Greetings from your friendly historic Los Angeles sightseeing tour company, now offering digital programming until we can again organize groups to gather and explore the city we love.
It’s a strange new year, and we hope you’re making the best of the weirdness. It’s not always easy, but we are. Although our tour business remains shuttered, we’ve never been busier with historic preservation advocacy, and we’re so glad to be able to do this gratifying work.
Each of these projects is an opportunity to go down the rabbit hole learning things we don’t know about Los Angeles and the laws that protect and encumber the built environment, and to help folks who share our passion for the places where the past is present.
We also find these campaigns seem to fit together, like beads on a necklace. The work we did to understand how Sheila Klein’s streetlight sculpture Vermonica was dismantled and to get it reinstalled with the artist’s approval informs our attempts to keep thieves from snatching all of the 1920s bronze streetlights from the Glendale Hyperion Bridge. It’s a short hop from the endangered Monastery of the Angels to the public stairways of Hollywoodland. The illegal wrecking of Hollywood’s Pig ‘n Whistle makes it all the more important to keep San Pedro’s Walker’s Café around.
And while it can seem like we’re losing good buildings and treasured small businesses at a fevered pace, we’re also buoyed by the ability to use social media to quickly rally the troops to defend places that matter, and thankful for the many concerned Angelenos who reach out with preservation scoops from their neighborhoods.
Los Angeles won’t be the same city once the pandemic ends. It’s already a very different place than it was in March 2020. But through these very weird times, the community of people who care about old buildings and our shared history have found ways to bond, help each other and to have a laugh or two. These connections are precious, and will only get stronger, once the lights come on again and we can start to map out what’s left of this wonderful city on the edge of the continent and what it means to be an Angeleno.
One organization that’s been working especially hard to protect old Los Angeles and look after our vulnerable neighbors is the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and its real estate arm, the Healthy Housing Foundation. They earned our respect several years ago, by buying two of the historic, nearly empty hotels at Fifth and Los Angeles Streets, renting the rooms out to those in need, submitting landmark nominations and restoring historic features.
As work began on fixing the 158 mostly empty rooms for new tenants, the hotel was re-dedicated in a small ceremony just before Christmas. HHF took us up on the suggestion that it might be fun to crack the sealed upper portion of the original 1896 Mosler safe. What did the locksmith find inside? See for yourself here.
Collecting empty Skid Row hotels is proving to be a serious habit for HHF. Yesterday, they announced the purchase of the Leland Hotel (1904), the mixed use building next to the Baltimore and across from the King Edward. We’re very much looking forward to making a full sweep of the building in search of curious relics that reveal the past, and when we do we’ll give you a full report.
There’s no good reason for Skid Row to be a ghost town of empty hotels and boarded up storefronts. (There are plenty of bad reasons, including investor greed and civic corruption and incompetence.) We love thinking that when the pandemic ends and we return to these places with our tour guests, we’ll find bustling buildings filled with tenants instead of a spooky, dead reef that’s silent as a tomb.
yours for Los Angeles,
Kim & Richard
In the latest subscriber's edition of this newsletter—$10/month, cheap!—On Chicago Street in Boyle Heights, if you stand very still and wish very hard, it's still 1895—is a virtual tour of the time capsule wooden church where Occidental College was founded, featuring stained glass windows worth shouting about.
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75 years ago this week, a 22 year old homeless woman named Beth Short went missing in Downtown Los Angeles. Famous in death as The Black Dahlia, it's her vulnerability and the lost world she illuminates that haunts us more than the unsolved crime.
Cheers to Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council for getting the word out about predatory real estate flippers defrauding and displacing vulnerable seniors in the community.
We love stories of scrappy citizens uncovering hidden truth, but Avenue 34 is really a case of every public agency, elected official and the Los Angeles Times not doing their jobs. Thank goodness for Lincoln Heights Intel!
In San Francisco, as in Los Angeles, corruption poisons everything. How we look forward to a confession like Mohammed Nuru's showing who is on the take in our town.
New from silent cinema sleuth John Bengtson, L.A.'s lost landmarks live again in Forcing the Force (1914), about gals turning the tables after getting hired by the LAPD.
With the help of a City Councilman’s wife, Harridge Development evicted 82 households from gorgeous 1936 buildings promising right of return in Crossroads Hollywood—a project that's now changed funders and function. We think the city should protect the tenants from real estate speculation.
As Jerry Sullivan winds down his essential column, he hopes someone will pick up his threads and untangle the Paloma Street Downtown L.A. “homeless” shelter scam.
Volunteer opportunity from Los Angeles City Planning: Seeking Candidates to Serve on Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) Boards.
Farewell, Eve Babitz. Only Hollywood—the town, not the industry—could have made one like her.
The Standard Hotel in Downtown L.A. is closing, and we think Claud Beelman's Superior Oil Company Building, a National Register landmark, would make a swell affordable housing conversion. (Whatever happens, we hope the new pool guy is more responsible than the old one.)
New from Mr. Bunker Hill, Nathan Marsak: a tour of the lost neighborhood in the footsteps of Robert Frank, tracking his movements through a rare proof sheet and Nathan's mental map.
Strong words in the DOJ's latest response to disgraced L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar's motion to suppress email evidence: "[He] is charged with engaging in a years-long racketeering enterprise of staggering scope and audacity." (PDF link.) The judge didn’t buy it either, as our live tweets of last week’s hearing show.
We never get tired of watching See's Candy factory footage, and this Sunday Morning featurette has plenty. Our favorite is dark chocolate molasses chips—how about you?
