West Adams Preservation Alert: Felix, and more - WED, Oct 10, 10 a.m.

WAHA wants to alert you to TWO separate preservation issues being heard at City Hall on Wednesday morning, October 10 (same day, same building, two locations.)

The full City Council is slated to vote on the landmark status for the Felix Chevrolet Showroom and Felix the Cat neon Sign at its meeting which begins at 10 a.m. At just about the same time, the City's Deputy Advisory Agency will consider a large residential condominium project that impacts (and may compromise) the University Park Historic Preservation Overlay Zone.

If you can't take the morning off from work, never fear - at the bottom of this memo are numerous contact e-mail addresses, in the hope that you can write letters in the next day or so (in advance of the hearings.)

In July, the City's Cultural Heritage Commission voted to designate the Felix Chevrolet Showroom and Felix the Cat Neon Sign as a Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument (HCM). The case was reviewed for consideration as an HCM by the City Council's Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee last week.

After hearing the public testimony, CD14 Councilman Jose Huizar was in favor of the designation and CD5 Councilman Jack Weiss was opposed. Taking his cue from King Solomon, CD1 Councilman Ed Reyes recommended just designating the Felix the Cat Neon Sign and not the Moderne Showroom as a compromise that would allow the owner to make purported GM corporate branding demands.

The owner, the Mayor's representative, and CD9 Councilwoman Jan Perry's deputy balked and rejected the compromise. Given the three different opinions the item was forwarded "Without a Recommendation" to the full City Council for their vote.

Councilman Reyes stated that the action was a precedent and that there had never been a prior issuance of "Without a Recommendation" in the seven years he has chaired the PLUM Committee.

The full Council will now vote with only the professional recommendation for approval on merits by the Cultural Heritage Commission (and its staff) on one side and the political opposition by Councilwoman Perry and the Mayor on the other. It is quite unusual to have such controversy over an iconic structure whose own owner has actually called it "a landmark," although he opposes technical designation. This case has become a test of the City's willingness to judge potential landmarks on their merits, according to the numerous articles which have appeared about the issue in various media. The Felix Showroom and Neon Sign have already been determined to be eligible for the National Register.

Perhaps the most effective way to support the landmark designation of the Felix Showroom and Neon Sign is by actually attending the hearing on Wednesday morning in Room 340 of City Hall (Council Chambers). Felix is agenda item No. 4, but for those who have been to City Council meetings, you already know that items are called out of order.

If you are unable to attend but want to help, please do write e-mails to the elected City Council officials - your own, and the others. Their e-mail addresses appear below.

In a separate (but equally important) matter, the Deputy Advisory Agency (a land use entity which deals with condominium projects) will consider a proposal by Anastasi Development to build 142 units between Washington Boulevard and 20th Street along Oak Street. That public hearing is in City Hall Room 1020, at 10:15 a.m., also October 10.

Los Angeles City Planner Theodore Irving of the Department's Expediting Unit has tentatively ruled that this proposed, block-long condominium project does not require an environmental impact report, even though it lies entirely within the University Park Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ). His tentative environmental clearance actually states that the project 'has no impact" on any historic resource, despite the fact that historic districts are "historic resources" under California law. That is why neighbors, the HPOZ board, WAHA, and other organizations are all calling for a full environmental study.

WAHA wrote a comment letter, which reads in part:

"We cannot accept [the] tentative finding that this proposed six-story condominium project would have 'no impact' on historical resources. It lies entirely within the University Park Historic Preservation Overlay Zone and would violate major provisions of the HPOZ's preservation plan. That plan requires infill projects to be consistent with surrounding historic structures in massing, scale and lot coverage. Most houses and commercial buildings near the project site are one lot wide and two stories tall; a few old apartment buildings are three stories tall. The proposed project's four- and six-story buildings are greatly out of scale with their surroundings in height and width. We are also concerned with the project's impact on the nationally registered 20th Street Historic District, whose two-story Craftsman houses sit directly across the street from the site's southern boundary."

In addition to the environmental issues related to the historic districts, there are other important land use components to this case. Although Anastasi's proposal is for residential use, the company has applied to change the zoning on the center and southern parcels (currently zoned for parking and residential, respectively) to [T][Q]CM-1-HPOZ (commercial manufacturing). The two northern parcels would remain commercial. That would permit future use by a broad list of manufacturing businesses, including electronics, baked goods, ice cream, toiletries, laboratories, packaging, and storage or warehousing.

Neighbors say that zoning is an aberration in a residential neighborhood, and that such inappropriate zoning should be phased out rather than expanded.

WAHA has been dealing with the same developer regarding an 1890 Queen Anne cottage, the Henry Obee Residence, which sits on another Anastasi site on the south side of Washington Boulevard, between Hoover Street and Vermont Avenue.

In May, the city's Cultural Affairs Commission voted to make the cottage a historic cultural monument. This case has not yet moved forward to the City Council. WAHA members are searching for a new site for the cottage to prevent its demolition.

Okay, are your digital "pens" ready? Here's where to send your letters via e-mail:

* Regarding the Anastasi project, write to Theodore Irving. Be sure to reference these case numbers: ENV-2005-8476-MND for environmental issues, CPC-2005-8468-ZC-ZV-ZAA for zoning issues and TT-62846 for overall approval of the condominium plan. theodore.irving@lacity.org

* Regarding Felix: Send your meows, cat calls and purrs to:

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa / Mayor@lacity.org Council President Eric Garcetti CD-13 / councilmember.garcetti@lacity.org Ed Reyes CD-1 / councilmember.reyes@lacity.org Wendy Greuel CD-2 / councilmember.greuel@lacity.org Dennis P. Zine CD-3 / councilmember.zine@lacity.org Tom LaBonge CD-4 / councilmember.labonge@lacity.org Jack Weiss CD-5 / councilmember.weiss@lacity.org Tony Cardenas CD-6 / councilmember.cardenas@lacity.org Richard Alarcon CD-7 / councilmember.alarcon@lacity.org Bernard C. Parks CD-8 / councilmember.parks@lacity.org Jan Perry CD-9 / councilmember.perry@lacity.org Herb J. Wesson Jr. CD-10 / councilmember.wesson@lacity.org Bill Rosendahl CD-11 / councilmember.rosendahl@lacity.org Greig Smith CD-12 / councilmember.smith@lacity.org Jose Huizar CD-14 / councilmember.huizar@lacity.org Janice Hahn CD-15 / councilmember.hann@lacity.org