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L.A.’s newest historic preservation zones embrace the past in myriad ways

Last year, the city of Los Angeles approved a bumper crop of historic districts — five neighborhoods packed with distinctive architecture. Called Historic Preservation Overlay Zones, the districts now number 35 and harbor 21,000 properties safeguarded from undue alteration.

Only New York City surpasses L.A. in the number of structures covered by historical designation.

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(Los Angeles Times)

The recent approvals represent “the city’s effort to address overdevelopment and mansionization,” said Adrian Scott Fine, director of advocacy at the L.A. Conservancy.

The city adopted its HPOZ ordinance in 1979 as a way to protect groups of historic homes that lend architectural relevance to their neighborhoods; Angelino Heights was the first. The districts put the brakes on untoward exterior changes that disfigure singular architecture. Proposed alterations are reviewed by the city and HPOZ boards.

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The Overlay Zones distinguish between “contributing” structures that retain historic features — homes built during years of architectural significance — and “contributing altered” buildings that include additions or changes deemed reversible.

Carthay Square

1924-1949

Carthay Square joins bordering Carthay Circle and South Carthay HPOZs as the newest historic district in west-central Los Angeles. Of the neighborhood’s 347 single- and multi-family homes, an impressive 93% are deemed as contributing to the area’s historic fabric.

The HPOZ’s dominant Spanish Colonial Revival architecture is mixed with Tudor Revival, Mediterranean Revival, Monterey Revival and French Revival styles.

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Architect S. Charles Lee designed 17 of the HPOZ’s structures, including his own home on South Hayworth Avenue. Lee is famed for his opulent theater designs (he built 250 theaters in L.A. alone), including the majestic 1931 Los Angeles Theater.

Carthay Square board members note many homes’ picture windows, inset with ornate stained-glass designs, often of sailing ships. The ships are also found on front doors and weather vanes. Other standout features include wrought iron, rough trowel-finish plaster and striking lavender and mint-green tile work.

El Sereno-Berkshire

1905-1941

Located in L.A.’s northeast corner, this HPOZ is dense with Arts and Crafts and period revival styles, such as Craftsman, American Foursquare, Tudor Revival and Dutch Colonial Revival.

“It’s great to get an HPOZ in that part of the city,” Fine said. “It’s a good example of a bungalow neighborhood; there are not many HPOZs that illustrate that look and feel.”

Of the district’s 114 buildings, 69% are deemed as contributing, and most are single-family homes, with a few Midcentury Modern apartment buildings and commercial properties found at the area’s edges.

“There’s an American Foursquare home currently being refurbished; you don’t see many of them in this part of L.A.,” HPOZ board member Francisco Rivera said. A boxy shape that maximized square footage for homes built on small lots distinguished the early 20th century style.

Oxford Square

1907-1941

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Arts and Crafts and period revival modes prevail in the neighborhood’s 191 single-family homes, which line both sides of Windsor Boulevard and Victoria Avenue, about five miles west of downtown.

More than 60% of the homes were built between 1920 and 1930, and 74% of residences are deemed as contributing.

“We have a 1910 Craftsman in our neighborhood that has Polynesian influences — it looks like a South Seas house,” HPOZ board member Kory Odell said. The corbels are carved to resemble Polynesian boats, he said, and the roofline’s fascia boards swoop down “like an early sailing ship.”

Several homes have Swiss Chalet variations on the Craftsman style, and others have original Gothic wallpaper and hand-hammered copper fireplace mantels, Odell said.

Sunset Square

1908-1941

This western Hollywood HPOZ was built as a streetcar suburb along the Pacific Electric Railway line. Most of the 349 single- and multi-family homes were built between 1910 and the 1920s, and 62% are deemed as contributors or altered contributors to the HPOZ.

Architectural styles are diverse, with Craftsman, Spanish Colonial Revival and American Colonial Revival dominating.

The district has two locally designated Historic-Cultural Monuments: a 1915 Japanese Craftsman and a 1923 Mayan-inspired home designed by Lloyd Wright that marks the first use of his textile-block concrete construction method.

“Our neighborhood represents the residential fabric of early Hollywood,” said Cheryl Holland, president of the Sunset Square Neighborhood Organization, “from smaller bungalows to the east that housed people working in the studios, to the west where Norma Shearer and other actors lived.”

Miracle Mile

1921-1953

The largest of the new HPOZs, Miracle Mile has 1,347 properties located in the Mid-Wilshire area, and 80% are deemed contributors or altered contributors to the district. Period revival architecture reigns within single- and multi-family homes: Spanish Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, Mediterranean Revival, French Revival and American Colonial Revival.

Notable architects include S. Charles Lee, Edith Northman, R.M. Schindler, Louis Selden, Paul R. Williams and the firm Morgan, Walls & Clements.

“We have some wonderful Chateauesque apartment buildings with turrets, courtyards and fountains; 60% of our residents are renters,” said Ken Hixon, vice president of the Miracle Mile Residential Assn.

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