Ten years and only now?

dodgemelrose
June 27, 2014

Op-ed by Ryan Gierach, West Hollywood, California

This has been under development for ten years? We’re finding out now that it sits atop a historic structure?

The project would replace this building, which seems out of place when used as a backdrop to street  art.

The project would replace this building, which seems out of place when used as a backdrop to street art.

Come on West Hollywood. You get an A from the LA Conservancy for preservation based on the many buildings you have elected to save, at least in part.

That may be partially a result of the 1970 tragedy of the Dodge House, which was demolished one night during an emotional battle over its replacement with a huge apartment complex (which has now gone condo).

Advocates who brought suit to stop the building’s demolition lost their suit, and as soon as the new owner of the property could, they bulldozed it (leaving a forty foot long, eight foot deep trench that filled with water from the very rainy night they chose to tear it down.

Several neighbors who grew up in the neighborhood tell WeHo News how much fun they had playing on the grounds, and described the despair they felt upon demolition.

The 9080 Santa Monica boulevard building was built in 1938 as Los Angeles County's first animal hospital. Preservationists decry its demolition and hope it can be moved or incorporated into the design of the Merorse Triangle Project

The 9080 Santa Monica boulevard building was built in 1938 as Los Angeles County’s first animal hospital. Preservationists decry its demolition and hope it can be moved or incorporated into the design of the Merorse Triangle Project

Now West Hollywood does cherish and seek to protect its cultural and architectural heritage, doing yeoman’s’ lately in uncovering and classifying “lost gems” such as the many Edward Fickett-designed apartments as historic.

The city, however, failed to recognize the importance of the Fickett library in time for the West Hollywood Park Mater Plan’s implementation of its plan to destroy it to make room for – a stairway.

Now comes along a project that the city has wanted to move forward on for over ten years.

Part of the General Plan,, our civic blueprint for the next 30 years, includes building “Gateway Projects” that border the city and offer a delineation between Los Angeles and Beverly Hills and WeHo.

In essence, these developments are branding aids. We are what you see is the message delivered.

In the case of the Eastside Gateway, WeHo got it absolutely

The Eastside's Gateway has been very good for West Hollywood,but it did not replace anything older than the tacos sold there.

The Eastside’s Gateway has been very good for West Hollywood,but it did not replace anything older than the tacos sold there.

correct. A Target anchoring the site has become one of the busiest and most profitable in the chain. The collection of shops below act as a gathering place for people. Best Buy contributes another large sum of money from sales taxes into the city coffer.

It replaced a handful of auto garages and a street side taco joint. Imagine the least-well cared for parts of Commerce, and you get the idea.

But this time, I have doubts. Yes, looking at the plans and model it is a very nice building. But that POV posits no knowledge of what must be demolished in order to get said building.

I know what is there under those horrible mesh panels, and so too does the preservation community.

If we are to remain true to our historic heritage, if we are to treat the Western Gateway in such a way that the existing historic buildings are honored, respected and featured as part of West Hollywood’s unique character, the current plans must change.

But if we as a community only wish to clear the lot and build a (not very attractive) building in its place, that’s on us.

 A look at the front of Dodge House. Photo 1966, R. Longstreth

A look at the front of Dodge House. Photo 1966, R. Longstreth

Where do you stand? Demolish it, move it, or save it in place? No matter where you stand, this is one of the most important architectural design decisions the city faces, and your input will make a difference.

Roy Rogers Oldenkamp says the city is “lethargic” on preservation matters.

Hardly, I say. West Hollywood’s preservation community showed its mettle during the Tara battle, and have made themselves known as a power with which to be reckoned – the latest example may be the Palm Avenue Craftsmen homes saved by a couple activists.

When the city’s attention is brought to bear on an issue like this, the residents know they can win.

So the next few weeks before the city council takes up the matter ought to be interesting.

dodgemelrose