The 4500 Los Feliz News
GOOD NEWS FROM CITY HALL
City Hall - March 16, 2006, The Cultural Heritage Commission spent about an hour
hearing testimony from both sides and discussing the historic cultural
merit of the 4500 Los Feliz property and in the end voted 4-1 to
recommend the building be declared a Historic-Cultural Monument.
Hats Off to the City Council for
Brown Derby Designation
City Hall - May 19, 2006
- The LA City Council voted 10 - 0 in favor of preserving the last of
the legendary Brown Derby Restaurants from Hollywood's golden.
era. The vote came on a motion by Councilmember Tom Labonge that the
council approve the action of the City's Cultural Heritage Commission
which voted in March to designate the building at 4500 Los Feliz Bl. as
a city Cultural Historic Monument. Also giving vocal support to the
motion was Councilmember Dennis Zine who decried the reality that "our
history is vanishing."
Community concern about saving the building came in the wake of plans
to demolish it for a large mixed use development. That concern manifest
itself in fall 2005 at a GGPNC sponsored forum where all sides of the
issue had a chance to have their say. At the overflow meeting the
sentiment was clear and the GGPNC later approved a motion that the
building be saved. The LA Conservancy, early in 2006, filed the
official application to get the building named to the city's list of
historic landmarks. In support of the application, the GGPNC sent the
City Council the following Community Impact Statement:
GGPNC strongly supports preservation of the historic building at 4500
Los Feliz Blvd. The last of the legendary Brown Derbys of
Hollywood’s heyday was owned by C.B. DeMille, and its rear meeting room
was an important center of community activity.
PLUM Committee Hearing
An overflow crowd of 500+ stakeholders at a GGPNC sponsored forum in
November, 2005 heard from preservationists, developers and city
officials. Then, nearly unanimously, through oral comments, a
show of hands and written survey, those attending endorsed preserving
the entire historic building with room to breathe around it.
We urge the Council to preserve one of LA’s irreplaceable landmarks."
In testimony before
the council voted, representatives of Adler Realty, the developer,
explained to the council that before they bought the property in 2004
it was not listed as historic with the city or even the Los Feliz
Improvement Association and that the building had been so altered over
time that it should not be designated.
After the City
Council vote, Jay Platt (left) of the LA Conservancy which proposed the
historic designation, poses with Debra Levine of Los Feliz Towers,
Robert Nudelman of Hollywood Heritage, Rebecca Goodman who led the very effective Save The Derby Coalition, GGPNC President Charley Mims and Councilmember LaBonge holding a rare photo of City Hall sporting a Brown Derby.
Now that it has been designated a cultural-historic monument the
building cannot be demolished or altered within the next year without
city approval. The developers have already been working to meet the
community's desire to preserve the historic building.
For earlier chapters in the saga see below
City Hall - April 25, 2006,
The LA City Council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which
consisted of just its chairman Ed Reyes by the time the Brown Derby
matter came before it, heard testimony from the proposed developers as
well as representatives of the GGPNC, LA Conservancy, Hollywood
Heritage and Save the Derby Coalition. Lacking a quorum, Councilmember
Reyes directed that designation of the former Brown Derby building as a
Historic Cultural Monument be placed on the full City Council agenda
without a recommendation. The date of the hearing before the council
has been set for Friday, May 19th.
Committee Chair Reyes and staff listen to LA Conservancy's Jay
Platt explain the historic significance of the 4500 Los Feliz structure.
Cultural Heritage Commission
Votes 4-1 to Preserve the Last Brown Derby
That action sends the recommendation to the city council where it will
first be heard in the Planning and Land Use Management Committee on April 25th.
Although the developer has abandoned the original plan to demolish the
building, they still argued against it being given monument status.
Their current plans appear to call for saving about 70% of the historic
structure, but demolishing the south portion which runs along Hillhurst.
Proponents of preservation pointed out that the south room of the
building was the traditional location of many local civic group
meetings and private parties from the glory days of Hollywood. It also
contains essential storage and working space for the current Derby
nightclub. The developers counter that to provide required parking they
would need to extend the planned underground parking beneath that area.
City Hall - February 16, 2006 - The Cultural Heritage Commission voted
unanimously to further investigate the application for 4500 Los Feliz
Blvd., the last standing Brown Derby Restaurant, to become a Historic
Cultural Monument. The four commissioners turned aside the staff recommendation that the “application and accompanying photo documentation fail to suggest the submittal may warrant further investigation.”
Councilmember Tom LaBonge told the commissioners that it is “very
important” that the “building be saved and designated.” He explained
there is “a lot of love and passion for this building.”
