Historical Preservation

LA Independent/The Westsider
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Commission votes to designate apartments as landmarks
By Brian Lewis

Congratulating a group of West Los Angeles residents on their well-organized effort to preserve their homes, the Cultural Heritage Commission last week voted to declare three small Kelton Avenue apartment buildings as historic-cultural monuments. The panel voted unanimously in support of the renters' efforts to confer landmark status on the small, Spanish/Mediterranean-style buildings on the 1800 block of Kelton Avenue. In doing so, the commission brushed aside a presentation by the owner of the buildings, whose historic consultant contended that the buildings were no different than numerous apartment houses that were constructed in thelate 1920s and early 1930s across the city.

"Individually they don't meet the [city] criteria [for historic-cultural monument status]. And as a grouping they're attractive but don't meet the criteria," said Jeanette McKenna, a consultant hired by Wiseman Development, which bought the three buildings last fall with plans to develop a condominium complex in their place. "It would be hard-pressed for me at any rate...that these would merit monument status." McKenna disputed the tenants' contention that the buildings were developed by the Janss Investment Corporation as the first phase of what would be become Westwood, arguing instead that Janss sold the lots off to other mdevelopers who then built the apartment houses. McKenna also contended that the buildings, which she said were not architecturally significant in the first place, had been substantially altered over the years and stood out now as sore thumbs amid a neighborhood full of newer, larger structures.

That last line of thinking set off aside a testy exchange between McKenna and commission president Mike Cornwell, who said a building's surroundings have no bearing on the panel's decision-making. "These buildings have become the odd man out," McKenna said. "The historic setting has been significantly impacted by the redevelopment of the area."

"Frankly I have to tell you that makes no sense at all," Cornwell retorted. "We're here to look at three apartment houses. Whether they're surrounded by high-rise buildings is not going to influence my decision."

In the end the commission sided with Kelton Avenue residents like Gary Kuist, who called the three buildings "an endangered species." With the commission's vote, the matter now goes to the City Council's Art, Health and Humanities Committee, which is chaired by 5th District Councilman Jack Weiss, who has publicly declared his support for the buildings' designation. If the committee and council concur with the vote, and it is approved by Mayor Jim Hahn, the buildings will officially join the city's list of landmarks.

However, landmark status does not permanently shield a building from the wrecking ball. It only guarantees at most a year of protection, at which time the property owner could conceivably go ahead with his planned condo project and demolish the apartment buildings.

Brian Lewis can be reached at (323) 556-5773, or by e-mail at

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)

Westsider article, March 5, 2003
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