'Old Hollywood' Bungalows : Residents Battling Builder's Bulldozer

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission may decide Wednesday whether to recommend that a group of Hollywood bungalows be declared a historic cultural monument, a designation that could save the buildings from demolition.

The Highland-Camrose Bungalow Village, 13 small homes scattered around a lush acre just south of the Hollywood Bowl, was built between 1916 and 1923 to provide homes for employees of movie studios in Burbank and Studio City.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy reportedly shared one of the bungalows before they made it big. And a mixture of artists, actors and writers continue to live in the green, bohemian setting.

Jan Development Co. purchased the property this winter and plans to level the buildings to make way for a 220-unit apartment building.

Actor Ron Max, a five-year resident, received his eviction notice just after New Year's. But instead of moving out, Max organized the 20 residents to stop the demolition.

Council Approval Needed

This month they persuaded the Cultural Heritage Commission to consider the bungalow village as a cultural site. If the commission recommends the designation Wednesday, the City Council will be asked to give final approval in March.

The council can then stop demolition for a year. After that, Max admits, he is unsure what will happen.

The debate has led Max, 42, to call the property "Shangri-La" and a representative of the development company to call it "just a bunch of dilapidated shacks."

"This is what old Hollywood looked like in the 1920s," Max said, standing in the shade of plants that surround the colorful bungalows. "I want to save my home, yes. That's the narrow view. But there is also the larger view. This is an incredible piece of property and I want to save that, too."

Max pays just $230 per month for his rent-controlled home, which has two large rooms and a sun deck. No one in the bungalows pays more than $600 a month, he said.

Neighborly Feeling

Plants and trees that surround the homes provide a surprising refuge just a block from noisy Highland Avenue. Residents said they have become closer neighbors in their fight to save their homes.

"It's nice, especially since I had just moved out from New York," said film producer Ellen Kesend, who has been in the village for six years. "For a woman living alone in L. A. it's a sense of safety to have all these neighbors I know. I can call any of them and ask for help if something happens."

Max has persuaded a variety of community and historical groups and City Councilwoman Peggy Stevenson to write letters on behalf of the preservation effort. USC architecture professor Stefanos Polyzoides also said the village is worth saving.

But Edward Czuker, vice president of Jan Development Co., said the tenants are not using the cultural heritage procedure properly.

"It is a bunch of dilapidated shacks," Czuker said. "It's an eyesore. It's our opinion that what they are doing is an abuse of the Cultural Heritage Commission and an attempt by the tenants to prolong their eviction process."

'Beautiful' Replacement

Czuker said his Hollywood Bowl Apartments would be a "beautiful" replacement, with plenty of parking for residents and guests. Parking and traffic have been concerns in the crowded community.

The four-story building would have 60 fewer units than allowed by the zoning maps, he said. "Because of the location, we are trying to make it as nice as possible with lots of landscaping," Czuker said.

Czuker said he will wait for the outcome of the commission meeting before pressing eviction of renters. He said the company will offer the residents in each bungalow $4,500 as part of an attempt to get them to move on their own.

But Max said he does not want to leave, no matter what the incentives. "I plan on never leaving the place," he said.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World