[UPDATE] Conservancy Sues City over Lytton Demolition
UPDATE 12/13/16 10:30 a.m.: Los Angeles City Council voted 14-0 today to designate the Lytton Savings and Loan building a historic cultural monument.
“By any objective measure, this building is historic,” Councilmember David Ryu, who represents Council District 4, which includes the building, said at today’s meeting.
However, Lytton’s historic designation does not negate the council’s previous approval of the Frank Gehry-designed project proposed for the same location, which currently calls for the bank’s demolition.
Instead, the designation will initiate an additional 180 day review process before construction on the Gehry project can begin.
According to Brian Lewis of Marathon Communications, a spokesman for Townscape Partners, the developers of the Gehry project, Townscape has no intention of revising the project to prevent Lytton’s demolition.
“Recognizing that the Historic Cultural Monument status merely adds additional time for us to implement our mitigation measures, we remain committed to moving forward with our approved project that will bring world-class architecture to Hollywood, provide much-needed housing, attract great retail options for the area, and create new jobs,” said Lewis in a written statement.
City council will enter closed session later today to discuss three lawsuits filed against the city over the Gehry project, including the one filed December 1st by the Los Angeles Conservancy, and one filed by activist group Fix the City, who had previously expressed concerns over the Gehry project’s scope, which they said put it out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood.
The Los Angeles Conservancy filed a lawsuit December 1st against the city of Los Angeles over the possible demolition of the historic Lytton Savings and Loan building, which is now a Chase bank, at 8150 Sunset Blvd.
The 1960 building, designed by renowned architect Kurt Meyer and considered by many to be an important example of mid-century modern design, may be torn down to accommodate a Frank Gehry-designed, 178-foot tall mixed-use development, which the Los Angeles City Council approved in November.
According to a statement released yesterday by the conservancy, the city “blatantly disregarded” California environmental law in its recent review and subsequent approval of the site proposed for the southwest corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights boulevards.
An environmental impact report (EIR) regarding the Gehry project acknowledged Lytton Savings as a “qualified historical resource” and identified two preservation alternatives, which would have incorporated Lytton Savings into the project. Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a project must avoid significant impacts such as the demolition of a historical resource if the fundamental project objectives can be met without demolition.
“As the lead agency in charge of ensuring that the CEQA environmental review process is followed, the [c]ity must implement feasible preservation alternatives that avoid loss of historic resources,” said Adrian Scott Fine, the Los Angeles Conservancy’s director of advocacy, in the statement. “It did not.”
While the city decided the preservation alternatives were “not feasible” and approved the Gehry-designed version of the project, which calls for Lytton’s demolition, the conservancy has long held that the issue is not a matter of feasibility, but rather of Gehry’s personal preference.
“By sidestepping not one, but two, viable preservation alternatives, the [c]ity abused its discretion and violated the law,” said Linda Dishman, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Conservancy, also in the statement.
Steven Luftman of Friends of Lytton, a nonprofit that applied to have the building designated a Historic Cultural Monument in July, said his organization applauds the conservancy’s decision to sue.
“We think this is a very worthy building,” said Luftman in an interview, “and we support anything that can be done to preserve it.”
Although the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission acknowledged Lytton as a historic resource, it still must be approved by the Los Angeles City Council to become a Historic Cultural Monument, a designation that would offer the building some protections, but would only postpone and not prevent its demolition.
According to a spokesperson for Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu, whose district includes the project, Ryu “continues to be supportive of historic designation for Lytton, and will urge his fellow city councilmembers to vote for it.”
However, Ryu also voted to approve the Gehry project after the developers agreed to reduce its height among other concessions.
The city council will vote on Lytton’s monument status December 13th.
This story was updated December 13th, 2016 at 10:30 a.m. to include the results of city council’s vote, then again at 11:37 a.m. to include a comment received from developer Townscape Partners after publication.