A campaign by preservationists to garner monument status for three buildings the Los Angeles Times occupied for decades will have the support of city staff when the Cultural Heritage Commission meets next week to consider the issue.
The Office of Historic Resources recommended in a recent report that the buildings in downtown Los Angeles — including a 1970s structure that is not universally acclaimed — be granted historic cultural monument status because they meet two of the required criteria: They are associated with important figures in Los Angeles history and are architecturally significant.
If the application is ultimately approved by the City Council, the buildings’ status as historic cultural monuments could make it harder for current owner Onni Group to redevelop the former Times Mirror Square block near City Hall as planned.
The Times moved its offices this summer to El Segundo, where it is headquartered in a building owned by Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, who bought the newspaper in June.
The report said that the downtown property bounded by 1st Street, Spring Street, Broadway and 2nd Street is associated with the prominent Chandler family.
In particular, Harry Chandler, Norman Chandler, Dorothy Buffum Chandler and Otis Chandler “each played a significant role in the evolution of the Los Angeles Times from a local publication to a newspaper of national acclaim, and were influential in real estate development in Los Angeles,” the report said.
The buildings also represent notable works by influential architects Gordon Kaufmann, Rowland Crawford and William Pereira, the report said. Kaufmann and Crawford’s buildings, dating to the 1930s and 1940s, are “excellent” examples of the Art Deco/Moderne and Late Moderne architectural styles respectively, staff said.
Pereira designed the somewhat controversial 1973 office addition called the Times Mirror Building. He also was the architect of the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco, CBS Television City in the Fairfax district and the futuristic Theme Building in the heart of Los Angeles International Airport.
The Cultural Heritage Commission will meet Sept. 20 to consider whether to recommend the application to the city’s Planning & Land Use Management Committee. If the City Council committee supports it, the application will move to the full council for a final decision.
Los Angeles preservationist and cultural historian Richard Schave, who is spearheading the campaign, applauded the staff report.
“Times Mirror Square is really the only piece of private property in the civic center, and the compound is an incredible testament to the history of Southern California,” he said.
Onni, a Canadian real estate developer based in Vancouver, announced in late 2016 its intention to redevelop the block with a high-rise residential and retail complex.
The proposal calls for retaining the oldest of the structures — the two Art Deco-style buildings that were constructed on the east side of the block along Spring Street and included The Times’ newsroom.
The three structures on the western half — a parking garage, former printing plant and the Pereira office building — would be demolished to make way for two apartment towers of 37 and 53 stories containing more than 1,100 luxury apartments and ground-floor shops. The remaining Times buildings would be renovated.
Mark Spector, Onni’s vice president for development, released a statement in response to the report saying the company looked “forward to working with the city and all stakeholders to bring our project to fruition” but reiterating its commitment to its existing plans.
“While we preserve and upgrade 370,000 square feet of existing office space, the development would also create a new public paseo including restaurants, a grocery store, and 1,100 much-needed housing units,” Spector said.
If the former Times buildings are declared monuments, the Cultural Heritage Commission can block demolition for as long as six months with a majority vote of its members. The City Council can extend the ban for another six months.
Delays would give the city and developer time to consider alternate uses for the buildings or the retention of historical elements such as the facade.