Do you ever think that loving Los Angeles is like staying in an abusive relationship, hoping they'll change?
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.
In our last newsletter, we expressed serious concern about the June 15 PLUM Committee landmark hearing for the giant Pico Boulevard Chili Bowl, with its lack of support from Councilman Mike Bonin and no defense of their nomination by the Los Angeles Conservancy.
That evening, feeling like the Chili Bowl was all alone in the world, we formed Friends of the Chili Bowl and launched a preservation petition, which has been signed by more than 800 people. We’ve since put in a lot of miles exploring options for preserving and moving this cultural landmark, and you can stay informed by signing the petition, and reading our updates on the petition page.
Here are the last two:
• 6/21 Update: L.A. Conservancy Complains About Chili Bowl Brown Act Violation, Neighborhood Council To Discuss.
• 6/24 Update: Chili Bowl Trouble Discussed at West LA Sawtelle Neighborhood Council.
After the petition went live, and four days after the negative landmark vote, the Los Angeles Conservancy finally came out with a troubling announcement.
They actually had been on the phone, expecting to be called on to advocate for landmarking the Chili Bowl after arranging to do so with Los Angeles Planning Department staff. But they were never called on, and members of the public were left out, too.
If they want to—and all too often, it seems like they do—City Council can vote in favor of what wealthy property developers want every day of the week. But legally, they’re supposed to allow the public to have a say first.
Yet the PLUM Committee isn't even pretending to do the peoples' business. The Conservancy is the largest member-based preservation organization in the country, and on their first day back in City Hall, City Councilmembers Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Gil Cedillo, Bob Blumenfield, Mark Ridley-Thomas and John Lee treated them with utter contempt.
We find it bizarre that city staff regularly violates the simple rules for running a meeting, potentially opening the city and private developers up for expensive and time consuming legal battles, and leaving citizens wondering if they’re incompetent, think we’re idiots, or both.
The Conservancy’s lawyer has responded with a sternly worded “cure and correct” letter (PDF link) demanding that the PLUM vote be voided and the matter heard again—this time with proper opportunities for their client and the public to speak.
And yet, the Chili Bowl matter has now been scheduled for next Tuesday morning at full City Council, as if the PLUM vote was perfectly legal instead of sketchy as hell, and as if there would be no consequences to moving full steam ahead to the day when the Chili Bowl’s owner can act on their pending demolition permit.
Here’s the response of Friends of the Chili Bowl to this worrying state of affairs, and how folks who care can help right now.
We’re Los Angeles historians with a particular interest in public corruption, land use and the dirty tricks that politicians use to advance their agendas and those of the powerful, ruthless people who get and keep them in office. These narratives inform our true crime and Raymond Chandler tours, and Kim’s nonfiction novel.
We are now living through a significant moment in Los Angeles history that will be of great interest to future scholars. We wish we had a magic mirror and could look ahead to see how it all turns out!
Even with an ongoing FBI investigation, their erstwhile colleague Mitch Englander serving hard time, and former PLUM Chair Jose Huizar’s RICO trial set to begin next spring, the politicians can’t seem to control themselves. Never before has public corruption shown its face so clearly, so shamelessly, in the motions and votes that ooze out of City Hall.
And historic preservation, this niche activity that’s the territory of passionate, wonky, sentimental and civic-minded Angelenos, is a magnifying lens through which the whole world can see exactly where Los Angeles is broken.
And what is clear is that the bad guys can’t win without cheating! Developers pay for access to elected officials, and those officials and others in the “city family” put their thumbs on the scales to ensure they feel like they got their money’s worth, no matter how much harm it does.
This is how it is, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
We intend to stick around long after this criminal, dysfunctional syndicate is broken up, and be part of putting this beautiful town back together, even better than she was before. We hope we can count on YOU to join us on the janitorial crew.
yours for Los Angeles,
Kim & Richard
Our pandemic series of webinars is now available as On-Demand recordings: Elysian Park • Victorian Los Angeles • Downtown L.A. Artists • 4th & Main • Llano del Rio Utopian Colony • Downtown L.A. Treasure Hunt • Wilshire Boulevard • Sunset Boulevard • John Fante • Art Deco Leisure Suits • Paul R. Williams • Saving South L.A. Landmarks • Birth of Noir • Storybook Architecture • Dark Side of the West Side • Hotel Cecil • L.A. Historic Preservation, 1900s-1980s • Southern California’s Architecture of Death • Crawford’s Markets • John Bengtson’s Silent Film Locations • George Mann’s Vintage L.A. • Pershing Square • Cafeterias of Old L.A. • Programmatic Architecture • Angels Flight • Grand Central Market • Ohio River Valley • Bunker Hill • Charles Bukowski • Raymond Chandler • Black Dahlia • Dutch Chocolate Shop • Bradbury Building • Tunnels • L.A. Times Bombing and 13 Uncanny Crimes & Mysteries.
