The Los Angeles City Council today voted to add Norms, the Googie-style diner on La Cienega Boulevard, to the city’s list of historic and cultural monuments.
The Council’s approval of that designation by the L.A. Cultural Heritage Commission had been sought by the Los Angeles Conservancy after the new owner of the La Cienega property, Faring Capital, sought and received a demolition permit for the building. The Norms restaurant chain, which includes 18 locations in Southern California, was purchased last year by Restaurant Management Group from the Roybark family. Norm Roybark, a Los Angeles native, opened the first Norms in 1949 near the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Vine.
Mike Colonna, president of Restaurant Management Group, praised the City Council’s decision. “We are beyond thrilled that our La Cienega location has been added to the list of historic-cultural monuments,” Colonna said. “Thank you to everyone for your incredibly fervent support of Norms La Cienega, especially the Los Angeles Conservancy, the Cultural Heritage Commission and the Los Angeles City Council members …. We look forward to working with our landlord on a solution that would allow us operate Norms La Cienega while protecting the integrity of our Googie architecture and the historical significance of the building.”
While Faring Capital’s purchase of the Norms property on La Cienega sparked a campaign among historic and cultural preservations to prevent its demolition, Faring has said it intends to preserve the building. Jason Illoulian of Faring has said he envisions the building as the centerpiece of a “community of shops” like that at the Brentwood Country Mart.
The historic / cultural designation approved by the L.A. City Council would complicate any effort to demolish the building, although it would not prevent it. The L.A. Cultural Heritage Commission is allowed to object formally to the issuance of a demolition permit, delaying the demolition for up to 180 days, and could possibly secure another 180-day extension if approved by the City Council, to allow for time to preserve the building. Such a designation also means any proposal to demolish a building and replace it with a new development would have to be reviewed under the California Environment Quality Act. That might require the developer to prepare an environmental impact report before demolition can occur.
The Norms La Cienega location opened in 1957 and is the oldest Norms restaurant still in operation. It was designed by architects Louis Armet and Eldon Davis in the Googie style that swept through Southern California after World War II. Another prominent example of the Googie style is Mel’s Diner on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood.