A bid to secure historic cultural monument status for former Los Angeles Times buildings suffered a partial setback Tuesday when the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee decided to eliminate the newest of the three structures from consideration.
If supported by the full City Council, the decision would help ease the path for a large-scale residential and retail development proposed by Onni Group, which owns the block near City Hall formerly known as Times Mirror Square.
Buildings there from the 1930s and 1940s deserve city monument status, the committee said, but the Times Mirror Building completed in 1973 does not. That former Times Mirror Co. headquarters was designed by William Pereira, 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.
Onni, a Canadian real estate developer, announced in late 2016 plans to redevelop the block with a high-rise residential and retail complex that requires the demolition of the Pereira building. Onni’s proposal is being evaluated by city staff.
The proposal calls for retaining the oldest of the structures — the two Art Deco-style buildings on the east side of the block along Spring Street that once included The Times’ newsroom. But a parking garage, former printing plant and the Pereira office building on the western half would make way for two apartment towers of 37 and 53 stories with more than 1,100 luxury apartments and ground-floor shops.
The Times was moved to new offices in El Segundo over the summer by its new owner, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong.
Preservationists, led by cultural historian Richard Schave, applied for monument status for the three main former Times buildings last July. They said the buildings were significant examples of 20th century architecture and historically significant as the longtime home of The Times and the national publishing empire built by the Chandler family.
Committee members agreed that the Art Deco buildings on the east half of the block, which includes the Globe Lobby tourist attraction, should stand as monuments to the past, but that the Pereira building should give way to new construction.
The city needs housing, said Councilman Gilbert Cedillo, who declared himself “pro development” and in favor of union workers getting jobs to build the proposed towers. Representatives of ironworkers, electricians and other unions spoke against monument status for the Pereira building.
Harry Chandler, the son of former Times publisher Otis Chandler, spoke in favor of preserving that building, recalling how his grandmother Dorothy Chandler worked there on plans for the Music Center, which she helped get built nearby on Bunker Hill.
Pereira’s work is comparatively new, Chandler said, and his reputation may grow with time. “Pereira is not yet the architectural icon that he will be,” he said after the meeting.
If the former Times buildings are declared monuments by the full City Council, 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 find a way to retain historical elements such as the facade.