The Cole family thought the home’s new owners planned to live in the house. (photo courtesy of Zillow)
On Wednesday, Oct. 23, onlookers gathered to watch the Tudor-style house located at 361 N. Citrus Ave. take the first blows from bulldozers and a demolition crew.
Despite an effort from Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz, 5th District, there was not enough time to save the house. Koretz filed a motion to consider granting the house historic-cultural monument status and stay the demolition.
“Historic preservation is often like hand-to-hand combat,” Koretz said. “Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose.”
The Los Angeles City Council couldn’t have considered the motion until Oct. 25, two days after the scheduled demolition.
Reuven and Shevy Gradon purchased the property from David and Cassidy Cole, who had acquired the home in 2010 and continued to update it through their tenancy, they said. The Coles placed the home on the market last summer following the birth of their twins in 2018.
In light of concern about the Gradons being developers, they were sold the property after assuring the Coles of their admiration for the home’s charm and 1920s character in a letter, punctuated with a picture of the pair and their son.
“I love acquiring buildings with character and forming the identity of the property by emphasizing that,” Reuven Gradon said in the letter. “With your home, it is already so beautifully cared for with such incredibly rich character, it gets me even more excited to call it home.”
An application for a demolition permit was submitted to the city’s Department of Building and Safety by the Gradons on Sept. 18, the day Cole said they assumed ownership of the house.
On Oct. 18, before the demolition, a former neighbor sent the Coles a text with a photo of a demolition notice inside the dining room window of the house. This was the first they had learned that the Gradons were planning to demolish the home the following week.
“I do feel that he grossly misrepresented himself to us and to others,” David Cole said in an email. “I hope that he didn’t cut any corners environmentally with the demolition of a home and materials from the ‘20s, that could negatively impact the neighborhood.”
The Gradons did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Philip Farha, chair of the Greater Wilshire Land Use Committee, expressed concern over several aspects of the demolition, including potential damage to air quality from the destruction of an older building. In regards to LADBS notifying neighbors of the demolition with signage and letters in the mail, Farha noted, “the system is arcane.”
LADBS Chief Inspector Jeff Napier said over email that the demolition was done by the book and that an inspection on Sept. 25 verified that the required signage was posted. However, the Coles and most of their neighbors did not notice any signage until the less than a week before the demolition date, according to Cole.
“The house sits (sat) prominently on a corner lot – I’m baffled how no one seems to have noticed a single demolition sign until the end of the required 30-day notice period,” Cole said.
In 2015, the Coles’ house, built in an early Jewish enclave in 1927, was analyzed by SurveyLA, an initiative of the city’s Offic of Historic Resources. The survey aimed to provide information on which structures or neighborhoods appeared eligible for landmarks or historic districts.
Their house was labeled as a contributor of historical significance in the survey. While the findings support preservation efforts and could aid residents and city in initiating the process, the survey itself did not give the home a basis for historic designation.
Farha noted that although a case that could have been made to the council, the only way the demolition could’ve been prevented would have been for the Coles to include a deed restriction in their sale of the property.
“We believed their letter. And in the house’s 92 years, no previous owner needed a clause. We all knew what a special home we had,” Cole said.
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