This past June, Hollywood helped to elect a new city councilperson, Eric Garcetti. Though he represents other areas of Los Angeles, and other councilmembers control key areas of Hollywood, Councilman Garcetti handles the central area.
Previous discussions with him during the campaign offered hope that Hollywood would finally have a proactive councilperson concerning historic preservation. On September 6, a meeting was held with him in his field office to discuss issues with his planning deputy and his Hollywood deputy.
A major concern was the lack of enforcement of the 1986 Hollywood Redevelopment Plan and its provisions for historic preservation, parking, and traffic. Plans for these issues were to be completed by May 1988, but nothing exists today after several million dollars of studies and broken promises by two previous councilmembers. Because of the lack of an enforceable plan, many historic structures have been illegally demolished since 1986.
Hollywood Heritage has threatened several times during the past three years to enforce the 1986 Plan so as to protect historic structures. We should not have to do this, and property owners and developers should be informed of what they can and cannot do. As was pointed out to the councilman and his staff, the Plan’s guidelines are more stringent than those of a simple National Register District, though not nearly as stringent as most historic districts outside of Los Angeles. An example is that federal law allows for the painting of historic structures to be considered temporary and reversible, no matter how inappropriate. The Hollywood Plan would include guidelines to ensure colors and even the avoidance of paint altogether, i.e. do not paint over brick surfaces, would be regulated.
This would create a district where one property or business cannot blight the neighborhood, and everyone works together for the same goal—to improve the district for everyone. No one has ever complained to me about being “forced” to restore a building after the work is properly done. They see the positive impact of such planning for themselves and their community. Witness the impacts of such projects as the El Capitan Theater and building, the Pantages Theater, the Schwab’s Men’s Store building, Egyptian Theater, to name but a few!
Then go look at the Palmer Building at Hollywood and Cosmo Way. The owner, Mehdi Bolour did remove the 1950s façade, but then painted over the polychrome bricks that faced much of the building, rather then stripping off the 1950s paint. And the colors of white, cream, and gold are just not appropriate, nor is this legal under the Redevelopment Plan.
This is why we asked Councilman Garcetti to step in and get the Hollywood Boulevard Plan completed and fully enforced. If not, Hollywood Heritage will be forced to go to courts to see that the 1986 Plan is enforced.
It should be noted that the Plan covers all 100 plus acres of the Hollywood Redevelopment Project, protecting several hundred structures. Specific protections and guidelines are added to that in the Hollywood Boulevard Historic District. I sincerely hope that this will be the beginning of a new relationship with Councilmember Garcetti and his staff to benefit Hollywood’s world famous legacy. Also touched on was the impact of signage and billboards on the Historic District. The plan for this is being readied for the public and does not sound promising. It seems planners thought the visual blight of advertising forewarned in Blade Runner would be a positive addition to historic structures.
Another key change in city policy that we asked for was to get public benefits from applicants who request code variances for their business or project. Restoration of a historic building, relighting of historic signage, contributions to a community arts fund or other similar benefits could be provided to the community. Variances are given to change what the public has been promised in their community for the profit of an individual or business. It is only fair that they repay this favor to the community. All too often the variance is paid back by political contributions. Councilman Garcetti has assured us that he will change this policy so as to benefit the neighborhood being impacted. This was successfully accomplished by Hollywood Heritage who insisted on the restoration to the Chinese Theater in exchange for a variance to cut a doorway through the forecourt wall. The concerns do not end here, and will be discussed in more detail in the next newsletter.