West Hollywood Preservation Alliance

To identify, protect and preserve the historic, architectural, and cultural resources of West Hollywood

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Historic Factory/Studio One Building Up for Hearing on March 1

The West Hollywood Planning Commission is holding an important preservation-related hearing which you’re encouraged to attend:

WHAT: Public Hearing on Robertson Lane Project, Including The Factory/Studio One Restoration

WHEN: Thursday, March 1, 2018 @ 06:30 PM

WHERE: West Hollywood Park Public Meeting Room – Council Chambers
625 N. San Vicente Boulevard, West Hollywood, California

The West Hollywood Preservation Alliance will be presenting supportive testimony. Here is the Alliance’s statement:

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WHPA Statement on the Streetcar Building and Robertson Lane Projects

Below is the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance (WHPA) statement regarding Item 8.A. 9091 Santa Monica Blvd., and Item 8.B. 645 N. Robertson Blvd. that are on the agenda for the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) meeting of Monday, January 22, 2018. The meeting begins at 7:00pm in the Plummer Park Community Center, Rooms 5 and 6, 7377 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood.

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WHPA Statement on the Streetcar Building and Robertson Lane Projects

Rendering of Robertson Lane

Below is the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance (WHPA) statement regarding Item 8.A. 9091 Santa Monica Blvd., and Item 8.B. 645 N. Robertson Blvd. that are on the agenda for the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) meeting of Monday, January 22, 2018. The meeting begins at 7:00pm in the Plummer Park Community Center, Rooms 5 and 6, 7377 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood.

1. The West Hollywood Preservation Alliance (WHPA), a nonprofit community organization dedicated to historic preservation, urges the Historic Preservation Commission to designate the building located at 9091 Santa Monica Boulevard as a local cultural historic resource. A bit of history: the first iterations of the city’s commercial survey in 2016 did NOT include this building as being potentially historic, but through community engagement, the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance campaigned for its final inclusion as did then Mayor Lauren Meister.

We are now pleased to see that a formal application for designation has been brought by the owners of the building. Dating from 1924, the two-story, brick building is strongly associated with the period in West Hollywood’s history that accompanied the Pacific Electric Railway’s expansion in the 1920s.

According to West Hollywood native and former WHPA Board Member Lyndia Lowy, this building once housed a Maxwell’s Clothing Store and many other businesses through the years, and it is one of the few made of bricks stlll left on the city’s west side. For nearly 90 years, this streetcar-related building has served as highly visible anchor at the western gateway into the city. The WHPA believes that it sustains sufficient integrity to be designated as a cultural resource, and plans for its adaptive reuse appear to be well-thought out.

The development of the large Melrose Triangle project across the boulevard will unfortunately result in the demolition of the historic 1938 Streamline Moderne building that once housed the Jones Dog and Cat Hospital at 9080 Santa Monica Boulevard. The cultural memory of our city deserves respect, and the designation as a cultural resource and the rehabilitation of the building at 9091 Santa Monica Boulevard would show that respect.

Imagine as you enter our city from the west: the new Melrose Triangle on the south side of the western gateway, and the historic streetcar building anchoring the north side. By the way, that north side also includes some other potential sites for historic designation – the buildings housing The Troubadour nightclub and Dan Tana’s Restaurant. But those can come at another time. Let’s now have your recommendation for designating 9091 Santa Monica Boulevard to forward on to the City Council.

2. The West Hollywood Preservation Alliance concurs with city staff requesting the Historic Preservation Commission recommend City Council certify the Final Environmental Impact Report and approve the Certificate of Appropriateness associated Alternative 3 of the Robertson Lane Hotel Project. Faring, architects and preservationists have worked in concert to preserve and restore and adaptively reuse the Truscon steel modular building known as The Factory as a centerpiece of the Robertson Lane hotel and retail project.

This final version of the EIR now offers an even better aspect of proposed siting of The Factory with a clearer separation of the new architecture adjacent to this landmark building, so important to the history of West Hollywood industry as well as a symbol of the burgeoning recognition of gay culture.

Faring proposes to honor the history of the building by addressing controversial aspects of gay life in its documentation of all historic elements, including discrimination against men of color by the gay community via discriminatory entry policies, especially in the 70’s and 80’s. Events in history are not always admirable, but deserve recognition.