Subscribe! In the latest subscriber's edition of this newsletter—$10/month, cheap!—Slip Into Hall of Waters, a ragged Mayan Art Deco marvel awaiting its next act—we find haunting relics in a basement bomb shelter.
WANT TO SUPPORT OUR WORK?
If you enjoy all we do to celebrate and preserve Los Angeles history, please consider signing up for (or gifting) the subscriber’s edition of this newsletter, or putting a little something into our digital tip jar. Gift certificates are available for any webinar in our on-demand library (or for upcoming occasional webinars), starting at $10. Printed matter? We’ve got a swell selection of books and maps, some written by us, others sourced from dusty warehouses. For a wider selection, Bookshop uses the power of distributor Ingram to help independent bookstores stick around. We've curated a selection of uniquely Los Angeles titles, and when you order from these links, it supports participating local shops, and us, too. You can also click here before shopping on Amazon... & if you love what we do, please tell your friends.
AND WHAT'S THE NEXT TOUR? WHO KNOWS?!
We're dark until public health officials and we determine that groups can gather safely. But in addition to on-demand webinar programs, we've got 138 episodes of the podcast You Can't Eat The Sunshine free to download for armchair explorers, and videos of the Downtown L.A. LAVA walking tours, plus Cranky Preservationist videos.
AND FINALLY, LINKS
If you've been putting it off, here's a beguiling offer: schedule a free COVID-19 vaccination at The Huntington and receive two free same-day admission passes, to visit the gardens on June 30 (by appointment only).
RIP to Lincoln Heights' 100-year-old Broadway Social Center (the building is even older), for sale or lease with the ghosts of pool sharks and barflies thrown in whether you want them or not. In 2019, notorious “retenanter” Nicole Deflorian sought a full liquor license, to organized opposition (PDF link) from art critic Joseph Giovannini’s loft tenants next door. More info from locals in the comments here. Kinda awkward, so City Council did nothing. But the ABC said okay. Wanna buy a bar?
Stalled Oceanwide Plaza in indicted Jose Huizar's DTLA district was an effective EB-5 visa generator for Chinese investors. Now the gravy train is off the rails, and the blighted project is a giant middle finger to Angelenos. Do we even have a large enough landfill?
Councilman Mitch O’Farrell isn’t facing recall (yet), but he’s sure ticking off his constituents, by displacing Echo Park vendors, disenfranchising citizens and wrecking L.A.’s excellent historic preservation ordinance for the benefit of Washington State developer Clyde Holland and his "tepidly designed" Taix replacement. Seeking some good P.R., now he’s wasting civic resources forcing Historic-Cultural Monument status on an unthreatened National Register landmark, Hollywood Forever. Historian of French L.A. C.C. de Vere minces no words about the mess Mitch has made.
The Lincoln Theater was the West Coast Apollo. The city wants to install painted boxes for 95 tents in the parking lots. Yet Los Angeles has sufficient vacant apartments to house them all. Where will the Ministerios Juda congregation park?
Want to win a teeny tiny Black Cat tavern replica, complete with wee anti-LAPD harassment picket signs, crafted by Kieran Wright (aka smallscalela)? Donate to your preferred LGBTQ+ organization during Pride Month to enter the raffle.
This slightly uncanny bronze, symbolizing K9s killed in the line of duty, will soon be installed at LAPD headquarters. More about the project and artist Austin Weishel's Honorable Sculptures, Inc. niche.
Los Angeles seeks ordinance defining "co-living" facilities, claiming it's an emerging business model. But boarding houses aren't new, and are restricted to multi-family and commercial zones (PDF link). Any change is to benefit developers.
What the hell is going on in the Los Angeles Planning Department? The Planning Commission rejected this huge Beverlywood project, but now Planning Director Vince Bertoni claims they approved it. Neighbors are understandably furious (see appeal PDF link)—and we hope they're talking to the FBI.
Historic landmark nomination submitted for Joyce/Ozawa Boarding House (1912), a currently half vacant 23-room prewar Japanese men's residence that sold for $2M as a TOC development (read: tear down) opportunity. Virgil Village was once a little Little Tokyo.
The Faultline gay bar (est. 1994) closed in January, but supposed new owner claimed he would reopen. Confusion swelled. Now permits are filed to demolish entire historic block, displacing RSO residential tenants, tattoo parlor, gym.
RIP Alex Fish Market, one of those great "you buy, we fry" joints that are becoming an endangered species. Shuttered in October, plans have been filed by SoLa Impact Section 8 developer for new 99-unit housing project (no parking) on the parcel.
Landmark nomination filed for the Renaissance Revival Marcell Arms Apartments (now called Avondale) at 1825 Cahuenga (William Allen, 1925), a recognized California historic resource.
A sad side effect of City Hall signing off on every request to change zoning on L.A. parcels: independent venues like Bootleg Theater are priced out of their space when their silent partner smells the big bucks. A classy farewell (or is it?).
