Threatened William Pereira Buildings Are Safe—for now

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A 2014 photo looking into part of the campus.
Photo by Elizabeth Daniels

The 1960s Metropolitan Water District headquarters on Sunset Boulevard designed by renowned architect William Pereira won a reprieve Thursday from demolition.

Ken Bernstein, in the city’s Office of Historic Resources, tells Curbed the Cultural Heritage Commission voted unanimously Thursday to consider the landmark status. The vote means there’s a 75-day stay on any demolition and alterations to the property. So, for now, the building’s safe, but it’s not permanent.

Pereira counts the Theme Building at LAX and the original home of LACMA among his many projects. His MWD buildings on the eastern edge of Echo Park, near Beaudry, were in the crosshairs earlier this month when the property owners filed an application with the city to raze them, likely for a big mixed-user they had proposed a while back.

The architect’s connection to the buildings was a big part of the force that quickly mobilized to get the headquarters named a city landmark—a move that would make them harder to knock down. (Another part of the campus, a former office tower that pretty much touches the building threatened with demolition, is separately owned, and has been converted into apartments. It is not included in the demo plan.)

Bernstein said reps for Palisades Capital Partners, which bought the property last year, were present at the meeting and said they welcomed the attention of the Cultural Heritage Commission.

But Palisades has said major alterations to the buildings diminish its historical value. It’s also said it’s confident that upon further inspection of the property, commissioners will agree that the buildings have been changed to the extent that they’re not eligible for historic status.

Some commissioners are concerned about the amount of alterations done to the property, according to Bernstein, but he said others say the headquarters’s importance to the city’s water history might outweigh the negatives of multiple alterations done to it.

As the official nomination explains:

The Metropolitan Water District campus and buildings, developed for this major Southern California institution, symbolize the establishment and maturation of Los Angeles and Southern California as a major US city and metropolitan area, no longer considered a distant western outpost. With a reliable water supply the City and region was able to grow into a major population center supported by investment in civic infrastructure.

The next step will be for the commissioners to arrange a tour of the property. Following the tour, they’re expected to meet up again to decide whether the complex is eligible for landmark status. If it is, it will go to the City Council for approval within 90 days of the commission’s decision. If the campus is not eligible, that’s the end of the road for the nomination.

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