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A band of neighbors in Beverly Grove withstood temperatures in the upper 90s on Friday, Sept. 11 to protest the demolition of a bungalow courtyard at 750 Edinburgh Ave. After a string of approvals and revocations of demolition permits for the property, a nomination to designate the property a Historical Cultural Monument (HCM) was pushed through by the City of Los Angeles Planning Department. The bungalow is now protected for 75 days while the Cultural Heritage Commission (CHC) reviews its application.
Bldg Edinburgh, LLC, the building’s owner, originally applied for small lot subdivision and demolition permits for the Edinburgh Avenue property in April. The company’s request for a small lot subdivision permit, which requires an environmental impact report (EIR), was retracted last week. The demolition permits were approved on Thursday, and construction workers showed up to begin the teardown process on Friday.
However at 9 a.m. that Friday, the demolition permits were revoked after community members placed calls to Councilman Paul Koretz’s office, 5th District, over concerns the permits were issued in error. After discovering the request for a small lot subdivision permit was pulled, allowing the by-right demolition project to legally begin without an EIR, the permits were reinstated at 11 a.m.
Protesters managed to hold off the demolition. Ken Bernstein, principal city planner and manager at the office of historic resources, initiated the HCM application at 7 p.m. on the behalf of Michael LoGrande, director of Los Angeles Department of City Planning.
“Given the circumstances and that it had been significant to [the city] and given that everyone was anticipating nomination already, [LoGrande] agreed it was certain to err on the side of caution and have it go in front of CHC than to have it demolished,” Bernstein said.
Immediately initiating the process to request historic designation is highly unusual and can only be done by the planning department director or by an act of council, according to Katherine Hennigan, policy director for Koretz.
“Our office received concerned calls about this building from all over the city, not just the immediate neighborhood,” Hennigan said. “When the developer switched the plans for the project last minute, it put everyone in panic mode. My job was to make sure that building didn’t get taken down without further process.”
The retracted small lot subdivision included eight small lots with three-story modern townhouses on each. The current bungalow courtyard features eight rent-stabilized units, where former tenants were served eviction notices in March from Bldg Edinburgh, LLC under the Ellis Act, a 1980s law enabling landlords to sell their property if they are leaving the rental business.
The protest was lead by community member Steve Luftman, who is currently in litigation over a similar eviction from his apartment on N. Flores Street with Matthew Jacobs, a member of Bldg Edinburgh, LLC. Luftman is currently seeking to designate his apartment building on N. Flores Street an HCM, and recently received a recommendation from the CHC.
Regarding the bungalow complex on N. Edinburgh Street, Luftman believes Jacobs is purposely using a back-end approach in acquiring the permits, creating a loophole in the system.
“After they demolish the buildings they have the right to change their minds and build a small lot subdivision,” Luftman said.
If the building were to be demolished and Bldg Edinburgh, LLC requested a small lot subdivision permit after the fact, the required EIR would no longer have to present an analysis of the proposed project’s impact on historical resources, according to Berstein. He said the fact that only certain types of permit requests require discretionary approval from the city is a concern.
“It was sort of a bait and switch. I’m sure without any doubt they would come back and ask for a [small lot subdivision] permit once it was demolished,” Koretz said. “We now have a chance to get a better look at it, look into its background to see if it can be deemed an HCM. Hopefully we will be able to stop the demolition.”
Paul Michael Neuman, press deputy for Koretz, said they are looking into preventing these types of loopholes in the permit process.
“We want a process that is fair, but also rigorous. We are looking into changes that will protect neighborhoods, the community and the city,” Neuman said. “Too much of history has already been lost – not just fabled landmarks, but also the homes that have been there for years. We feel like that’s the protection we need to be able to provide.”
After the final application is submitted on behalf of the 750 Edinburgh Ave. property, a subcommittee of the CHC will tour and assess the site. In late November, a hearing will be held for the CHC to vote on whether or not to designate the bungalow as a HCM.
Jacobs was contacted, but had no comment.
What’s wrong with these developers? Have they not watched what has happened in NYC? Brooklyn, to be exact. The small, run-down brownstones that were once in neighborhoods deemed ghettos are now RESTORED to their beauty and go for MILLIONS of dollars. This too, will be what happens if these bungalows are restored. They will be in very much demand and buyers will buy units for millions as well too. See the future, Los Angeles.
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