Norms restaurant moves closer to designation as L.A. historic monument

Norms restaurant moves closer to becoming L.A. historic monument

A Norms restaurant famous for its zigzagging architectural lines moved one step closer Thursday to becoming a historic and cultural monument.

Architecture buffs rallied this year to save the 24-hour, retro restaurant after learning a new owner had obtained a permit to demolish the '50s building on La Cienega Boulevard. On Thursday, the city's Cultural Heritage Commission unanimously voted to nominate Norms as a monument.

"I've received more comments about Norms than any other building ... we've considered," said commission president Richard Barron. He called Norms L.A.'s "dining room."

Adrian Scott Fine, director of advocacy for the Los Angeles Conservancy, a historic preservation group, called Norms an "exceedingly rare example of a Googie coffee shop in Los Angeles."

Googie is an exuberant, postwar Southern California style of sharp angles and sweeping curves meant to grab the attention of passing drivers. Many such buildings have already been destroyed.

At Thursday's meeting, D.J. Moore, an attorney representing the building's new owners, said they haven't yet decided what to do with the building. "There are no current plans to demolish," he said.

Moore said the owners want to find a "win-win situation for this site" and will reach out to the public for feedback when they come up with a plan. 

After the meeting, Mike Colonna, president of the Norms chain, said he's been talking with the new landlords about the future of the La Cienega restaurant. "I'm really optimistic," he said. "I believe the intent is to work with us."

The commission's decision still requires approval from city lawmakers, but marks an important step toward giving the structure added protection from alteration and demolition.

City Councilman Paul Koretz, who represents the Westside, urged the commissioners Thursday to save the restaurant building. "We have torn down too much of our history," he said. 

He said he also would push to get the property owners to keep not just the building the same, but the restaurant as well. He pointed to another Googie landmark -- the nearby Johnie’s Coffee Shop -- which was deemed a city monument. He described that as only half a success because the location no longer operates as a restaurant.

"One by one, we're losing all these great institutions," he said.

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