Razing St. Vibiana’s and L.A. Landmarks

* As evidenced by your June 25 article (“St. Vibiana’s Could Be Razed Next Month”), the archdiocesan juggernaut inexorably steamrolls toward achievement of its goal: complete demolition of St. Vibiana’s, whatever the means. Mayor Richard Riordan, the City Council and many other impressionable local politicians appear to be willing pawns in Cardinal Roger Mahony’s scheme. No doubt they will all count on the cardinal’s support for their next pet project.

With all the problems beleaguering the American Catholic Church these days, it is surprising that Pope John Paul II would permit one of its most visible leaders, Mahony, to behave as though he were some sort of underworld boss, threatening and muscling to get his way. As a Catholic and a lawyer I find the cardinal’s conduct most unfortunate. To me, the new cathedral (it will be built, and right where the cardinal wants it!) will serve as a monument to the cardinal’s capacity for worldly behavior. Has the “grace of God” ever looked so sordid?


Los Angeles


* “Conservationists vs. Progress” is a newsworthy subject now, and has been since I came to Los Angeles in 1948. Here in Los Angeles, the conservationists lose too many times for the good of the city. Our downtown place of worship is the latest subject.

I found a sure proof of our continuing losses to “progress,” while surfing the Net for California historic landmarks for a book I’m co-writing. When a historic structure has federal protection via national historic landmark status, progress can be thwarted while conservationists circle their wagons at some leisure.

I shouldn’t have been surprised (and wasn’t) to find that we had four national historic landmarks in Los Angeles and San Francisco has 17. I shouldn’t have been surprised (and wasn’t) that none of our oldest buildings--such as the now-famous, 19th-century church, older missions, buildings on Olvera Street, pottery manufacturing sites, aircraft facilities and landing fields, historic cemeteries, motion picture studios and architectural works by our best architects--are on the list. Until the peristyle end of the Coliseum was given national landmark status, we almost lost it to progress, too.

I am the conservation engineer for Watts Towers, one of the four national historic landmarks in L.A. My wife, Arloa, did the successful write-up for the Park Service, which gained this status for the towers, located at 1765 E. 107th St.


Beverly Hills