A piece aired on Fox 11 about Tom LaBonge's family and friends giving away the nuns' pumpkin bread in his memory—but they didn't even mention that the Monastery of the Angels may be closing! Is that what Tom would want?
A house this old and beautiful survives thanks to many dedicated caretakers, among them Michael Anderson and Jerrell McElroy, who did something astonishing with salvaged redwood before both died of AIDS. We lost many preservation angels in the '90s.
Marketing packet: "It’s time to stop thinking of the Valley as a sleepy suburb." Reality: 22 rent controlled 1938 garden court bungalows slated for demolition if this 25-unit project is approved. That's just wrong.
Of Mitch O'Farrell's fake Taix "landmarking," which returns to City Council’s PLUM Committee on Tuesday, January 18, C.C. de Vere says "The whole thing stinks like a week-old serving of salmon dropped in the gutter on Sunset Blvd. and left to rot in the sun."
Video vault: James Forsher's short film on the Cadillac Hotel, about a real Los Angeles angel and his senior citizen tenants, who found home and family on the Venice boardwalk—until death and gentrification changed everything. Kim’s peculiar personal ties to the hotel are featured in our Dark Side of the West Side webinar.
We went to San Pedro to check on beloved legacy business Walker's Café, which recently closed with no notice. The local cats miss their friends and yummy table scraps. Sign the petition, check out the website we built for the campaign, and participate in the landmarking hearing on January 20. You can read the historic nomination here and get up to speed on the Keep San Pedro Cozy cause.
A CEQA appeal has been filed for Hollywood Citizen-News, part of Relevant Group's boozy campus of nightlife venues that City Hall corruptly pretends are unrelated and don't impact each other or the old folks living nearby. These are serious accusations (PDF link) the Feds should see, but the restaurant conversion is very pretty.
Enormously relieved the Art Deco Society of LA landmarked Howard Hughes' HQ before it was sold to notorious demolishers Onni Group. But we'll all still need to watch very closely so they don't wreck this gem, as they did the Seattle Times, and as they hope to wreck the Los Angeles Times.
The Fat Leonard podcast, released in advance of corruption trials, paints a damning picture of systemic fraud and sexual kompromat in the U.S. Navy. It also offers insights into the culture of abuse Naval reservist Eric Garcetti allowed in his orbit.
RIP Los Feliz Ledger (2005-2021). It went pretty screwy at the end when the editor-in-chief initiated a political recall campaign, but hyper-local news sources matter, and Los Angeles is diminished by this loss.
Whoa! Did the FBI start asking questions about the sketchy demolition permits for 1432-34 S. Beverly Drive? Two months after City Council signed off despite improprieties at the Planning Commission, it's now for rent. Here’s a powerful public comment (PDF link) about the contradiction between what actually happened at the Planning Commission, and the false documents submitted by the Planning Department misrepresenting the decision.
Four months after we raised the alarm about stolen streetlights on the Glendale Hyperion Bridge, the local Facebook group fretted it was still happening, and the Los Angeles Times picked up the story with insights from historians Glen Norman, Jack Feldman, Courtland Jindra and our Richard Schave (archive link). And by the time the city removed the remaining poles for safe keeping, 22 had been lost. We’re angry.
Councilmember Nithya Raman seeks $3312 to close public stair linking Beachwood and Hollyridge Drives. How come? These public stairs are a community treasure. After we noticed this motion and encouraged people to speak out about pedestrian access being blocked, Raman made this statement and the vote was pushed to this week. We want to see public access restored, and historic staircase maintenance costs included in the city's enormous budget.
Grateful to see this CBS News eye in the sky featurette, "Look At This: LA County Poor Farm.” As discussed in our recent webinar, the sprawling facility—this shows only the edge—has so much history and even more potential.
This is astonishing: a Philadelphia subdivision inspired by the architecture of Southern California, named Hollywood and still intact a century later, the stucco cottages looking strange and otherworldly with the "wrong" landscaping and quality of light.
Troubling suit alleges racial discrimination at L.A. County owned live-aboard docks Anchorage 47 in Marina del Rey. After being stabbed and robbed on his boat, Christopher Jackson was evicted, learned only his white former partner was listed on the lease.
Non-profit Los Angeles Waterkeeper has sued Angelus Western, which handles the city's curbside recycling and municipal waste, for lacking permits, spewing toxic waste into the L.A. River.
Permits sought to establish a weed dispensary next door to Clifton's Cafeteria. Cannabis dealer From The Earth has an interesting Social Equity Partner: Hector Verdugo, Associate Executive Director at gang rehabilitation non-profit Homeboy Industries.
Finally, after dozens of arson fires and the destruction of many L.A. landmarks, City Council moves to create an ordinance forcing property owners who hoard vacant, blighted properties to render them secure and fire safe. Too late for the Heather Apartments above, but it's a start.
Trouble on the 101: funky roadhouse Captain Keno's (originally the Shamrock, est. 1929) threatened by generic redevelopment scheme. But Encinitas locals don't want to lose their best joint to something soulless. We hope they don't!
Investigation Report: Los Angeles Central Library Fire, April 29, 1986. (Sometimes we dream about the unique magazines and patent collections that were lost.)
New from Justin Kloczko on the Los Angeles public corruption beat, "4th figure in DWP mess to face criminal charges and the first one from the city attorney's office." These venal allegations shock even us.
The Hollywood Reporter features independent historian Ron Drabkin's fascinating work to uncover a Japanese spy ring in the pre-WW2 motion picture colony.