The preservation community would of course like to see the asset remain its current size, restored in situ by some magnanimous benefactor, but that option is unlikely to ever lead to a full restoration, and some elements of the steel and truss building have significant decay. This iteration is the best chance to preserve this significant, iconic structure. WHPA thanks Faring for its cooperation and forward thinking on the Robertson Lane tract.

Sunset Strip Walking Tours

West Hollywood Preservation Alliance

Sunset Strip Walking Tours

Saturday February 10th & 17th. 3pm

NOTE: Saturday, February 10th is sold out.

Meeting location TBA

$15 or free with WHPA membership!

Your Host Davey Redondo from hit 80’s sensation One Hit Wonders leads you on a tour up one end of the Strip and down the other. Dress in theme attire and we’ll stop in a legendary watering hole for a libation and some history chatter. ROCK ON!

Email royoldenkamp@gmail.com to reserve a spot!!

Los Angeles Conservancy Hosting ‘Open House Weekend’ Event Highlighting Importance of Formosa Café’s Preservation October 7

LOS ANGELES, CA — September 25, 2017 — As a participant of the Partners in Preservation: Main Streets campaign, the Los Angeles Conservancy is encouraging the public to visit VoteYourMainStreet.org/weho to help the organization secure funding to support the rehabilitation of West Hollywood’s beloved Formosa Café.

The Conservancy nominated the iconic site on Santa Monica Boulevard—which is part of Los Angeles’ Main Street, Route 66. The prize—$150,000—would specifically fund the rehabilitation of the Pacific Electric Red Car trolley, the oldest portion of the building.

“Legacy bars and restaurants like the Formosa Café are exceedingly rare today, threatened by development pressure, increasing rents, and ever-changing demographics that make them difficult to survive,” said Conservancy director of advocacy, Adrian Scott Fine. “We’re excited to have this opportunity to bring funding to such an important project, and shed a light on preservation efforts in Los Angeles County.”

Partners in Preservation is a community-based partnership, created by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express, to raise awareness of the importance of preserving historic places and their role in sustaining local communities.

Partners in Preservation: Main Streets will award $2 million in grant funding from American Express to Main Street districts in need of preservation support across America. The public will determine which sites will receive funding by voting for their favorite main streets through October 31 at VoteYourMainStreet.org, the online voting portal hosted by National Geographic Travel.

About the Formosa Café

In 1925, a former prizefighter from New York City bought and renovated a retired, turn-of-the-century Pacific Electric Red Car trolley as a luncheon counter called The Red Post Cafe.

In 1945, Lem Quon, a Hong Kong-born chef, became a partner in the business and ran the kitchen. The building expanded, was redecorated in a Cantonese theme, and renamed the Formosa Café.

Located on West Hollywood’s main drag of Santa Monica Boulevard/Route 66, its location across the street from a major movie studio made it a popular hangout for Hollywood stars. The walls were lined with 250 photos of stars who dined here.

The Formosa also had a long association with organized crime. Mobsters Mickey Cohen and Bugsy Siegel were regulars, and Cohen used a secret room in the trolley as a thriving bookmaking operation.

Quon took over the operation in 1976. Last operated by Quon’s grandson, Vince Jung, the Formosa Café underwent a remodel in 2015 and closed in December 2016.

With its future uncertain, a search began for a new operator. In early June 2017, 1933 Group was selected to take over the operation, with plans announced to reopen in the summer of 2018. Specializing in bars and restaurants that embody L.A.’s rich history, 1933 Group has revitalized a number of historic landmarks, including the Highland Park Bowl and North Hollywood’s Idle Hour Café.

The Café has been featured in iconic films, including L.A. Confidential and Swingers.

As a beloved L.A.-area landmark and legacy business, the Formosa Café is poised to share its cultural and historical traditions with the next generation.

Partners in Preservation: Main Streets Open House Weekend

The Conservancy, in partnership with 1933 Group, will hold an Open House Weekend event for the media and the public on Saturday, October 7 from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., highlighting the importance of Main Street preservation efforts in West Hollywood. The Formosa Café is one of twenty-five projects on historic Main Streets across the country participating in the Partners in Preservation: Main Streets Open House Weekend.

