Silver Lake gas station moves toward landmark status

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A former Texaco station in Silver Lake could be on its way to landmark status after the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission recommended the 1940s-era structure for inclusion on the city’s list of Historic-Cultural Monuments.

That was unwelcome news for the property’s owner, who applied for permits earlier this year to demolish the gas station and replace it with a 14-unit apartment building. As long as the city is considering the building’s landmark credentials, it can’t be torn down.

Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell initiated the landmarking process in March before demolition work could begin.

Constructed in 1941 and located at the intersection of Silver Lake Boulevard and Effie Street, the gas station was built in the recognizable Streamline Moderne style that characterized most of the nation’s Texaco stations during this era. As a report from the planning department notes, the building’s designer, Walter Dorwin Teague, ensured that the all of the company’s service stations sported the same color scheme, signage, and general layout.

A number of Texaco stations from this era remain, but there are few left standing in Los Angeles. Alterations to the property have also erased many of the most distinguishing characteristics of its original design style.

Gone are the gas pumps, the signature green striping, and the red Texaco star that likely once greeted drivers traveling along Silver Lake Boulevard.

Several community members argued that these changes should disqualify the project from gaining landmark status—particularly if that designation would prevent construction of new housing.

“We need more housing more than we need a non-working gas station,” wrote resident Michael Nelson in a letter to the commission. “I can tell you with 100 percent certainty I would skip the Historic Gas Stations of Silver Lake Tour, if it existed.”

Other residents argued the building should be kept intact as a vestige of a time when the city was the last stop for road trippers venturing west on Route 66.

“On a community scale, we don’t have much from that era left,” resident Toby Hemingway told the commission.

Planning staff notes in a report on the building that older service stations are “becoming increasingly rare” in Los Angeles. City officials have awarded landmark status to only three: in Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, and Hollywood.

Not all commissioners were impressed with the property.

“I don’t think this one rises to the level,” said Commissioner Gail Kennard before casting a lone vote against monument recommendation.

The commission’s 3-1 decision to support the landmark nomination will now be reviewed by the city council’s Planning and Land Use Management committee before moving on to the full council.

If eventually named a Historic-Cultural Monument, the gas station can still be torn down, but city officials would be able to delay demolition for up to a year in order to explore options for preservation.

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