A Hollywood neighborhood group took a big step toward preserving the Fifth Church of Christ Scientist on Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea Avenue when the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission unanimously decided they would recommend to the planning, land use and management committee and city council that the city deem it a cultural-historical monument (HCM).
Helen Berman, founder of Save Residential Hollywood, submitted the application for historical monument designation of the 22,000 square-foot building.
“It provides a beautiful vista to the hills, a protected resource of Los Angeles,” Berman said.
When she founded Save Residential Hollywood, she started a petition to preserve the structure. So far, she said the petition has 1,500 online and 600 physical signatures.
“There’s a lot of support for designating it as a historic monument,” Berman said. “There’s such rage against what is being done to the people of this neighborhood and the other areas ripe for real estate.”
The petition states the group is pushing for the historical monument designation because the building is “an outstanding example of mid-century modern architecture which is especially integral to the iconic architecture of historic Hollywood.”
At the Cultural Heritage Commission meeting, Save Residential Hollywood had the backing of Councilman David Ryu, 4th District.
“I’m proud to stand with many residents of the neighborhood in support of the Cultural-Heritage Commission’s recommendation,” Ryu said. “This designation will provide greater cultural and historic significance to the neighborhood.”
After the congregation outgrew the original church built in 1916, the current building was erected in 1958 by Howard George Elwell as the second edifice for the First Church of Christ, Scientist, continuing the tradition of the domed sanctuary.
But by 2007, the congregation could no longer support the church and it was sold in 2008 to Lenox Leasing Delaware, LLC. The congregation continued to meet there until 2011, when it moved to 5850 W. 3rd St.
The building was leased to The Mosaic Church, a non-denominational Baptist-based congregation.
The committee’s staff report states that the building has stood the test of time as one of the few remaining churches left along Hollywood Boulevard, and continues to be an architectural draw at one of Hollywood’s most prominent corners.
“The building is significant as a unique architectural design telling the story of the growth of the denomination which had a great influence in Los Angeles for over a century,” the report reads.
Berman wanted to preserve the church to spare the neighborhood from overdevelopment on the prominent intersection.
However, development firms LeFrak and Kennedy Wilson are proposing to demolish the building, rezone the plot and build the Horizon Hollywood project. The plan includes three buildings ranging from six to 26 stories. The LaBrea Building, Boulevard Building and Courtyard Building are planned to be 275, 88 and 65 feet tall, respectively.
The plans contain 410 residential units and a 940-vehicle commercial parking facility.
The plans also include 10,000 square feet of ground floor retail space and eateries, and 9,300 square feet of pedestrian plaza space with recreational amenities, outdoor dining, public art and gathering places, according to the project’s website.
The website also indicates it will provide parking in excess of city code requirements to ensure no spillover parking impacts the surrounding streets and neighborhoods.
Berman said her group is not against development. Instead, they are for smart development.
The group is concerned about traffic and emergency responders at an intersection already plagued by congestion. Berman said she is worried there will be a domino effect if the city changes the zoning for the Horizon Hollywood project.
“Once you’ve given it to one developer, it’s hard not to give it to others,” she said. “The intersection is already rated ‘F,’ and that’s not when the Hollywood Bowl is open or the boulevard is closed.”
Berman said Los Angeles needs housing, but the developers are being cynical because the city needs affordable housing, not the proposed $3,000 per month studios.
“If you’re a family that needs housing for $1,000 – they’re not building for it for you,” Berman said. “They’re building luxury apartments for rich people. I have nothing against rich people. But to say they need housing is just cynical.”
The petition also states the increased noise from the commercial establishments and pedestrian plaza will alter the character of the neighborhood. It will increase pollution and crime, draw more tourists, and “deprive the neighborhood” of a “culturally significant building.”
In a letter from Armbruster Goldsmith & Delvac, representatives for the building’s owners to the Cultural Heritage Commission, they claim Save Residential Hollywood is a group that was “specifically formed to oppose” the Horizon Hollywood project.
The cultural historic monument designation put forth by Save Residential Hollywood lacks sufficient evidence of factual support, the letter states.
The project representatives said the neighborhood group fails to demonstrate the church’s broader cultural importance or architectural significance, citing limited architectural influence in surrounding neighborhoods.
“The application also provides no justification, explanation or analysis for why the church’s supposedly ‘character-defining features’ are in anyway architecturally unique or distinctive,” the letter reads. “It’s also unclear how this church ‘reflects the broad cultural, economic or social history’ of the city or community.”
“Unfortunately, this appears to be another example of an effort to use the Historic-Cultural Monument designation process as part of an overall land use dispute,” the letter states.
The recommendation now goes to the city’s planning, land use management committee before being considered by city council.
“It’s a great victory. But the war isn’t over,” Berman said. “It still has to be approved by city hall.”
The development plans have been submitted to the Los Angeles City Planning Department and are awaiting a draft environmental impact report.
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