As part of the Conservancy’s Open House Weekend, members of the public will be treated to food and giveaways, and the first 200 guests will get exclusive access to the closed café. Special guests and detailed information will be announced on the Conservancy’s Facebook page soon.

Delta Air Lines is the sponsor of the Partners in Preservation: Main Streets Open House Weekend. The Open House Weekend event in West Hollywood is one of many local events taking place nationwide between October 6 and 9.

Why Main Street Matters

According to 2016 data from Main Street America, investments in Main Street districts have a significant impact on local economies – encouraging real estate development as well as the creation of new businesses and jobs. In 2016, $4.65 billion reinvested in Main Street improvement programs resulted in 8,042 building rehabilitations, 5,616 business openings, and 27,462 new jobs.

Furthermore, according to a recent study from Morning Consult of 2,201 Americans commissioned by American Express, 79 percent of Americans say that preserving Main Street is important. Additionally, 79 percent of Americans say that the idea of Main Street is what makes America beautiful. Main Street is also seen as vital in connecting Americans to their local community – 82 percent of Americans say that Main Street is important to their ability to socialize with others in a community. A similar amount, 86 percent, say that Main Street is important to the well-being and the enjoyment of a community.

For more information and to vote daily for the Formosa Café through October 31, visit VoteYourMainStreet.org/weho and share the love via social media using #VoteYourMainStreet.

About Palm Avenue – Statement from the WHPA

The West Hollywood Preservation Alliance (WHPA) urges that the staff recommendation presented in this item not be approved based on serious concerns related to issues of government transparency, widely-accepted historic preservation standards, and overall respect for West Hollywood’s cultural resources. Here is why WHPA is not supporting this flawed recommendation or Draft Resolution HPC 17-125.

Resolution No. HPC 13-105 which the HPC adopted on March 26, 2013, stated that it was “…recommending that the City Council designate the buildings located at 927 and 931 North Palm Avenue, West Hollywood, California as local resources as part of the Old Sherman Thematic Grouping. ” The resolution’s Section 6 further elaborated …”that the buildings and sites at 927 and 931 Palm Avenue be designated as local Cultural Resources as part of the Old Sherman Thematic Grouping.” [Emphasis added]

Then on July 15, 2013, the City Council adopted Resolution No. 13-4478 which only included “…designating the exteriors of the buildings located at 927 and 931 Palm Avenue, West Hollywood, California as local cultural resources as part of the Old Sherman Thematic Grouping.” The resolution which council adopted varied greatly from the resolution which the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) had passed. Rather than considering the important Sherman-era “buildings and sites at 927 and 931 Palm Avenue,” which the HPC did, the City Council reduced the designation to just “designating the exteriors of the buildings,” leaving the possibility that the Council’s resolution does not cover the garages and additions at the rear of the historic sites.[Emphasis added]

What exactly transpired between your March 2013 meeting and that of the City Council in July 2013? The WHPA realizes that the HPC is an advisory body that makes recommendation. However, if the recommendations that you so diligently work on and then adopt are somehow magically changed with no further input from the commission or the public raises serious questions related to government transparency and ethical standards.

Adding further to this murky scenario is that the adopted Resolution No. 13-4478’s Section 6 states that “On May 20, 2013, the City Council reviewed the staff report and written evidence, the Historic Preservation Commission’s recommendation, and took testimony from interested parties.” [Emphasis added] The WHPA finds absolutely no record of any such meeting on May 20, 2013, which calls into question the accuracy of the resolution adopted by the City Council on July 15, 2013.

What we do surmise is that the resolution which city staff presented to council appeared to respond to the owner/developers concerns rather than to the more comprehensive view taken by the commission. When and how these comments were received and given the weight which they seem to have been given is not at all transparent. Furthermore, the City Council’s retreat from the HPC’s more comprehensive consideration of the buildings and their environs seems to suggest a move away from carefully evaluated preservation to a more narrow view which is focused more on development.

