City considering new rules protecting historic buildings

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As debate rages on over the possible demolition of a 1960 bank building designed by modern architect Kurt Meyer, Los Angeles city officials are considering an update to the city’s Cultural Heritage Ordinance that helps to protect historic properties from the wrecking ball.

As The Real Deal reports, the proposed new regulations would stop property owners from demolishing structures as soon as the planning director’s office approves an application to designate the property as a Historic-Cultural Monument. The property would then be safe from demolition until the Cultural Heritage Commission and City Council decide whether it warrants landmark status.

Under current rules, the Cultural Heritage Commission must officially decide to take an application under consideration before a property can receive those protections.

On the flip side, building owners would receive earlier notice that their properties are under consideration for landmark status.

Property owners often file applications themselves in order to receive the tax benefits that come with the Historic-Cultural label, but in situations where preservationists are working to stave off demolition, this would help building owners mount an opposition to the application.

The regulations would also give the city more leeway to prolong the review process. With a property owner’s consent, either the council or commission could delay a decision on an application for up to two months.

This rule might have benefited the endangered Parker Center. Home to the LAPD for five decades, the Welton Becket-designed structure was up for landmark consideration in 2015, but the City Council missed its deadline to approve the nomination. Now, city officials are considering a second Historic-Cultural application, but in the meantime, the Department of Public Works has released a staff report recommending demolition.

Should the council name the building a Historic-Cultural Monument, it could still be razed.

Landmark status would, however, delay any plans for demolition by six months to allow options for preservation to be explored.

The new regulations wouldn’t do much to save the midcentury Chase bank building on Sunset Boulevard, which was originally home to Lytton Savings. Developer Townscape Partners and starchitect Frank Gehry want to demolish the bank building with its zig-zag shaped roofline to make way for a new commercial and housing development called 8150 Sunset.

The city’s Cultural Heritage Commission designated the bank building a local landmark after 8150 Sunset was approved by the City Council. Now Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu is working with the commission to either have the bank building relocated or have some of its some of its architectural details, such as its stained glass windows, incorporated into the Gehry project.

“There are elements of the property that could be included if Gehry is willing,” Ryu’s spokesman Estevan Montemayor told Curbed.

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