February 1, 2002 - From the February, 2002 issue

L.A. CITY COUNCIL ENDORSES HISTORIC SURVEY


Jack Weiss

Jack, you recently announced a motion asking the L.A. City Council to support a comprehensive survey of historic resources in Los Angeles. Give us some insight into what motivated you to go forward with such a plan.

As Chair of the City Council's Arts, Health and Humanities Committee, I think it's important that Los Angeles do a better job of integrating historic and cultural preservation issues into the planning and development process.

Despite being a world-class city, L.A. has no catalog of historically significant properties. That means that when a developer seeks to demolish a potentially significant property the burden often falls on the residents of a particular community to make the primary case for preservation.

Early in my tenure I was confronted with a sadly typical situation. Residents and neighbors of a 1930s era apartment building, the Chateau Colline, came to me and told me that the Chateau was in danger of being demolished. They asked if I would assist in their efforts to preserve a piece of L.A. history and aid them in their pursuit of a historic designation for the property. I agreed, but noticed as we progressed that the process was incredibly laborious and ad hoc.

In attempting to codify those feelings into something tangible and constructive I was very pleased to learn of the efforts of the Getty Conservation Institute and Kathryn Welch Howe. Their survey into historically and culturally significant properties in the city is an important undertaking and I felt that it was important for this project to have city backing from the outset.

How will this report affect planning and community development in L.A.?

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It is too soon to begin to tell how such a survey will affect the long-term goals of planning or community development in L.A. At this point in time, all we're talking about is a survey of historic properties. We're not talking about a new ordinance, a new law or a new set of regulations. This is not meant to increase the burden on developers. We're simply talking about having a comprehensive survey completed so that we know exactly what treasures we have stewardship over in the city.

Nonetheless such a document has the possibility of being an enormously positive influence on L.A. This survey has the ability to link neighborhoods and create a deeper appreciation of the historic character of our communities. And as we've seen in places from Downtown to Vinegar Hill, being part of a historic portion of L.A. can help rally all sorts of disparate interests together toward a common goal, without harming the development community. The need for development and the need to preserve our heritage are not and should not be mutually exclusive.

What are the possible next steps? And what should our readers be looking for in terms of progress over the next year?

The Getty Conservation Institute and Ms. Howe will coordinate the preparation of the survey and will marshal the resources necessary to pull it off. What's important from this stage out is for stakeholders throughout Los Angeles-be they developers, property owners, preservation experts or simply informed residents-to partner with these efforts. We need that input so that the survey can bring together the views of all Angelenos as we prepare to translate our history into a meaningful document which aids in guiding our City into the future.

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