Two More WeHo Commercial Buildings Can Be Evaluated for Historical Significance

Madison Car Wash, 7616 Santa Monica Blvd.

Four of ten commercial properties in West Hollywood that originally were not deemed eligible to be designated as historic resources are eligible for another look.

The West Hollywood Preservation Alliance asked the city to include six of those properties after an extensive survey of commercial and other non-residential properties by an outside consultant was completed in September of last year. At its meeting on Jan. 23 of this year, the City Council asked that WHPA’s suggestions be reviewed and that an additional four properties recommended by City Councilmember Lauren Meister also be considered. The properties reviewed include the Macha Theatre, the Holloway motel, Hamburger Haven, Pink Taco restaurant and the Viper Room.

The city engaged Chattel Inc., a preservation consultant, to review the original preservation evaluation by GPA. Chattel agreed with GPA that the car repair buildings at 7496 and 7935 Santa Monica, the car wash at 7617 Santa Monica, the Holloway motel at 8465 Santa Monica and the Pink Taco restaurant at 8225 Sunset Boulevard did not qualify as eligible for historic designation.

But it recommended that further research be done on four properties:

— 1107 N. Kings Rd., the MACHA Theatre
— 8445 Santa Monica Blvd., location of the former Ritts Company
— 9091 Santa Monica Blvd., a building, currently empty, that once housed the Maxfield clothing store.
— 8850 Sunset Blvd., location of the Viper Room.

GPA has agreed with two of Chattel’s recommendations. It said the quality of the interior of the Macha Theatre building could outweigh the alterations to the exterior, which now is covered in corrugated metal. GPA says it needs to be re-evaluated. GPA also now recommends that the 9091 Santa Monica Blvd. building be listed as eligible for history designation. It agreed with Chattel that the building, erected in 1924, reflects the then-nature of the block as a commercial spot along the streetcar line.

WHPA is asking the City Council, which will receive City Hall’s report on the Chattel findings and their review by GPA, to consider re-evaluating four of the properties that Chattel agreed with GPA are not worthy of consideration. All four of which are on Santa Monica Boulevard’s stretch of historic Route 66.

Those buildings are:

— 7496 Santa Monica Blvd., a two-story building that houses Final Touch Collision Center, a car repair shop. “Constructed in 1947, the building is a distinctive example of the Streamline Moderne style now rare in West Hollywood,” WHPA said in a letter to the City Council. “With an unfortunate fire and an uncertain future facing the only other Streamline Moderne commercial property along Santa Monica Boulevard — the former Jones Cat and Dog Hospital building at 9080 Santa Monica Boulevard in the Melrose Triangle area – this eastside building deserves further reevaluation.”

— 7617 Santa Monica Blvd., the location of Madison Car Wash. The two-story building is designed in the neo-Googie style. “This is a unique structure visually and architecturally in the city,” says the WHPA letter. “The car wash itself or such signature elements as its row of pylons should be recognized as a fine tribute to our area’s car culture. Any redevelopment on the site could repurpose the current building into a restaurant or shop. “

— 8445 Santa Monica Blvd., the previous home of the Ritts Furniture Store. “Former city urban designer John Chase worked with the architect who renovated the property to ensure that the neo-Wrightian design of original architect Harry Harrison was preserved,” says the WHPA letter. “The WHPA believes this building retains its mid-century modern sensibility and deserves to be reevaluated.”

— 8465 Santa Monica Blvd., the Holloway motel. “This motel with its elements of Colonial Revival design retains its integrity from the days of Route 66 and still provides a source of affordable lodging to travelers visiting West Hollywood,” says WHPA. “ As the only remaining motel along West Hollywood’s stretch of this historic road, the WHPA believes that the Holloway Motel deserves to be re-evaluated for historic eligibility.”

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. That can make designating some buildings as historic a problem for building owners and developers.

The City Council has this on its consent agenda, all of whose items typically are voted on at once and not discussed. However preservations are likely to appear at tonight’s meeting to discuss the recommendations. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at 625 N. San Vicente Blvd. Park, which is free with a ticket validated at the Council Chambers, is available in the five story structure behind the building.

  1. Hamburger Haven is an eyesore and needs to go once the Factory site is redeveloped. The building has no significance and the food certainly doesn’t help.

  2. Ooops! I just remembered all car washes are or were also GAS STATIONS at some point. There WILL BE a serious Federal Superfund Contamination for any property that had underground gasoline storage (all gas stations) and there will always be seepage over decades …. that could curtail the project.

    The Walgreen Site (google it) was red tagged on line with County Recorder’s Office with 26 KNOWN severe toxic contamination of the site underground – going deep and spreading with underground water movement.

