L.A. City Council Designates Norms La Cienega as a Cultural Landmark

Norm's Restaurant on La Cienega Boulevard
Norm’s Restaurant on La Cienega Boulevard

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.


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Lynn
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Lynn

Thanks Leslie. The issues remain in the municipal code which needs to be dialed back as there have been too many unforeseen and unintended consequences. It’s a process, the sooner the better but consciousness about quality of design is always welcome and fits in with whatever the code allows. We must always strive for excellent..

Leslie K
Guest
Leslie K

Lynn, I agree with everything you say and share your concerns. The problem isn’t the developers; that’s what they do. The problem is the city council, planning commission and staff who’ve approved these developments and even granted zoning bonuses to allow over-sized projects.

RJH
Guest
RJH

Now, if they would just paint it 50’s appropriate and clean up this building it would be great! It may be architecturally significant but in its’ current condition it is just an eyesore.

Brian
Guest
Brian

Thank you!

Thank you for the positive update!
Guest
Thank you for the positive update!

Thank you for the update!

Todd Bianco
Guest

Great news. I don’t know what Mr. Illoulian really has planned, but he needs to be very creative about any adaptive reuse of the property. While he envisions a bunch of boutique shops around the perimeter, you can’t take away the parking without killing the coffee shop. People don’t want to pay more to park than they pay for the meal.

Perhaps he can work with the same team used by Jeff Klein at the San Vicente Inn. They figured out how to work with the historic property in an outstanding adaptive reuse of the Old Sherman bungalows.

Lynn
Guest
Lynn

Brilliant. Jason Illoulian has the right idea and hope it indeed will become the centerpiece for a group of shops like Brentwood Country Mart. While that is LA, WH could have benefitted from that approach on Melrose at least from La Cienega west to Doheny. WH had in place some significant buildings, individual shops, myriad courtyards had they been land marked or had it been protected as an overlay zone with particular applications available that could have been cleverly expanded through thoughtful architectural design rather than wall to wall Restoration Hardware and Rag & Bone type locations. The next vulnerable… Read more »