West Hollywood Preservation Alliance

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

Tag: West Hollywood Historic Preservation Commission (page 1 of 2)

2019 Historic Preservation Annual Event July 8 – NEW DATE!

Please join the City of West Hollywood and its Historic Preservation Commission to celebrate the restoration of the recently landmarked Formosa Cafe.

The Formosa Cafe was established in 1940 and features the last of the Pacific Electric 800-series streetcars and has a legendary Hollywood history. The building and trolley became a designated cultural resource in March, and after an extensive renovation, will reopen its storied doors this summer.

Date: July 8, 2019 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Location: The Formosa Cafe
7156 Santa Monica Boulevard
West Hollywood, California 90046

R.S.V.P. by July 3, 2019
Mike Peterson, Historic Preservation Intern
mpeterson@weho.org

323-848-6373

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Historic Preservation Commission Votes to Designate Formosa Cafe As a Cultural Resource

“The iconic Formosa Cafe on Historic Route 66 played an important role in West Hollywood’s commercial development, especially in the growing film industry,” WHPA board president Victor Omelczenko told the Beverly Press after the West Hollywood Historic Preservation Commission voted to recommend that the nearly century-old cafe be designated a cultural resource..

“We’re happy to have the preservation year start off on such a fine note. Now, it’s up to the City Council to give its official approval,” Omelczenko said.

“The West Hollywood Preservation Alliance finds it very exciting to have the HPC finish what the Cultural Heritage Advisory Board recommended decades ago in designating the Formosa Café a local cultural resource,” WHPA board member Roy Rogers Oldenkamp said to WEHOville in late January. “WHPA would like to give a shout out to historian Stacy Failing, who befriended the owners and persuaded them to save former owner Jimmy Bernstein’s and subsequent owners’ many headshots of celebrities who dined there over the years.

“Because of Stacy, we have the original menus ,many intact furnishings, even the Chinese lanterns over the banquettes, all save one that virtually disintegrated when taken down.”

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WHPA Response to the Historic Preservation Committee’s Agenda Item, ‘Historic Preservation Work Program’

With 88 properties now designated as historic resources and with six designated historic districts and thematic groupings, the City of West Hollywood exhibits a fine record in historic preservation.  Following are observations/suggestions regarding future possible efforts as they relate to the four key elements described in the staff report.

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Designation of Formosa Cafe on Agenda at Monday, Jan. 28, HPC Meeting

Show support for formal designation of the famous Formosa Café as a local cultural resource/landmark in West Hollywood by attending tomorrow’s meeting of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.  This designation is a rare Commission-Initiated request — usually property owners and/or the preservation community have been the impetus for such actions — and is something to be commended and encouraged.  

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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.

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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.

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Historic Preservation Commission to Review Commercial Survey and Eastside Thematic Grouping

Access the just issued update of the West Hollywood survey of potentially historic commercial buildings and the proposed Eastside thematic grouping of early 20th century homes at this link.

And please reserve next Wednesday, March 15, 7 p.m., in the Plummer Park Community Center, 7377 Santa Monica Blvd., to attend the Historic Preservation Commission meeting which will be reviewing these two very important preservation topics. The Commission appreciates receiving public comments and your opinions.

Regarding the commercial survey —

– GPA Consulting is maintaining that WHPA’s 6 suggestions and City Council’s other 4 suggestions are still INELIGIBLE for any type of formal historic designation (local, state, federal). A historian did submit additional information on the MACHA Theatre building that’s in an attachment to the city report, but it appears to not have swayed GPA’s final analysis.

Regarding the Eastside thematic grouping of early 20th century homes —

– Thirty (30) properties are identified by the contractor Historic Resources Group as being potential contributors to a historic thematic grouping. HOWEVER, please note this particularly disconcerting section from the staff report:

“PUBLIC CORRESPONDENCE. In addition to all comments and questions during the two community meetings, staff has received various emails from the public expressing opposition to the adoption of a thematic grouping (EXHIBIT C). On March 6, 2017, a petition signed by 43 residents of West Hollywood was submitted in opposition to the adoption of a thematic grouping (EXHIBIT D).”

