Study Finds 57 WeHo Commercial Buildings of Historic Significance

7960 Fountain Ave. is a two-story commercial building in the 20th Century Commercial style with Spanish Colonial Revival influences built in 1927 by Charles H. Clark. The four storefronts at 7960, 62, 66, and 68 have housed various businesses such as a beauty parlor , a dressmaker, a milliner and a dry cleaner. Star Shoe Repair has occupied the storefront at 7960 Fountain since at least 1973. Fifteen apartments occupy the remainder of the first floor and all of the second floor.
7960 Fountain Ave. is a two-story commercial building in the 20th Century Commercial style with Spanish Colonial Revival influences built in 1927 by Charles H. Clark.

From Studs Theatre to the French Market to the Whiskey a Go Go and Sunset Plaza, a consulting firm has identified 57 non-residential properties and one commercial district in West Hollywood that may qualify for designation as historic resources at the federal, state or city level.

The firm, GPA Consulting, surveyed 763 commercial and residential buildings between November 2015 and August. Of those, 27 were commercial, institutional or industrial properties that previously had been designated historic.

Working with the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, Community Development Department and community members, GPA whittled down the list of 763 properties. It used criteria for historic properties from the National Register for Historic Places, the state Register of Historical Resources and the city’s Register of Cultural Resources.

1105 Laurel is a one-story commercial building built as a school in the Spanish Colonial Revival style in 1922.
1105 Laurel is a one-story commercial building built as a school in the Spanish Colonial Revival style in 1922.

GPA also identified four segments of West Hollywood’s history in order to put the buildings it evaluated into historical context. Those segments were the development of Sherman and adjacent county lands (1895 – 1925), West Hollywood (1926 – World War II); postwar West Hollywood (1946 – 1965), and modern West Hollywood (1966 – 1984.) Using traditional standards for historic designation, only properties built at least 45 years ago (i.e. prior to 1975) were considered.

GPA re-evaluated the 27 buildings already on the various historic preservation lists to see if they had been maintained in such a way as to still qualify. Of those, two buildings have been torn down and two altered in a way that would make them ineligible for historic designation. Their addresses are 8795 Sunset Blvd., 8866 Sunset Blvd., 9016 Sunset Blvd. and 9131 Sunset Blvd.

In its study, GPA calls out Sunset Plaza as worthy of designation as a commercial historic district under federal, state and city criteria. GPA notes that many of Plaza’s buildings were designed in the Colonial Revival style by architect Charles Selkirk and date from the 1920s and 1930s. “Each of its buildings is a unique application of the style and together they form a cohesive whole,” the report says.

The GPA study has been presented to the city’s Historic Preservation Commission and last night to the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission postponed consideration of the study to allow more time for local residents and property owners to learn about it and offer their opinions and suggestions. Ultimately the GPA recommendations that are endorsed by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission will be presented to the City Council for final approval.

Designation as a historical resource offers both pluses and minuses for building owners. On the plus side, they can qualify for benefits including less strict zoning requirements and a reduction of up to 50% in property taxes in exchange for rehabbing and preserving a building. On the minus side, an owner who plans to significantly alter or demolish a building designated as historic must obtain a “certificate of appropriateness” if the designation is by the City of West Hollywood. A more complex process, including an often-lengthy and expensive California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) study can be required if a building is designated as historic by the state or federal government.

1053 La Jolla Ave. is a two-story commercial building in the 20th Century Commercial style with Spanish Colonial Revival influences built in 1925 by Marie Harlan Prevost as a mixed-use commercial building. Since 1970, the building has been occupied by Circus of Books, originally called Book Circus. The store has been supplying West Hollywood residents with magazines, books and newspapers from around the world. Circus is best known for the adult DVDs, magazines and toys catering to the gay community. Before porn went digital, the store stood as a gay cruising mecca.
1053 La Jolla Ave., a commercial building in the 20th Century Commercial style with Spanish Colonial Revival influences, was built in 1925. Since 1970, the building has been occupied by Circus of Books

That might make designating some buildings as historic a problem for building owners and developers. For example, Faring Capital already has announced plans to demolish and build new buildings on the site of The Factory at 648 N. La Peer Drive and the French Market Place at 7985 Santa Monica Blvd. Faring’s Jason Illoulian has, however, committed to preserving and restoring a large part of the Factory building.