The main speakers in support of preservation were from the LA Conservancy. First was Marcello Vavala who prepared the application and pointed out how the building met the legal criteria for designation in four important aspects.
1) strong connection of the Brown Derby chain with the social, cultural history of Hollywood.
2) Ownership by C.B. DeMille, identity with historic personage
3) One of the remaining Drive-in canopies an important architectural element of LA's car culture
4) The Lamella dome structure important in architectural history…earliest still existing in LA
The Conservancy’s Jay Platt termed it “rare” that the Conservancy
itself nominated the property, as they usually just support nominations
by others. Platt said he was “surprised and disappointed” by the
staff’s negative recommendation. GGPNC Board Member Bruce Carroll
explained that the GGPNC officially supported preservation at its
November meeting after the overwhelming turnout at the GGPNC’s public
forum where a survey showed 95% supported preservation of the Derby.
Several other speakers, including LaBonge, also mentioned the
outpouring of preservation sentiment at the GGPNC’s November forum.
Debra Levine from Los Feliz Towers read many comments from supporters
and urged the commission to “heed the voices of my neighbors.”
Save the Derby founder Rebecca Goodman asked for Derby supporters in
the audience to stand and about a dozen, non speakers showed their
support. LFIA’s Marian Dodge and Hollywood Heritage’s Robert Nuddleman
also spoke strongly in support of the nomination as did speakers from
the valley and Highland Park who decried the loss of nearly all of the
famous gathering spots from Hollywood’s heydays.
Developer Rick Gable explained that his team had carefully researched
the property before purchasing and went ahead only after determining
that it was not, and had not been nominated, as a cultural historic
monument. He also said a new plan was being developed that would retain
“some of the features or all of the building.” The last speaker was
Teresa Grimes who did the historic preservation assessment for the
developers and while admitting that the building has a “fascinating
history” she expressed the view that it “doesn’t reflect that history
anymore” and thus she did not “think it qualified” under the law.
After hearing over half an hour of public comment, commissioner Alma
Carlisle expressed her view that a “strong argument” had been made for
preservation. She moved that the project undergo further consideration
for designation as a historic cultural monument. Commission president,
Mary Klaus-Martin, seconded the motion, noting that the “car culture”
was one of her areas of interest. The motion passed 4-0 on a voice
vote. No date was set for further action.
Before the hearing, developer Gable told the GGPNC that he expected to
have a new plan ready to present to the community in March
GGPNC Votes to Oppose
Current Development Plans
its regular monthly meeting on November 15, 2005, the GGPNC board
unanimously adopted a motion opposing the proposed development plans
for the five parcels around Los Feliz and Hillhurst known as 4500 Los
Feliz Blvd. In addition the Board supported preservation of the 1929
building on the site which once housed a Brown Derby Restaurant, and is
currently occupied by The Derby and Louise's Trattoria.
The Board's motion also called for any development at the site to
maintain the Los Feliz Village character and not harm the historic
trees. The developers were encouraged to come forth with a proposal
that would reduce the traffic congestion and parking shortage in the
area. The GGPNC pledged to continue to monitor the project and advise
the City on the site development and to explore facilitating a
committee that could work with the developer on the project's redesign.
Richard Gable, one of the property's owners, said that developers are
working on a new design that would be "significantly different" than
what had been seen before, with less density and more open space. That
plan will not be ready before January. Gable said it would not include
the supermarket shown in plans put forth at the November 10th Public
Forum and that their architects were looking for ways to preserve at
least some of the significant features of the existing structure.
was standing room only as an overflow crowd nearing 500 attended the
GGPNC's Public Forum on the development planned for 4500 Los Feliz
Blvd. and adjacent properties.
November 10th Public Forum Report
November 10th Forum Program
240 of those attending filled out a survey/comment form.
Survey Tally Public Comments LaBonge Statement
See below for information and links related to the project
|4500 Los Feliz Bl. (Derby/Louise's) Project
The links below relate
to the proposed development of 80 Condo Units, a 40,000sq.ft.
