Landmark Label May Rescue Holmby House

Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission has designated Holmby House a historic landmark, setting the stage for a reprieve for the Mediterranean-style duplex in Westwood that's being threatened with demolition.

If the City Council approves the designation at its meeting Friday, the Pari Corp. will not be able to demolish the red tile-roofed apartment building on the corner of Ashton and Holmby avenues for at least six months. The development company is seeking to replace the two-story building with a three-story condominium.

The designation is no guarantee that the building won't be demolished, said Daniel Scott, a city planner. In this case, however, it does allow the property's owner and those interested in preserving the building to work out a compromise that might mean selling or relocating the building. The commission could extend the stay of demolition for another six months if significant progress has been made toward a compromise.

The council's Recreation, Library and Cultural Affairs Committee recommended Monday that the council approve the designation.

"This (the Cultural Heritage Commission's vote) is more important to me than graduating from high school," said Awest, a Holmby House resident who uses only one name. Awest grew up in rural Tennessee, where he said getting a high school diploma was a rare achievement.

Awest led the fight to preserve Holmby House after he and the building's nine other residents were issued eviction notices in October.

If the six-month delay is approved, Awest and the other residents will look for a new buyer interested in preserving Holmby House, Scott said. They will also investigate relocating the duplex.

Djamshid Shabani, who owns the building designed by architect P. P. Lewis in 1928, declined to comment on the commission's decision.

Residents in December asked the heritage commission to designate Holmby House as a historic landmark. Scott said the commission was leaning toward rejecting the appeal when other buildings designed by Lewis were discovered in Westwood. Residents had difficulty assembling information on Lewis because records kept by the Central Library are in storage as a result of the fire last year.

Lewis designed the Fox Village Theatre in 1931 and several structures for the Janss Corp., a development firm that originally developed Westwood Village.

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