Let’s say you’re living peacefully in your vintage home on your block of gracious low-slung craftsmans when some developer decides to tear down the house next door to put in something grossly out-of-scale. You’re shocked that it will block light and air and views and ruin parking and cause noise and destroy the historic fabric of your neighborhood and the whole magilla. Surely you can lay out your concerns to the Powers That Be in the form of an appeal to which they’ll listen thoughtfully and say, My God, You’re Right. Maybe in this case we shouldn’t worship at the altar of Scott Wiener and fall in lockstep with the abjuration of zoning ordinances.
Or, the City might tell you to go screw.
Take for example 1537 South Wilton Place. It was built in 1905 and designed by Charles F. Whittlesey. The F is for Effing, because this house was designed by CHARLES EFFING WHITTLESEY.
So, demolish the hell out of the Whittlesey, and in its place, Gabriel and Tomer Fedida propose building this five-story, fifty-five-foot, twenty-one unit, 22,313 square foot apartment complex. The City is awarding them a collection of zoning variances, allowing the Fedidas to build eleven feet higher than permitted by law; decreasing the side yard requirement 25%; and giving them a 20% decrease in the open space requirement.
So the neighbors approached the City and said, hey, we’re filing an appeal, in that there’s a few problems here. They pointed out that the South Los Angeles Community Plan Design Guidelines/Citywide Residential Design Guidelines require new developments to respect the scale and architecture and identity of the surrounding historic neighborhood, especially as this neighborhood falls under the Character Residential Overlay as implemented by the City Council to protect the historic neighborhoods in South Los Angeles. Plus the developer screwed up the math on the TOC Incentives, getting them all kinds of wrong, as further miscalculated by City staff. And you can’t just make the project vested for land use entitlements and CEQA exempt because you feel like it. And so on.
But, said the Department of City Planning’s City Planning Commission, we do agree that neither the developers nor us gave one piddlingiota of thought or care as to whether 1537 might be a potential historic resource, so tell ya what, we will hire some real live architects, Kaplan Chen Kaplan, to do a Historic Resource Evaluation Report on this here Whittlesey house.
KCK came back and said the Whittlesey house was absolute worthless crap, devoid of all merit in every conceivable way. KCK’s report was some 100+ pages and, since they bill on average at $200/hour, I can assure you, was not cheap. Your tax dollars at work! For example, KCK hired an RPA Certified Archaeologist to check records, which is the like hunting mosquitos with an elephant gun; that’s the kind of work you give to the unpaid intern and they do all of it on their lunchbreak. It’s the elemental gruntwork I save for when I’m hungover and do in half my lunchbreak.
In any event, some snorty guffaws and one Very Expensive and Useless Study later, and the City sat down to thoughtfully consider the neighborhood’s appeal. Which is precisely why they own a comically oversized rubber DENIED stamp they use to pound upon appeals with an embarrassingly ebullient and theatrical flourish.
Up in the Valley there’s an indication as to how we used to live. Low slung structures, lots of open space. Cool shade from the towering trees. This is, of course, a rare, precious, disappearing commodity.
In the autumn of 1939 a fellow named P. N. Morgan designed and built a twelve-room, four family residential structure just off Lankershim in North Hollywood, at 10912 Blix. Then, a chap named W. Charles Swett saw what Morgan did, and liked it so much that in the spring of 1940 he pulled permits to put up one very much like it on the adjoining property at 10916, hiring engineer/architect Edward Rudolph to design another one-story, twelve-room four-unit.
Look how nicely the two work together. See how they form a sort of allée, passing through a planted boscage.
Needless to say, 19012 was marketed as a development opportunity:
And the lot, being 57×170, is going to lose any vestige of open space to absorb a five-story, eighteen-unit structure:
Here’s an overhead—that tree canopy is about as dense a green spot as you’ll ever find that close to Lankershim.
And yet… The footprint of the four-unit structure now is 41×80. Were Boyajian & Co. to build on that same footprint, with three stories of four units and two stores of three, up five stories, well, there’s your eighteen units, with trees left intact, and—
Oh wait nevermind, I just found the rendering for the thing. I was right, it eats up every inch:
Over in Mid-City, on Wilshire Boulevard near the corner of Lucas Street, there’s an unassuming Late Moderne commercial structure. It was built in the fall of 1951, of precast concrete construction, designed by the architectural firm of McClellan, MacDonald & Markwith, its principal designer being Jack H. MacDonald. Construction was by Buttress & McClellan.
Here’s something else I find pretty amusing. See 1138’s neighbor, the goofy-looking putty-colored 1980s thing? That structure, 1140/50 Wilshire was, in fact, built in 1904. It had a stucco job in 1984:
So you may remember my “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Taix* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)” post from September.
Of course, since you read this blog, you’ve probably already seen the recently-released renderings of Taix’s forthcoming replacement, but I would be remiss in my duties were I not to make mention of them here.