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Historic Preservation Commission Will Discuss Overview of the Historic Commercial Buildings Survey

The Historic Preservation Commission will meet tomorrow night, June 27, at 7 pm in Rooms 5 and 6 at Plummer Park to discuss the latest iteration of the city’s survey of historic commercial buildings. From the staff report [PDF]:

The Historic Preservation Commission will be receiving its first overview of the draft Commercial Historic Resources Survey document and revised project schedule. The draft survey includes the Historic Context Statement and a list of designated and potential cultural resources. Pending sections include an executive summary, survey results, conclusions, and recommendations. The HPC will provide feedback on the draft survey for staff and the City’s consulting firm of GPA Consulting to incorporate into the final draft. The final draft document will be presented to the HPC at its August 22, 2016 meeting.

There will be three other hearings on the survey:

*HPC Hearing on Final Draft: Mon., Aug. 22, 7 pm, Plummer Park Community Center, Rooms 5-6

*Planning Commission Hearing: Thurs., Sept. 1, 6:30 pm, City Council Chambers, 625 San Vicente

*City Council Hearing: Mon. Sept. 19, 6:30 pm, City Council Chambers, 625 San Vicente

Please note that between now and the next HPC hearing on August 22 is optimal to make suggested changes/additions to the list of properties being considered as historic. Once the final list is finalized, it becomes more difficult to add buildings.

So, please review the draft report and come to the meetings and/or email your comments to the following individuals and make sure to say: PLEASE ENTER THESE COMMENTS INTO THE PUBLIC RECORD.

Send your emails to:

Rachel Dimond, rdimond@weho.org
Antonio Castillo, acastillo@weho.org
Sharita Ellies, sellies@weho.org

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Historic Preservation Commission Will Discuss Overview of the Historic Commercial Buildings Survey

The Historic Preservation Commission will meet tomorrow night, June 27, at 7 pm in Rooms 5 and 6 at Plummer Park to discuss the latest iteration of the city’s survey of historic commercial buildings. From the staff report [PDF]:

The Historic Preservation Commission will be receiving its first overview of the draft Commercial Historic Resources Survey document and revised project schedule. The draft survey includes the Historic Context Statement and a list of designated and potential cultural resources. Pending sections include an executive summary, survey results, conclusions, and recommendations. The HPC will provide feedback on the draft survey for staff and the City’s consulting firm of GPA Consulting to incorporate into the final draft. The final draft document will be presented to the HPC at its August 22, 2016 meeting.

There will be three other hearings on the survey:

*HPC Hearing on Final Draft: Mon., Aug. 22, 7 pm, Plummer Park Community Center, Rooms 5-6

*Planning Commission Hearing: Thurs., Sept. 1, 6:30 pm, City Council Chambers, 625 San Vicente

*City Council Hearing: Mon. Sept. 19, 6:30 pm, City Council Chambers, 625 San Vicente

Please note that between now and the next HPC hearing on August 22 is optimal to make suggested changes/additions to the list of properties being considered as historic. Once the final list is finalized, it becomes more difficult to add buildings.

So, please review the draft report and come to the meetings and/or email your comments to the following individuals and make sure to say: PLEASE ENTER THESE COMMENTS INTO THE PUBLIC RECORD.

Send your emails to:

Rachel Dimond, rdimond@weho.org
Antonio Castillo, acastillo@weho.org
Sharita Ellies, sellies@weho.org

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Expanded Incentives for Historic Apartment Buildings Recommended by HPC at May 23 Meeting

In a 6/0 vote at its May 23 meeting, the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) not only moved to support four relatively minor recommendations for incentives related to the city’s 38 historically-designated apartment buildings, but also included several broader incentives which the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance (WHPA) had urged the commission to support.

Foremost among these are: establishing a much more robust “Historic Apartment Preservation Program” as outlined in consultant firm Page & Turnbull’s report on Page 30; hiring a full-time city staffer devoted to historic preservation issues; and using grants under the Community Development Block Grant Program to assist owners of historic buildings. WHPA members Cynthia Blatt, George Credle, Stephanie Harker, and Victor Omelczenko testified before the commission. The WHPA statement submitted to the HPC appears below.

The HPC’s hearing and recommendations are just the first step in a process that includes a May 26 Rent Stabilization Committee hearing and a June 2 Planning Commission hearing. A final city staff report will then be developed for City Council consideration at its August 15 meeting. The WHPA will continue to monitor the process and comment on proposed incentives – which, if enacted, would do much to bolster the city’s contention that it puts a high priority on historic preservation.

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