    I’m not for saving a car wash, but just saying before too much is put it, I hope the developers realize and have appropriate legal council investigate and advise if there is a potential toxic clean up likely.

    Surprised Walmart Project didn’t get that basic (to me – it was part of my daily job, warning super rich about potential risks to wealth, foremost is multiple property owners with a portfolio of small to large lots anywhere in L.A.) I’m no expert in actual pollution law, just good at warning wealth of all major risks that could take a huge chunk or all of their wealth with no fault or knowledge on anyone’s side)

  3. I realize the MTA Division 7 is disliked by many of the residents in West Hollywood but its location is where the city began. The Pacific Electric was originally headquartered there and was owned by General Sherman. Sherman was the original name for our town before it was called West Hollywood. The property included what is Division 7 now as well as the PDC property. Plus the current building was constructed in the 1970s which in its self qualifies it under the historic building criteria.

    Car Washes, motels, former furnisher store which has sat empty for years with temporary tenants that don’t last long. But the place where it all began is ignored. Whats next, the Mobil Gas Station, maybe the Whole Foods Market or perhaps Fat Burger, Okie dog used to be there.

  4. @Alison: This is not Councilmember Meister’s list. The nominations were presented by the city’s Historical Preservation Commission.
    @Anthony A: The Coast Playhouse has been bought by the city & they plan to renovate & revive it. I believe there are plans in progress for the French Market Place property.
    @Rose: The Viper Room has a storied history beyond being once owned by Johnny Depp or the street side site of River Phoenix’s demise. It has had many incarnations, including known as The Central & being frequented by the likes of mobster Bugsy Segal. The Viper Room is rich in legend but short on visual appeal both inside & out. I say raze it & install a plaque.

  5. The Macha was originally an auto repair shop, taken over by the Shakespeare Society of America, incorporated 1968, with founder Robert Thaddeus Taylor at the helm. In 1972, “Thad” finished “The Globe Theatre”, an exact 1/2 scale replica of the original Shakespeare Globe Theatre in London, built in 1576. The interior is a masterpiece that should be preserved forever, it even “feels” Shakespeare. There are no theatres anywhere on the continent like this one, it is unique & authentic & special. It was the 1st theatre in the world to stage all 38 of Shakespeare’s plays in uninterrupted succession. This theatre was Thad’s pride & joy & many times I helped him plant new flowers & tend to the Shakespeare Garden. He passed away in 2006. The first Globe Theatre remains were only discovered in East London in 2009. The stage itself is buried deep beneath a current housing development. I can’t even begin to imagine that this theatre’s interior wouldn’t be not only preserved but promoted & listed among West Hollywood’s landmark locations. I agree that some of the plays there now don’t do the theatre justice, but Thad often did plays other than Shakespeare because he said WS didn’t have enough of a local “following” to support the theatre.

  6. Ritts – definitely keep

    Viper Room – inside only once years ago. Personally, gross & should go.

    BUT! FOR SURE .. I see people all the time in front as tourist attraction taking selfies. I think the River Phoenix tragedy (other stuff maybe too, not​ my kinda place) & thus IS IMPORTANT for some (not me) . Should Stay!? maybe??

  7. There is nothing historic about a car wash. Even this article says it is “neo-googie” styled. That is not good enough to deem it historic. What did Lauren do, go around town and take note of every building over a certain age?

  8. The Macha Theatre has been a concern. I fully support the Arts and recall when it was a Shakespearean Theatre but seeing too often the old corrugated building with plays with names that were dubious at best (I think one they did more then once was “Marilyn my secret or Garbo’s secret etc etc) it just struck me as eyesore with themes that resonate to maybe a few but not many. This building has been there a long time in a street I have lived on for 26 years but it needs massive exterior investment if it is to remain on a street that has gone through a lot of changes over the years. The plays aside, it’s an eyesore that needs to be cleaned up. The Theatre down the street, I think the Coast, well it’s ashane it has been neglected and the old french market has turned into an eyesore which many of us miss.

    I am not aware of any historical significance of a worn out quancett hut unless someone can share the historical significance of the structure which is Macha Theatre. The garden next to it, now gone used to be well maintained but againsettlng aside the Arts, the building needs a huge makeover if it wants to attract a larger legitimate Theatre audience like the small houses in North Hollywood where we often go to see plays

    I the Marilyn and Garbo plays are shelved as I saw both and never stayed till the end

  9. 9091 Santa Monica Blvd. once housed MAXFIELD not Maxwell Clothing Company.

    Will the WHPA also be soliciting advice regarding any possible rare or undetermined insects that may possibly become extinct residing on the premises of these purported historic properties?

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