The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to designate the Lytton Savings building, which is currently home to a Chase Bank, as a historic-cultural monument (HCM).
“This decision is a victory for our historic neighborhoods,” said Councilman David Ryu, 4th District.
The bank, located at 8150 Sunset Blvd., is currently on the site of the approved 8150 Sunset project, which was also unanimously approved earlier this year. The $300 million project will include five structures, 229 residential units and commercial space.
But last week, the Los Angeles Conservancy and Fix the City filed lawsuits against the city over the approval for reasons that include failing to consider the demolition of the Lytton Savings building.
On Tuesday, Ryu said it was so clear that the building was significant that the developers of the project, Townscape Partners, spent “considerable money to include in their EIR a full evaluation of the Lytton Savings Bank as a potential historic monument as well as preservation options” for their project.
“The only way to ensure that preservation options were carefully considered and carried out with diligence and respect, was to designate the Lytton Savings Bank as a historic-cultural monument,” Ryu said on Tuesday, after encouraging his colleagues to vote to approve the nomination.
After the vote, Brian Lewis, a spokesman for the project with Marathon Communications, said the developers “appreciate the sensitivity to cultural resources in L.A.” and look forward to implementing the mitigation measures adopted by the city council. He said the 8150 Sunset project will “bring world-class architecture to Hollywood, provide much-needed housing, attract great retail options for the area and create new jobs.”
Ryu will advocate for the potential option of preserving the bank by removing it as it stands and placing it at a different location to make room for Townscape’s project, though other options could be examined. The city and developers could negotiate how that option is funded if an agreement is made. However, HCM status does not guarantee that the building will be preserved.
“This is exactly the kind of care and diligence that the developers and Mr. (Frank) Gehry agreed to when the city council approved their project,” Ryu said.
Ryu said the existing Lytton Savings building is “objectively significant.” It was designed in 1960 by architect Kurt Meyer.
“[Lytton Savings’] mid-century modern design with unique zigzag plated roofs, interior artwork and glass walls are celebrated by many Angelenos and artists. It is one of the most recognizable buildings on the historic Sunset Strip,” he said.
On Tuesday, Steve Luftman with Friends of Lytton Savings, who helped initiate the nomination for HCM status, thanked Ryu and his office. He said it was a good day because the HCM will give up to a year of protection from demolition. He said it’s really important that they secured the vote because the developers could have torn down the bank and the community could have been left with a “hole in the ground and no project” while litigation plays out with the recent lawsuits.
“Now that won’t happen,” he said. “It’s an honor to this amazing building and the architect who built it.”
Luftman said he doesn’t believe the developers seriously considered alternatives to demolition, “including moving it” to another location.
“Maybe this will make them seriously consider those alternatives,” Luftman said.
In October, the architect of the 8150 project, Frank Gehry, wrote a letter to city officials, and addressed the Lytton Savings building.
“We tried dozens of massing options for this project to arrive at the best solution,” Gehry wrote. “We looked at options using the bank building and without the bank building. I do not come to this recommendation lightly or without having done my homework, but I really do not believe that I can design a successful project while keeping the bank on the site.”
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