State Commission Gives The Factory a Historic Designation

An image of the revised plan for Robertson Lane, included a restoration of The Factory. (Hodgetts + Fung)
An image of the revised plan for Robertson Lane, included a restoration of The Factory. (Hodgetts + Fung)

The California Historic Resources Commission has designated The Factory building in West Hollywood as a state historic resource and asked that it be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The designation, made in a four-to-two vote at the Commission’s meeting on Friday, won’t complicate plans by Faring  to construct a planned hotel and restaurant and shopping complex on the site on Robertson Boulevard south of Santa Monica. Under state law, an environmental quality act review (CEQA) may be required if the project is deemed to have an impact on the building designated as historic. The national designation has no such restrictions. However Faring already had begun such a process before Friday’s designation.

Responding to complaints from preservation activists about demolishing the building, Faring’s Jason Illoulian announced plans in July to restore most of the Factory building and integrate it into the Robertson Lane project. That decision won immediate praise from the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance (WHPA) and from the L.A. Conservancy, the most prominent historic preservation group in greater Los Angeles.

Linda Dishman the Conservancy’s president and CEO, also praised Faring’s plans to restore The Factory in her response to the Historic Preservation Commission’s decision. “The Conservancy looks forward to seeing the latest plan through the environmental impact report, as we support plans to reuse, rehabilitate, and integrate The Factory as part of the project,” Dishman said. “Balancing many goals, it is a win-win for both the preservation community and the city.”

In an email message to WEHOville, Illoulian and Darren Embry, Faring’s director of community development, reiterated their intention to restore most of The Factory building. “Faring remains 100% committed to preserving and restoring the Factory building,” Illoulian said.  “As a focal point of Robertson Lane, the Factory will enrich our pedestrian experience and has solidified the community support for the project.”

“We have listened to those who valued the Factory and made meaningful changes to our project,” Embry said.  “As a Weho-based firm, our outreach continues to reflect Faring’s sensitivity and commitment to the local community. The commission’s recommendation doesn’t change anything – we’re already planning to keep most of the building and making sure it survives and thrives for future generations.”

Two preservation activists opposed to the Robertson Lane project, Kate Eggert and Krisy Gosney, organized the West Hollywood Heritage Project last year and have made The Factory their focus. Their initial appeal for The Factory to be designated historically significant was denied by the state Historic Resources Commission in August. A request for designation as a historic resources also had been denied in 1995.

The earlier request for historic designation stressed The Factory’s role as home to Studio One, a gay disco that opened in 1974 and drew celebrities such as Patti LaBelle, Joan Rivers and Liza Minnelli along with as many as 1,000 gay men. The appeal of the August decision also emphasized that The Factory was home to the Mitchell Camera Factory, whose cameras enabled films to go from silent to “talkies,” and continued to influence camera technology until the digital era arrived in the early 2000s.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story said the historical designation could complicate Faring’s plans by requiring an environmental review. However Faring already has begun such a review. The story has been updated to reflect that.

  1. Caboom…..No, Bossa Nova is not part of this project (thank goodness) but SaveWeho seemed to be willing to sacrifice it for the benefit of Faring.

    SaveWeho…..Bossa Nova has plans for a very nice upgrade and renovation of the restaurant.

  2. I would like to know too, Erik. The two story building on San Vicente and Melrose turned out exactly like the rendering. I’d like to know what projects you’re familiar with that changed from what was proposed and when finished didn’t look at all like what they presented. (Granted the City does request modification from time to time and that would not be the developer pulling any fast ones). This is only the second rendering that has been floated (the first did not include the old factory building). Designs evolve as the design process moves forward so it’s not unusual to see some changes.

  3. Erik: it would be good to have specifics of what you allege. One cannot make an arbitrary leap or departure from approved plans..

  4. Erik,
    Can you give examples of what development changes occurred with Faring that was disappointing? It would be helpful to know. From what i have seen of the public renderings and hear from the La Conservancy this is going to be an amazing improvement to the entire site. So what would should we be concerned about?

  5. I am very familiar with Faring and I can assure you the design will change and not look anything like they say it will.

  6. SaveWeho – yes, I agree with you, the whole southwest corner of Santa Monica Blvd is “ugly” or as I would say, “blighted.” Would be a happy day to see those go too for something that can really turn that part of the street into a vibrant area.

  7. Dear Alison, I know what a blighted area looks like (save your lecture) and for WeHo, that area is a dump and has been for a long time. It has nothing to do with whether an area is developed or not. It has to do with an area that is run down and looks tragic. It needs an enema and it looks like Faring is going to give it one. I’m entitled to my opinion and I’ll use whatever words I’d like to describe how I feel. You’re entitled to your opinion. Have a nice day.

  8. I agree with Alison…but I sure wish they’d tear down that whole SW corner including Hamburger Haven, the Cigar Shop and even Bossa Nova. Those buildings are ugly.

  9. Wonderful point Alison. Well said. In addition, the Factory Building has survived 87 years (perspective-think about what was happening in the world in 1929) and made significant contributions to History and more specifically the History of West Hollywood as The Mitchell Camera Company and Studio One/Back Lot just to list 2 businesses that played significant rolls in the cities development. If it takes a little longer to appropriately honor the buildings history SO WHAT?!
    Tear down a historic building in a different “blighted” area of West Hollywood.

  10. The Robertson Development, as far as i can see is creating a great mixture of the old with the future and i am excited to see how this will compliment and make West Hollywood a better city! It is adding restaurants, retail and hotel rooms in an area that can easily handle this type of development. I have heard from D’amico how he wants the Robertson Santa Monica corner to become a central gathering place for civic and social events so this project seems to fall right in line with this.

    Parking will be alleviated with 1400 parking spaces all underground and i love the idea of a lane connecting to the park. this is a thoughtful project and i’m sure that there needs to be adjustments but the developer seems to be considerate and openminded to all concerned.

  11. I suggest JJ go to a real blighted area to see what one looks like. There are no places in WeHo that are blighted. So let’s stop using that word to describe areas that aren’t developed to the max.

  12. I love seeing that Faring listened to the community and were able to compromise on keeping most of the Factory. I am happy to support a developer that works with us rather than some of the others in Weho who dig in for a fight.

  13. Very happy to hear. I think when people learn & understand the vast history of this place, they would agree. I also have a personal attachment to the memories of this very building since so much of my earlier adult life entailed this place in one incarnation or another. It’s getting it’s just dues

  14. “The commission’s recommendation doesn’t change anything – we’re already planning to keep most of the building and making sure it survives and thrives for future generations.” Hopefully this does NOT hold this project up. This blighted area needs to be redeveloped and this developer’s plans for the area look fantastic.

  15. Excellent News! The architectural style of The Factory is very similar to that of The Globe Grain & Milling Co. downtown LA recently transformed by Annabelle Selldorf & Creative Space into the fabulous Hauser & Wirth Gallery from Switzerland. The style also repeats at Margo Levin Gallery. It was also part of the original Soviet Modernist Architecture that inspired Dasha Zhukova and Rem Koolhaas to create The Garage in Moscow. WH would be in good company following this direction and reinforcing the architectural fabric rather than erasing it.

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