So. Remember what I said in September’s post about how you’d have to have a dead soul to not be charmed by Taix’s faux-French village vernacular? Well, you’d have to be born with no soul to love this:
Missed Taix? It’s over there:
Now I’m not implying that the good people at Togawa-Smith-Martin have no souls. I’m sure they cast reflections in mirrors and everything. It’s just that those people who get hot for their “brown stack o’ boxes with metal parts and some balconies” style, those people I worry about.
But such people don’t exist, I hear you say, and you are correct. Even the Curbed commenters, wetting themselves with glee over the destruction of Taix, admit that this blah-dern blandmark embarrasses the lot of us. They also admit that the new Taix will not succeed; without the charm of its architecture, and the ambience of its interior, it will fail worse than the French agricultural harvest of 1788. And we all know how that turned out.
What, then? Are we resigned to her destruction? Perhaps not. There is, after all, Les Amis de Taix, dedicated to her retention and preservation (their petition is here). Esotouric has a fascinating theory that Holland Group purposely turned the destruction and resurrection of Taix into a trainwreck just to sink the project, a big fat write-off as we head into an economic slowdown being, you know, better than nothing.
But, I hear you say, you can’t possibly want to stop a project like this, because housing! Oh you and your bizarre strange-bedfellow propaganda from Billionaire Fatcat Developers and best pals Big Government Leftist Ideologues. Who tell us how we’re to live, when they don’t even live here—Clyde Holland lives in Vancouver and Scott Wiener lives in San Francisco (ok, maybe not such strange bedfellows).
Besides, Holland Residential is famous for illegally Airbnb’ing its units. True, this they have denied and responded by saying “well, our units are rented by corporate clients and THEY Airbnb them, not us!” Yes, well, either way, I’m sure we have therewith ended the housing crisis, and good for all of us.
Ultimately, Taix must be destroyed because its architecture connotes “little European village.” It positively reeks of the wholesome and virtuous. It’s not popular to make value judgments extolling the positive aspects of European culture these days: it’s hip as hell to hate on Europe as hard as you possibly can—well, old Europe anyway. God forbid something as simple as some half-timbering might make you meditate on truth, beauty, devotion, tradition; all anathema to the modern world. I’m surprised people aren’t protesting it.
And Taix has whimsy. Gads, people today sure hate whimsy. (I mean I know millennials are supposed to be a joyless bunch but enough already. Embrace whimsy, ya knuckleheads!)
Whither Taix? It’s going to be a strange and fascinating ride…as is everything in this deeply polluted world. For which I have nothing but hope. Stay tuned.
Greetings all! Marsak here. Remember when I used to look at demo permits and blog about the structures? Good times. I’ll get back to it, I swear. I’ve been completely consumed with this book project the last few months. Big thank-you to Kim who’s been keeping the flame alive here at RIP!
But I saw this today and just had to toss it out there. There’s an Instagram page called southlabuildings, which I love, because I love South Los Angeles so damn much.
And I love this house to an absurd degree. It was listed for sale recently. The listing read in part:
The house was listed, relisted and delisted, so who knows what’s going on with it. There is/was apparently a demo permit issued, as evidenced by this photo, though there’s nothing about the issuance of a demolition permit proper at City Planning or on ZIMAS—
Although at DBS we do have confirmation that they’ve gone through and have had their Plan Check approved, which does not bode well—
So let’s talk a bit about this house. Of course every developer from God-knows-where wants to tear it down—to build a superdense coronavirus hotbox that looks like some preteen’s Jenga tower—and, I might add, without a thought of moving it. Moving it, you say? Who does that? Well you know, it was moved here after all.
That’s right, it came from somewhere else. Figueroa south of downtown used to be full of grand homes, once upon a time (like, say, this one). And Martin Bekins’s house at 1341 South Figueroa St., built in the spring/summer of 1907, was one of them. Martin Bekins is yes, THAT Bekins. Read more about him here and here. Bekins & family stayed in the house until downtown grew up around them and in the early-mid 1920s built something larger and with more property out in Eagle Rock.
The architect of 1341 South Figueroa was John A. Mathis. Mathis came to Los Angeles in 1885 and established the Mathis Construction Company. He built all over the southland. Below is another Mathis house; from what I can tell, it and Bronson are the sole remaining two.
Anyway, after Bekins moved to Eagle Rock in the mid-1920s, the spot at 1341 was needed for something else (Bekins Co. built a commercial structure on the site, which disappeared in the early 1970s, and it’s all Convention Center down there now), so the house was picked up and moved by Welte House Moving Co. in the spring of 1929, where she’s been ever since.
I mean look at the old girl. Not stucco’d, the chimneys are there, all original windows, the porches haven’t been enclosed…incredible. Large corner lot. If ever a home could come back, and be a showplace and a feather in the cap of Los Angeles, it is this one.