GPA did not recommend historic designation for some buildings that local preservation activists have lobbied for. One is the former Tower Records building at 8801 Sunset Blvd., which the West Hollywood City Council already has denied to declare a cultural resource. The GPA study said that “based upon historic photographs as well as visual observation, the property retains all aspects of integrity from the period of significance except for association.” Association, a direct link between a property and an important historic event or person, is one of the criteria used to evaluate the historical integrity of a building.

At last night’s Planning Commission meeting, Jon Ponder, a local historian and a member of the board of directors of the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance, also asked that the Pink Taco restaurant and the Viper Room, both on Sunset Boulevard, the Macha Theatre on Kings Road and the old Ritts Furniture store building (owned by the parents of the late Herb Ritts), the Holloway Motel and the Madison Carwash on Santa Monica Boulevard be considered for historic designation.

The GPA study was essentially an update of a citywide historic resources survey completed in 1986-87 and a second survey of multi-family residential buildings completed in 2008. In addition to the study, GPA is working with the City of West Hollywood to develop a website that will offer information about historic preservation in West Hollywood, including the cultural heritage preservation ordinance, various applications and forms for historic resources and answers to frequently asked questions.

On the pages that follow are photos and brief descriptions of the 57 buildings that the GPA study recommended be considered for designation as historically significant.


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Grant Rutter (@Grants__Rants)
Guest

Thanks for posting. i found this all fascinating. I drive by these places and am always curious what they were before. I always wondered the significance of 902 Westbourne Drive, across from 24 Hour Fitness.

Mike
Guest
Mike

Lets face it, West Hollywood didn’t become a city until decades after these buildings went up. I see no compelling reason to keep them. They are just generic buildings that are duplicated all over L.A. county.

J Simmons
Guest
J Simmons

HOW MUCH DID “THIS STUDY” cost the coty and WHY did they commission it. There is a current clear history that weho city hall doesn’t care about “historic buildings” WHEN THEY WANT THEIR .NEW PROJECTS to be whete a clearly historic building now stands.

Why spend so much money for a report the City hasn’t followed and won’t in its ongoing overbuildig?

Preservation opportunity
Guest
Preservation opportunity

Pasadena has the same type of buildings in Old Town and South Pasadena. The residents and the business community loves them and care for them. How about that for a plan?

Tom Smart
Guest
Tom Smart

I realize you can’t save everything but it’d be nice to hear from the city as to what they believe IS worth saving.

Larry
Guest

Fellow Weho-ians: It’s time to tear these buildings down! It’s reprehensible that in this day and age our City Council cannot get rid of these unsightly and unseemly buildings. I’m not sure what ol’ John Heilman is up to with his obsession with these buildings, but we will see. It’s sad to see another part of our community on the chopping “Block”, but it’s time to start thinking about the future and what we want our city to be. Frankly, half the buildings on this list have no historical significance and the rest should be cleared away, especially those on… Read more »

SaveWeho
Guest
SaveWeho

We should now make a list of the ugliest buildings in town and proceed with demonstrations to have them removed. Whats interesting is drive by a few of these “new” style boxed buildings with wood-planked siding that were built about 10 years ago. They look horrible, dilapidated, etc. The wood needs replaced or refinished again. Hysterical how some of these old buildings in this article still stand the test of time and the new stuff is barely standing.

mike dunn
Guest

There are many buildings in West Hollywood that were not mentioned including Long Hall and the other WPA building in Plummer Park. But I guess the city did not want to mention them sense they want to tear them down. Also missing but hated is the MTA facility at 8800 Santa Monica Bl. The building is unique and the property, what is left of it , is extremely significant in that Sherman (West Hollywood ) was developed around it as the Pacific Electric. The rest of the original property is now the PDC which contains one of the ugliest buildings… Read more »

Mike
Guest
Mike

@Justin K: “Old Queens”??? Is your disrespectful, rude attitude representative of “progress”?

Tom Smart
Guest
Tom Smart

I’m appalled that Justin’s hateful comment was approved.

Justin Knoltie
Guest
Justin Knoltie

These places are dumps and should be crushed. Its these old queens in this city that try and block us from progress.

luca d
Guest
luca d

come on weho city council, tear them down !
you know you want to.
just raze them and build something grand and tall and boxy, with wood planks, they’re sustainable !
rip them all down. think of all the parking and unaffordable housing you treasure. or perhaps, a hotel, we need hotels, badly.