Facing claims that it had violated a California law requiring open and public meetings, a Los Angeles city commission revisited its vote to not deem a century-old Los Feliz house as a historic monument -- only to come to the same decision at a Thursday hearing.
Owner and developer Elan Mordoch has sought to tear down the Kenmore Avenue house and replace it with six new units.
Neighbors have pushed to spare the building from the wrecking ball, pointing out that it was among the few remaining residences designed by the firm of Los Angeles City Hall architect A.C. Martin. If it were deemed historic, it would get added protection against demolition.
The American Colonial Revival building, known as the Bartlett house, has green rooftop shingles, Tuscan columns, and a balconette below its second floor. A curve in its roof, overlooking the entrance, looks like a raised eyebrow.
In October, the Cultural Heritage Commission voted against making the house a historic monument. City staffers and a firm hired by Mordoch argued that the house was not a notable example of the commercial and church designs that A.C. Martin and his firm were famous for.
But on Thursday, commissioners reversed that vote and took up the matter again.
The reason: A nearby resident claimed the city had violated the Brown Act -- the state open meetings law -- when commissioners toured the house in September. Deputy City Atty. Adrienne Khorasanee said the law wasn't broken because commissioners did not have a meeting during that tour, but decided to redo the vote "in an abundance of caution."
City commissioners met outside the Kenmore Avenue home Thursday morning and listened to pleas from neighbors and others interested in the property, interrupted from time to time by the rumble of garbage trucks on the street. Residents argued the home was a rare jewel.
"If this isn't historic, then we really don't have anything historic in this neighborhood," said David Bell, former president of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council. "It's a beautiful house and it's the kind of thing that we've been fighting for years to protect."
Afterward, Mordoch loosened the wire fastening the temporary fencing around the house and opened it to two commissioners and a crowd of neighbors, who strolled through the empty home, snapping photos of old woodwork and light fixtures with their smartphones.
"The kitchen cabinetry is probably original, looking at it," murmured Bill Zide, who had pressed to make the home a monument. "It couldn't be later than the '20s."
"Imagine -- the house could be so beautiful if it were restored," said Kathryn Savage, who lives in an apartment building across the street.
Mordoch walked through the house with the neighbors. As Los Feliz resident Rosemary DeMonte gazed around the second floor, she asked Mordoch why he couldn't fix up the house.
"We'll see what happens, you know?" Mordoch told her.
"You know what happens," DeMonte replied.
Mordoch reiterated Thursday that he was told by a city official that the house needed no historical analysis. When the commission regrouped at City Hall roughly an hour later, its members said their opinion was unchanged since the October decision.
The commission voted unanimously against designating the Bartlett house as a historic monument.