Thirty Posts—Now What?

Nathan Marsak

Nathan Marsak

· 8 min read

We did it! Thirty posts in thirty days. Idea being—as stated thirty days agoit is far, far *too* effing easy to post about fine structures routinely and ignorantly lost to indifferently-rubberstamped demolition permits. Demolition permits, fire, remuddling: Los Angeles is your heritage, your birthright, and you’re just going to let jerkface buttheads take that from you?

I've enjoyed my 30-day immersion into RIP and, of course, I'll still post here, though not with such ferocity. After thirty days of daily posts I need to get to work on other things. For example, a week from now I’ll be at Union Station talking about archives n' archivists at the Rare Book Fair. Moreover, I just inked another publishing deal with Angel City Press, for a weighty tome I must deliver come February (spoiler Alert: my next book is not about Bunker Hill…but yeah,has some Bunker Hill in it).

I hope you have enjoyed this brief sojourn into the madness of modern Los Angeles. As I have shown, developers are running roughshod over your neighborhood—and I should know, having come from a 400-year-long line of American developers. I kid you not: the United States was literally founded by a) my ancestors settling Virginia, whereby the lived off the the principle of b) "better to ask forgiveness than ask permission," which makes me 110% the guy you wanna talk to about irresponsible development. "You don't know the hell developers go through!" scream the YIMBY; well, not to use the term literally to often, but I'm literally a developer, attempting to build housing in my beloved Highland Park. I am intimately familiar with each and every trial and tribulation any developer can and might go through, so if I might say with absolute and penetrating authority, shaddup you.

So, your having ingested and digested this here 30-day wonder of "Holy Shit Los Angeles is Literally Demolishing My City Around Me", you may ask, what can I do? Good question, and the answer is: everything. I’m sure you’ve already joined the National Trust and Los Angeles Conservancy and ADSLA and your local preservation group, e.g. HPHT or WAHA, or whomever they may be.

All that is fine and good but what you need do, of course, is become a full-time detective. It's absolutely imperative you concoct your own neighborhood watch. God bless preservation organizations—I am an active member in more than a few—but they invariably involve committees and chains of command and the odd “we’ll bring it up at the next meeting.”

YOU, though, have a cell phone camera and social media and can pester any and all political representatives. YOU can, and should, start your own blog or Reddit or Discord (or whatever it is you kids do), dedicated to worrying about stuff you see around the 'hood. Wanna mimic RIPLosAngeles and start blogging demolition permits? Go to town!

I certainly wish I’d done more for old buildings, and for naturally-occurring affordable housing, and for all the heritage trees, not to mention the myriad of vintage neon signs now lost, and other Old LA remnants that were weird and cool and hip back in the day. I moved to Los Angeles in the early 1990s and she's become nearly unrecognizable now. You live here now—get to work, and don't make the mistakes I made, not documenting what existed.

We live in troubling times—our city is being actively, fervently removed before our eyes. That said, we live in blessed times, the internet being your best friend. For example, should you see a demolition fence, or demo work prep, or actual demolition—take a photo or video and share it online. Anywhere. Everywhere. Whether you think it's threatened or not. I would have killed to be so jacked in back in the day.

Look up the address on LADBS and ZIMAS to ascertain if if what you're seeing is a legal demolition. Raise hell if it is, of course, but for God's sake raise hell if it isn’t: file a code violation on LADBS, email the code violation number to your council office, post the sucker online, do whatever you can and tag esotouric, riplosangeles, emptylosangeles, etc.

Do the same should you see a demo notice on a building you like! A demo notice is supposed to have a 30-day review period, but (as we saw recently with Brinah Milstein’s treatment of the Marilyn Monroe house) those rules are too often ignored. You will discover that more often than not, should notice be posted at all, it might be there for but a day, or so hidden it is impossible to see. LA's Brinah Milsteins (and their developer lackeys) do not, traditionally, give f-one about flagrant code violations, so it's your job to sound the alarm, share online, and tell your council office.

Relatedly, if you are aware of some multifamily building that appears vacant or that is on Airbnb, look it up on Zimas to see how many units, if it’s RSO and if it’s an Ellis Act property. Don't hesitate to share online and tag emptylosangeles!

Should you see a bungalow court not on Esotouric’s map, email Esotouric—especially if it looks like it's in trouble.

I often hear "why isn't that a landmark?" That's a good question: why ISN'T IT?? Historic Cultural Monument nominations, or getting on the National Register, that paperwork doesn’t do itself, y’know. It’s just average folk like us that make a landmark. Heck, National Register can even be a whole district, which some neighborhoods like Beverly Fairfax are using as a substitute for the HPOZs that Eric Garcetti ceased granting.

If you haven’t got the time, but have a few bucks, call Charlie. Also, a few non-profits may do the work should it coincide with their mission (e.g., WAHA and ADSLA). If you have a sympathetic council office, you can ask them to nominate an HCM. I mean, it's what they're there for, and for which they are regally paid (our councilmembers earn $218,000 per year, the highest council salary in the nation, so don't feel guilty when you pester them mercilessly).

And don’t forget, even “protected” landmarks are forever endangered in Los Angeles—consider Cornelius Johnson’s Olympic Oak . If you know something is an HCM and you see something wrong, file a code violation, contact OHR, then contact OHR again, then share online and (and I hate to be a nag) tagging esotouric, riplosangeles, and emptylosangeles.

At the end of the day, despite what you may feel for the plight of your neighbors, under no circumstances should you settle for neglect, or accept decay. Under no circumstances should the attractive house in your neighborhood be demolished because some jagweed wants it so, and the City is bending over backward to make it so.

Because at the end of the day, when it's gone, it's gone. It's not only your job to DEMAND BETTER, it's your job to see that your neighbor benefits from you demanding better.

Be a preservation pest, and you will have saved something you love—for future generations to love.

Nathan Marsak, September 30, 2023

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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