West Hollywood Municipal Code related to “Cultural Heritage Preservation” calls for compliance with the provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 as amended. Furthermore, the city’s Municipal Code Section 19.58.040 (D) gives the city’s HPC review authority for:

“Preparing prescriptive standards and design guidelines in reviewing applications for permits to construct, alter, remodel, relocate, enlarge, remove or demolish any cultural resource , or structure within a historic district, or conservation zone. These guidelines shall be based upon the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.”

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Technical Preservation Services has a section on “New Construction within the Boundaries of Historic Properties” HERE.

Please note this particular rehabilitation standard:

“It is possible to add new construction within the boundaries of historic properties if site conditions allow and if the design, density, and placement of the new construction respect the overall character of the site. According to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation – Standard 9 in particular – and the Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings, new construction needs to be built in a manner that protects the integrity of the historic building(s) and the property’s setting. As with new additions, the massing, size, scale, and architectural features of new construction on the site of a historic building must be compatible with those of the historic building. When visible and in close proximity to historic buildings, the new construction must be subordinate to these buildings.” [Emphasis added]

In describing the new development, the current staff report suggests that the proposed four-story building is a “backdrop” for the historic properties. However, the WHPA believes that this new development is not subordinate to the cultural resources and contradicts federal standards. It will loom over the historic sites like a massive wall. The buildings behind the development on the cul-de-sac Betty Way are given a “backdrop” of a row of trees. Why, we ask, do designated properties receive less consideration? Even though the proposed structure has ‘green’ walls, this does not diminish the massiveness of the four-story building.

Even if the rationale for the large structure is that other large buildings exist in the area, this does not mean that 927 and 931 N. Palm Avenue benefit in any way from having a four-story building in their backyards. Overall, the proposed development demonstrates little sensitivity to the value of West Hollywood’s designated cultural resources. Even if the new four-story building fulfills a need, it exacts a heavy price.

With only 4 of 7 HPC commissioners expected to deliberate on this vital matter at the July 24 hearing, and with many still unanswered questions and unresolved procedural discrepancies, the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance believes that consideration of Draft Resolution HPC 17-125 should tabled or continued to some future time. As it stands now, Draft Resolution HPC 17-125 should not be adopted. Doing so could result in potentially protracted legal action.

WEHOville: Palm Avenue Project Conflicts and Irregularities

From WEHOville:

West Hollywood’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) on Monday will review a proposal for a project on Palm Avenue whose architect is a member of that same commission.

The fact that Ed Levin, a partner in Levin-Morris Architects who was appointed to the HPC in 2005, is working on the project has angered some of its neighbors and those who will be evicted because of it. Levin will have to recuse himself from a vote on the project, but neighbors assert that his close relationship with other commission members will have an impact on their perception of it. The project also is opposed by the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance.

The project that Levin has designed for Westwood Property Ventures, a part of Jeffrey Damavandi’s Dylan Investments, consists of a four-story, L-shaped building with an underground parking garage that will house seniors and resources for them including a hair salon and recreation space. The proposed project is going before the HPC because it will wrap around and incorporate two existing houses designated by the city as culturally significant parts of the Old Sherman Thematic Group. One of the houses, at 927 Palm, will serve as an administrative and reception area for the building. The bungalow at 931 Palm will be a stand-alone residence. With the 931 Palm bungalow, the project will have 49 units.

Two Exciting Preservation Events for You – May 22 & May 25

A walking tour of West Hollywood’s North Harper Avenue Historic District on May 22 and a screening of short films on local LGBTQ historic places on May 25 are the highlights of this year’s celebration of preservation month. Mark your calendars to attend:

Hooray for (West) Hollywood Annual Historic Preservation Celebration

Date: Monday, May 22, 2017 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM, Free

Location: North Harper Avenue Historic District

1300-1330 N. Harper Avenue

Travel back in time via clips of movies shot in West Hollywood going back to 1944, then take a walking tour of the magnificent 1920s apartment buildings of the North Harper Avenue Historic District. City staff will be on hand to answer questions about the benefits available to owners of historic homes, and refreshments will be served.

