Historical Preservation
Media: Sam Hall Kaplan "City Observed", KCRW

One of the duplexes on Kelton discussed by Sam Hall Kaplan on KCRW. Photo by Ken Lee.




A break for a few minutes from the worrisome news in the ancient and ailing city of Baghdad, to some promising news in the adolescent and angst ridden Southland.

If you care about the scale and character of neighborhoods, you had to be pleased with the defeat recently in a special election in the city of Santa Monica of the anti-preservationist Proposition A., and the approval in the City of L.A. of the designation of three small duplexes on the westside as cultural and historical monuments.

The proposition voters wrestled with in Santa Monica was a confused and contentious attempt by the ever voracious real estate lobby to weaken the city"s historic preservation laws and its zoning and building codes; a sort of an end run in the pernicious pursuit of mansionization that has corrupted so many communities of rising affluence. But the proponents did hit a nerve among homeowners, which is the fear when trying to improve their properties, or do anything involving a permit, of becoming entangled in the city"s infamous bureaucratic web woven by a bevy of municipal bullies and bunglers.

Hopefully, the relatively close vote -- 53 to 47 percent-- will prompt the city to do some soul searching, and display a little more needed common sense and courtesy when dealing with the constituents; you know, the people who pay their salaries and pensions. Perhaps the timing is ripe or the city to explore establishing an ombudsmen's office, to act as a public advocate. This also might be a propitious time for the city of L.A. to back up its well intentioned concern for preserving landmarks with some sort of finance program to underwrite their continued protection.

The need was made apparent in the L.A.'s City Council recent approval of its Cultural Heritage Commission's recommendation to designate as landmarks three Spanish Mediterranean styled duplexes on the westside. The three at 1841, 45 and 51 Kelton Avenue were developed in 1926 by the Janss Company as part of its master plan for Westwood out of which grew UCLA. They were going to be demolished and replaced with yet another nondescript four story apartment block now mooning so many of the area's streets when the neighborhood rose up and lobbied for landmark status, and won.

Under current law, however, the designation is only for 6 months to a year, presumably giving the owner time to show a good faith effort to preserve the properties, or sell them to someone who will. Whomever it is, they no doubt will need help, if not a little prodding. Certainly its worth it, given the added value historic preservation lends a community.

Also pleasing, and promising, news, was a design for a prototype for small primary centers for the L.A.U.S.D. winning a prestigious honor award of the national American Institute of Architects. The design by the firm of Rios Associates was demonstrated with style and substance in the development of two centers in the Westlake District near downtown, one at 310 South La Fayette Park Place, and the second, at 2300 Seventh Street. Both are well scaled and welcoming, making maximum use of minimal sites, lending needed new school space a sense of place in an inner city setting. In addition to recognizing the talents of the architects, the award also recognizes the conscientious efforts of the often unfairly maligned building division of the city's long suffering school district. May many more of the prototypes bloom.

Application for Historic Monument Status
The Cultural Heritage Commission Review Process
Building Neighborhood Support
Arguments that a Developer May Make Against Historical Preservation
Next Steps After Properties Have Been Designated Historical Monuments
The Kelton Homes Now (September 2009)

Sam Hall Kaplan "City Observed" - KCRW
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Contact photographer/musician Ken Lee


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