of my town, tossing its charm into a landfill. The least I can do is memorialize in real time those places worth noting, as they slide inexorably into memory. In college I studied under Banham. I learned to love Los Angeles via Reyner’s teachings (and came to abjure Mike Davis and his lurid, fanciful, laughably-researched assertions). In grad school I focused on visionary urbanism and technological utopianism—so while some may find the premise of preserving communities so much ill-considered reactionary twaddle, at least I have a background in the other side. Anyway, I moved to Los Angeles, and began to document. I drove about shooting neon signs. I put endless miles across the Plains of Id on the old Packard as part of the 1947project; when Kim Cooper blogged about some bad lunch meat in Compton, I drove down to there to check on the scene of the crime (never via freeway—you can’t really learn Los Angeles unless you study her from the surface streets). But in short order one landmark after another disappeared. Few demolitions are as contentious or high profile as the Ambassador or Parker Center; rather, it is all the little houses and commercial buildings the social engineers are desperate to destroy in the name of the Greater Good. The fabric of our city is woven together by communities and neighborhoods who no longer have a say in their zoning or planning so it’s important to shine a light on these vanishing treasures, now, before the remarkable character of our city is wiped away like a stain from a countertop. (But Nathan, you say, it’s just this one house—no, it isn’t. Principiis obsta, finem respice.) And who knows, one might even be saved. Excelsior!””
Nathan’s blogs are: Bunker Hill Los Angeles, RIP Los Angeles & On Bunker Hill.

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