A plan to demolish the Sinatra Bungalow is drawing opposition from historic preservationists and owners of businesses on The Lot, the sound stage and production facility that once was home to the Pickford-Fairbanks Studios.
The Sinatra Bungalow is a six-room building and adjacent property where Frank Sinatra once stayed in 1963 while he recorded “The Concert Sinatra” album with an orchestra conducted by Nelson Riddle. It sits on slightly less than an acre that is just south of The Lot (and outside the border of West Hollywood). That land is owned by the L.A. Department of Water and Power (LADWP).
The Lot, which is bordered by Santa Monica Boulevard to the north and by Formosa Avenue and Poinsettia Place to the east and west, is home to a number of film and sound production companies, some of the most prominent of which are OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network) and Funny or Die. The then-owners of property leased the Sinatra Bungalow property from the LADWP a number of years ago, and the lease is set to expire on March 31.
A spokesperson for LADWP said its property houses a receiving station, which she described as “a high-voltage switching station that serves Hollywood and several adjacent L. A. neighborhoods.”
“LADWP now needs the land to expand RS-H (Receiving Station H) with equipment important to the reliability of the grid,” she said in an email to WEHOville. “LADWP and the owners of The Lot have, therefore, agreed that the lease not be renewed and that LADWP demolish this structure, which is not designated as an historic building. This project is important to electrical service quality and to meet future electricity demand for the residents of the local community.”
Greg Harless, whose Skye Partners manages The Lot, said it had hoped to extend its lease on the Sinatra Bunglow property. “We did everything we could to try to negotiate an extension of the land lease the studio but the DWP was unwilling … It takes two to tango as they say, and DWP wasn’t interested in a lease extension. We tried everything.”
A petition prepared by Doug Quill of Quill Films is calling for preservation of the Sinatra Bungalow at its current location, or by moving it to The Lot. One concept is to convert it into “Frank’s Tavern”, a cocktail lounge featuring “all things Frank.” The paper petition already has garnered more than 40 signatures from owners and employees of production companies on The Lot like Cinefocus, Brain Academy, Photobomb Productions, Heroes & Villains and Indican Pictures. Quill has prepared an online petition on Change.org.
The old Pickford-Fairbanks Studios opened in 1919. Over the years the property has evolved into the United Artists Studio, Warner Hollywood Studios and, in 1999, The Lot. Many classic movies such as “West Side Story,” “The Manchurian Candidate,” “The Apartment” and “Some Like It Hot” were filmed there.
Demolition of the Sinatra Bungalow is not the first threat faced by buildings there. In 2003, BA Studios sought the City of West Hollywood’s permission to redevelop the property, which was granted. However no significant work was done. The property later was acquired by CIM Group, which in 2012, announced plans to demolish many of the historic buildings. Its plans sparked the formation of “Save the Pickfair Studios,” a group that led to the establishment of the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance. In June 2013 CIM submitted a revised plan to the City of West Hollywood in which it agreed to preserve some of the buildings it had planned to demolish. Those included buildings along Formosa Avenue (the Editorial Buildings, the Fairbanks Gym and the Formosa Building) and along Santa Monica Boulevard and the Sinatra Bungalow buildings, although it stipulated that expiration of the lease with LADWP meant they could be demolished.