New on our historic preservation & cultural stewardship page, an early project. Tipped off by librarians that Antonio Villaraigosa was about to monetize branch inter-library loan services, Save LAPL went to war on behalf of poor Angeleno bookworms—and we won!
If you can't wait until next summer for Jose Huizar's long delayed Los Angeles City Hall public corruption trial, tune into the DA's case against wee Maywood's cock-fighting, graft skimming, bingo hall hustling miscreants.
Facade work revealed a rare ghost sign captured by @rodiguezrollins before it vanished again. Wilmington Mutual Savings & Loan, established 1920, built their 1000 Avalon harbor HQ in 1952. If you think it's cute, keep an eye out for the metal bank version!
File under: real life noir. Wee Broadmoor, the hole in the Daly City donut, wracked with public corruption charges after ex-SFPD deputy chief Michael Connolly, then Police Commissioner, hired himself as Chief, raised city taxes by 5%. In SF, he ran the “Principled Policing Bureau!”
In Lincoln Heights in 1947 as in Pico Rivera in 2021. From our 1947project blog: Scared Steer Traps Scared Woman in Short Alleyway. Cattle in a suburb are a surreal scene in any year. Listen to those hooves on the asphalt! And be glad for the last of the escapees, who found her freedom with a little help from famous friends.
As City Council rushes to redevelop 1331 S. Pacific (formerly the Pacific Bowling Center/Dancing Waters Club) in Mayoral candidate Joe Buscaino's CD15, activists complain of censored public comment, a market rate project violating Community Plan.
Richard Neutra's Lovell Health House is slow to sell at $10M with much deferred maintenance. But while this modernist jewel seeks its next caretaker, you can seek out vintage furnishings for your household, as the house becomes a showroom.
50 years ago this week, at 12:30am on June 24, 1971, Metropolitan Water District's Feather River tunnel at Sylmar exploded with a deadly methane blast. 17 workers died due to Lockheed's low-bid corporate greed. We remember those lost when bringing us water.
Whoa! Bad news for the Alex Theatre and for Glendale. Without an operator, this great neighborhood playhouse will be a dead zone. Call in on Tuesday or send an email before then and help SAVE THE ALEX!
This is really disturbing: Watts/Willowbrook landmark Hawkins House of Burgers could lose much of their historic building to a CalTrans eminent domain claim. They have a petition and GoFundMe for legal aid. The Hawkins family has held onto their little piece of the Southern California dream for generations, and we're all the better for it. Legacy businesses like Hawkins House of Burgers should be protected by local government agencies, not squeezed and stressed.
Fascinating, and worrying, property listing in Koreatown: half a block of 1920s multi-family housing marketed as a development opportunity. The Versailles Apartments compound isn't what it looks like: the center building is just a facade after 2010 fire.
Zoning and height change sought for 139-unit, 2-building rent stabilized Kipling Hotel Apartments (1925-28) near 3rd and Western. Seek conversion to light housekeeping rooms. How will this impact tenants and availability of units? Is intent a use change?
We're witnessing demolition by neglect of a significant Jewish Art Deco cultural site. A second fire has damaged the ticket lobby of potential National Register landmark Fairfax Theatre. Weak chain link fence is not protection from arson! Sickening video from the Art Deco Society and the photo is by Ruta Vaisnys. Learn more here.
Howard Paar ran Silver Lake's O.N. Klub, the genre-bending post-punk venue where reggae and soul were in the mix. That scene is the backdrop for his noir mystery Top Rankin' and he talks virtually with Denise Hamilton at Book Soup on Monday, 6/28 (Pic: Ed Ruscha, 1973, Getty).
How did L.A. no-knead bread innovator Suzanne Dunaway get erased from history in favor of Jim Lahey? We suspect because digital newspaper archive Proquest splits its content between "historical" and "recent," and Dunaway's 2000 James Beard award is old news!
An epidemic of useful, vacant housing in Los Angeles that only gets on our radar when fires start: 8779 South Hobart (3 beds, 1764 sq. feet, built 1930) has been boarded up and fenced since at least 2012. Vacancy tax now. There are City Council files going back to 2008 (!!) with nuisance orders requiring city workers to clean, fence and board up this blighted single family home, placing liens against it.
5946 West Barton in Hollywood: Here's more vacant, blighted, scorched historic multifamily RSO housing subject to Building and Safety Department liens for barricades. Owner is James Karubian, who also owns the massive, long-vacant 7070 Franklin apartment complex.
In 2019, City Council introduced an "Empty Homes Penalty" motion to address "severe and related crises" of homelessness, lack of affordable housing and 111,000 vacant units. Instead of putting it on the 2020 ballot, they kibbitzed with developer lobbyists, kicked it down the road to 2022.
When Apple leased the Tower Theatre, one of the Delijani family’s collection of underutilized Downtown venues, preservationists were split. Variety’s Chris Willman surveys a bittersweet situation. It's not a revived Broadway showplace, but it ain't chopped liver either. (But personally, we’ll continue to do our computer shopping at California’s oldest Apple store, Di-No of Pasadena.)