The California Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by the L.A. Conservancy of an Appeals Court decision in March that effectively barred the demolition of the Lytton Bank building at 8150 Sunset Blvd.
The decision, rendered today, effectively clears the way for Townscape Partners to begin construction of a five-building project on the southwest corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights boulevards. The project would include buildings with 229 residential units and 65,000 square feet of commercial space, including a grocery store, restaurants and retail shops. It is being designed by the firm of noted architect Frank Gehry.
The Conservancy had appealed a March 23 decision by Justice Anthony Mohr’s that vacated one in April 2017 by Superior Court Judge Amy Hogue. Hogue’s decision barred the City of Los Angeles from issuing permits to Townscape that would allow it to demolish the bank building, which has been designated a historic resource.
The Lytton Savings building was designed by noted Southern California architect Kurt Meyer. Now a Chase Bank, the highly praised mid-century-modern building with its zig-zag folded plate roof, glass walls and interior art work offered a radical architectural departure from traditional bank buildings when it opened in 1960.
Hogue ruled in a case brought by the Los Angeles Conservancy that Los Angeles’s approval of the building’s demolition violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a state law that protects California’s built environment as it does the natural environment, and for that reason the project approval had to be set aside.
Hogue ruled that Townscape could not demolish the building unless it “can prove the benefits of the … project outweigh the significant environmental effect of demolition.”
The environmental impact report (EIR) for the 8150 Sunset Boulevard project studied alternatives that included the historic building and determined that they would feasibly be included in the project. However, the Los Angeles City Council later claimed that the preservation alternatives were not feasible and approved the Lytton Savings building’s demolition.
“We respectfully disagree with the Court of Appeal ruling, and believe this case goes to the foundation and intent of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and the need to fully consider and adopt preservation alternatives when feasible,” said the LA Conservancy in a statement about the decision.
“We were hopeful throughout the process, given the overwhelming evidence supporting our claim that development of the site could move forward without demolition of the historic building. The project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) acknowledged Lytton Savings as a qualified historical resource under CEQA. It identified two feasible preservation alternatives allowing Lytton Savings to be incorporated into the project. And at 20,000 square feet, the Lytton Savings building represents only a small portion of the 330,000-square-foot development planned for the site.
“Completed in 1960, Lytton Savings exemplifies a transformative shift in bank design after World War II. As the EIR explains, the bank design ‘was strategically conceived as a modern multi-media showcase for Modern art, architecture, and interior design … related directly to its Sunset Boulevard context’ with a “distinctive folded plate concrete roof.
“It was designed by the late Kurt W. Meyer, a renowned architect devoted to public service and historic preservation. He served as chair of the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles, worked with financier Bart Lytton to try and preserve Irving Gill’s Dodge House (ultimately demolished) in West Hollywood, and served on the first advisory council of the Los Angeles Conservancy.”
In his opinion, Judge Mohr said “the record contains a number of facts that constitute substantial evidence that the preservation alternatives would not fulfill the objectives of the project, among which was a call for vibrant buildings that draw people in, create new economic opportunities, and preserve view corridors.”