Culture wins one

LOS ANGELES has a way of plowing under its landmarks. It is a corollary of our enthusiasm for the new and a consequence of our free-spirited capitalism that local institutions are sacrificed to progress. The great old steakhouses have largely faded into memory, the streetcars are garaged, the grand movie houses downtown remain mostly as relics.

And so it is with genuine delight that we receive word that a Los Angeles landmark will survive. Dutton’s Brentwood Books is a cultural institution of the first rank, host to the happenstance discoveries that define great bookstores — the chance lighting upon a bit of fiction across from the latest biography, the illuminating browse through a book of photographs, the helpful wisdom of a literary clerk. The main room of Dutton’s is testament to intellectual curiosity — its tables on Friday held new biographies of Einstein and Princess Diana, a memoir by Nora Ephron and Ehrhard Bahr’s “Weimar on the Pacific.”

Charles T. Munger, the owner of the property, at one point had in mind a condominium complex for the site. But the community, led by Diane Caughey, fought back, and Munger reconsidered. “Bookstores are fragile,” he told The Times last week. “Jostle them slightly and they never reopen.” To hear such poetry from a billionaire lawyer suggests the power of Dutton’s to influence the imagination. Doug Dutton, the soul of this enterprise, captures that spirit as well. “There is something rather phenomenal,” he noted, “about a community that considers a bookstore so important.”

Dutton’s has occupied its site in Brentwood for 22 years. Thanks to Dutton, Caughey, Munger and a community that stood up for its culture, it will remain there for many more.