Monday, July 18, 2005
Court of Appeal Ruling Will Not End Efforts to Block Venice Beach Building Demolition, Preservationists Say
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Court of Appeal ruling that allows developers to tear down what’s left of the Lincoln Place Apartments in Venice Beach once certain conditions are met will help, not hurt, the 14-year-long effort to preserve the half-century-old complex, advocates said Friday.
A portion of the ruling in Lincoln Place Tenants Association v. City of Los Angeles (Los Angeles Lincoln Place Investors Ltd.), 05 S.O.S. 3497 requires the 45 or so surviving buildings to be photographed and an attempt made to sell the structures and move them intact to another location before they can be demolished.
That holding will trigger further environmental review that the developers’ plan will not survive, attorney Susan Brandt-Hawley—who represents the Lincoln Place Tenants’ Association, the Los Angeles Conservancy, the California Preservation Foundation, the 20th Century Architecture Alliance and the National Organization of Minority Architects—told the MetNews.
Apartment Investment and Management Company wants to replace the complex, which originally consisted of 795 units in 52 buildings spread out over 33 acres garden apartments, with condominiums.
AIMCO attorney Greg Ozhekim of Nemecek & Cole said Thursday that by rejecting a broader challenge that could have forced the owners to maintain the structures as a historic site, the court had given his clients “a total victory” that “greenlights the project 100 percent.”
But by ruling that the existing demolition permits must be vacated, and no new permits issued absent compliance with the conditions set forth in a 10-year-old environmental impact report, the court created “a lot of opportunities for the place to remain a historic resource benefiting the community,” Brandt-Hawley said.
Conservancy Executive Director Linda Dishman agreed, calling the ruling “a significant legal victory that will protect one of Los Angeles’ largest and most significant post-war multi-family communities.”
Preservationists say they will continue their effort to place the complex on the California Register of Historical Resources. A hearing before the California Historical Resources Commission is scheduled for August 5.
City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who has represented the area for the past two weeks, is supporting the preservation effort.
“I am pleased with this decision because it gives me the tools I need to keep Lincoln Place standing,” the councilman said in a statement. “Lincoln Place is part of the heart and soul of Venice, and I’m looking forward to providing new energy within City government to recognize and protect it as a historic community.”
Justice Earl Johnson Jr., in his opinion last week for Div. Seven of this district’s Court of Appeal, said the city violated the California Environmental Quality Act by issuing the permits without either requiring that the mitigation measures in the EIR be undertaken or conducting a new CEQA review, including a supplemental EIR.
“Having placed these conditions on the demolition segment of the redevelopment project, the city cannot simply ignore them,” the justice wrote. “Mitigating conditions are not mere expressions of hope.”
But in an unpublished portion of his opinion, Johnson said the city was not required to undertake a new round of environmental review with respect to the recent discovery that one of the few black architects of the period, Ralph Vaughn, played a significant role in the design of the structures.
“Whatever stature Vaughn may have as an architect or even as a ‘pioneer’ African-American architect it is not based on his participation in the design of Lincoln Place,” the justice wrote, noting that the designs were largely dictated by the Federal Housing Administration, that similar buildings were being designed in that period by architects of equal or greater fame like Richard Neutra, and that other examples of Vaughn’s work, including Saks Fifth Avenue on Wilshire Blvd. and the Chase Knolls apartments in Sherman Oaks, remain standing.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company