LGBTQ Historic Places in L.A. Screening and Panel Conversation with the Los Angeles Conservancy

Date: Thursday, May 25, 2017 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM

$5 charge waived at door for WHPA members

Location: Great Hall, Plummer Park

7377 Santa Monica Blvd.

This event features a special screening and panel conversation showcasing the Los Angeles Conservancy’s first three short films on significant LGBTQ spaces and civil rights stories. The films showcase the following locations: The Black Cat (Silver Lake), The Woman’s Building (Chinatown), and Plummer Park, Great Hall/Long Hall (West Hollywood). The event will also explore other LGBTQ historic places throughout Los Angeles.

Lexington-Curson Residential Historic Resources Survey




The West Hollywood Preservation Alliance (WHPA) was very pleased when the City Council supported the awarding of a contract last year to the firm Historic Resources Group (HRG) to prepare a historic resources survey of early 20th century residential properties on the city’s Eastside. It was about time to undertake such a survey. Even before our organization’s establishment five years ago, folks on the Eastside would oftentimes bemoan that their part of town seemed to be neglected.

But even before that, the Westside proudly embraced the designation of the Old Sherman Thematic Grouping of historic properties built between 1899 and 1907 that primarily housed workers at the Pacific Electric Railway. The homes in this grouping are representative of West Hollywood’s birth as a distinctive neighborhood, and the character of those homes evoke its modest beginnings. And right now, several of them are being fixed up while still retaining their architectural integrity in a new life as the San Vicente Bungalows/Hotel.

The homes in the Old Sherman grouping are not all next to each other — meaning they’re not contiguous — just like the 30 properties identified as contributors to a new thematic grouping on the Eastside are not all next to each other. Being contiguous is a requirement of a formally recognized historic district like the city’s famous Harper Avenue Historic District. Being contiguous is not necessary for maintaining a sense of place, a sense of time, a sense of cultural and architectural memory.

The WHPA truly appreciates the research and information presented by Historic Resources Group in the 19-page document accompanying the staff report that presents the history and importance of the area being considered for a thematic grouping. But we also appreciate the views of the owners and residents who have raised their concerns about this thematic grouping.

There seems to be some confusion and misunderstanding reflected in some of the comments and views expressed in the attachments to the report. Some commenters appear to think that their apartment buildings and homes are part of or subject to the thematic grouping, but they are not as far as we’ve been able to determine. And still others are concerned that this grouping will result in regulatory intrusion into their lives.

We might benefit greatly if we were to receive input from some owners of properties in the already established Old Sherman Thematic Grouping or the Courtyard Thematic Grouping or the Plummer Park Grouping. Questions still abound and that’s why we’re all here tonight. We all deserve to hear and listen to one another. The conversation has just begun. Before sending this matter on to the City Council for its deliberations, we hope that the Historic Preservation Commission is able to resolve or address concerns and questions currently being raised.


Laura Boccaletti, Judson Feder, Roy Rogers Oldenkamp, Victor Omelczenko,and Jon Ponder

Citywide Commercial Historic Resources Survey



WHPA again thanks GPA Consulting for providing West Hollywood with a “Citywide Commercial Historic Resources Survey.”

We’re here tonight specifically because the WHPA as well as the City Council wanted a better understanding of why 10 more local buildings could not be added to the final eligible list. The difference between APPEARS INELIGIBLE and APPEARS ELIGIBLE is an important distinction, and through discussions with professional preservation architects, historians and through our own research, we have found that many of the 10 additional structures do offer merit and could, in fact, be included on the survey, or should have been.

Tonight we’ll hear from professional historian Charles Fisher of the LA Conservancy. Both the MACHA Theatre and the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance have enlisted his services to explore further the possibility of deeming the building at 1107 N. Kings Road as eligible for formal cultural status. He will discuss the merit of this unique structure. We’ll also be hearing from former Historic Preservation Commissioner George Credle about several other properties on the list of “10 Ineligibles.”

As we understand the process, the Historic Preservation Commission cannot at this time formally change the results of the survey prepared by GPA Consulting.

We would hope that the HPC in concert with the city of West Hollywood would, however, recommend funding a limited further study from an alternate professional historic source as a direction for city council. We think obtaining a second opinion would be the right thing to do.

Laura Boccaletti, Judson Feder, Roy Rogers Oldenkamp, Victor Omelczenko,
and Jon Ponder

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PO BOX 46073 West Hollywood, CA 90046
Email: info@westhollywoodpreservationalliance.org
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