On the surface, the matter before the Cultural Heritage Commission on Wednesday was a proposal to preserve the architectural character of two residential neighborhoods in the Miracle Mile area.
But the real issue was change--whether a trend toward high-density housing will continue there and whether 60-year-old buildings with gables, towers and curving archways will survive north of Wilshire Boulevard.
The commission was to consider whether a “historic preservation overlay zone” should be placed on each of the two neighborhoods. Bounded by Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Boulevard, La Brea Avenue and Hauser Boulevard, both were largely developed between 1920 and 1940.
The two proposed zones split that area roughly in two. One, north of Wilshire and south of 3rd Street, is made up of apartment buildings in the Spanish Revival, English Tudor or French Norman styles. The area has been controversial for nearly two years because a series of large apartments have replaced older and far smaller buildings.
Character of Other Zone
The other zone, north of 3rd Street, is a section of single-family homes, predominantly Mediterranean in style. Homeowners say scattered new developments have started there, too.
Overlay zones must be approved by 50% of the property owners as well as the Heritage Commission, Planning Commission and City Council. Only three such zones exist in Los Angeles--in Melrose Hill, South Carthay and Angelino Heights. Demolitions are difficult, requiring city hearings, and new construction has to be approved by local architectural review boards.
A $15,000 survey, conducted at the request of the City Council, concluded that both areas are “significant more for their representative qualities than for any outstanding architectural merit,” said Alma Carlisle of the city’s Bureau of Engineering.
Hazel MacKenzie, a tenant on Poinsettia Place, told the commissioners: “We are struggling to keep our area.”
But Jack Mayesh, a banker allied with Homestead Group Associates, a West Los Angeles developer whose large new buildings on Detroit Street started the controversy, said: “I would not use an HPOZ as growth-control.”
Some at the commission meeting speculated there was little opposition to a zone among homeowners north of 3rd Street, but a great deal among apartment owners south of 3rd. The rental properties are in one of the few areas zoned for high-density housing and, as a result, realtors say, the properties have greatly appreciated in value. The owners don’t want limits imposed on what they can do with their buildings.
The heritage commissioners postponed their vote on the zones until Nov. 16. Discussions between dissenting owners, however, continued outside the hearing room.