Supermarket on Los Feliz, plus 7,441square feet of Retail Space, with 390 Parking Spaces at
the southwest corner of Los Feliz Bl. and Hillhurst, extending to
Master Land Use Permit Application Environmental Assessment Form
Developer's Most Recent Design Concept Developer's Schematic Diagrams
GGPNC Forum Press Release
Developer: Adler-Realty.com Opposition group: SaveTheDerby.com
The renderings below of the proposed project were displayed at the developer's
October 26, 2005 meeting. and at the GGPNC Public Forum
Developers say new plans are in the works
...possibly by January 2006
View from corner of Avocado & Hillhurst north toward Los Feliz
Rendering of the southwest corner of Los Feliz and Hillhurst
Current view of the southwest corner of Los Feliz and Hillhurst
GGPNC Public Forum Draws SRO
Crowd Of Concerned Stakeholders
The November 10th forum on a proposed development along Hillhurst
from Los Feliz Blvd. to Avocado was a good night for community
democracy. An overflow crowd approaching 500 jammed into the
Multi-Purpose building at Our Mother of Good Counsel Church to listen
and be listened to.
First they heard from the property’s new owners whose
current vision of their Hillhurst Square project consisted of 80 condos
totaling over 100,000 sq. feet above 47,500 sq. feet of retail space,
including a supermarket, and an underground garage for 400 cars. More
than 240 stakeholders who attended the meeting filled out a GGPNC
survey before leaving. Of those less than 1% expressed support for the
Gable had a wish for the crowd, “Hopefully you understand we
are trying to build something with you.” Then what sounded like a
promise, “We are going to continue to work with you until we find
something that the majority of the community would like to see.”
|Co-owner Rick Gable realized changes needed to be made. He explained
“our plan going forward is to take this additional feedback we are
going to receive tonight as well as feedback we’ve received from the
other community meetings and to do a redesign of the project to address
some of these concerns.” That redesign, he said, would likely not
include the market and would look at ways to preserve the existing
Property Co-owners Michael Adler (left) and Richard Gable listened intently
The project’s most vocal opponent has been the Save the Derby Coalition
which announced support from many community and historic preservation
organizations. Coalition leader Rebecca Goodman declared, “the project
simply undermines the very things about this neighborhood we love the
Rebecca Goodman and Jay Platt presented the case against demolishing the old Brown Derby building.
|Also speaking in opposition
to the project was Jay Platt of the LA Conservancy. He pointed out some
of the unique architectural features and cultural ties that make the
1929 building worth saving. He noted that it is the last of the Brown
Derby restaurants…which he described as “the most famous restaurant in
the world” in the golden age of Hollywood. Closing for the opposition,
Goodman declared, “the sun has not set on our Brown Derby.”
After the presentations more than two dozen audience
questions were asked of the developer, city planning and transportation
officials and the opposition. Traffic generated the most questions, but
the developer has not done a traffic study yet...but one will be
required for a project on this scale. Other concerns were: parking:
will be ample, but not free, requested mixed use zoning: would allow
far greater density than current zoning, historic preservation: no
application has yet been filed to have the City declare the building a
cultural historic monument.
||City Councilmember Tom LaBonge seemed determined when he somewhat echoed those sentiments in
his remarks. “Let’s save the Derby. Let’s work with the community to
balance out what the need is.” One need he doesn’t see was clear from
his remark, “absolutely not a market.” LaBonge suggested a better place
for such a mixed use project, “where I want to see density is near the
subway.” The City Council is likely to have the final say on what
development does take shape on the property.
Next up was the lively public comment period where more than 30
speakers from the audience voiced their concerns. First up, community
leaders such as LFIA President Donna Zenor who called the “massive
structure unacceptable.” Anne Richardson cited traffic and historic
preservation as the reasons the Franklin Hills Residents Association
opposed the project. Dora Herrera of the Los Feliz Village Business
Improvement District pointed to the failure of promised traffic
mitigation for Los Feliz in past projects such as Costco. And David
Trulli from the Los Feliz Towers termed the architecture Spanish
colonial “by way of Disneyland.”
Other speakers called the project a “complete catastrophe,” predicted
“Los Feliz Blvd. is headed toward total gridlock,” a critical care
nurse warned “don’t increase traffic unless you want to live in a
coffin” the manager of The Derby told the developers “we’re not going
anywhere…we’ll buy you out,” another speaker feared traffic gridlock
will turn residents into “miserable prisoners in our homes,” an
architect vowed “as long as I live you’re not going to have any
variance,” and dramatically illustrating the lack of support for the
plans shown, one speaker called for a show of hands from those who
liked the idea…just a single hand was raised.
Many more who attended the meeting and did not wish to speak filled out
comments forms provided. To read the public comments transcribed as of
11/14/05 click here.
|Councilmember Tom LaBonge's Statement
Thank you for your interest in development issues in the 4th
Council District and in particular the future of The Derby.
As you may
know, I am opposed to the current developers' proposal to consolidate five
separate parcels into one large mixed use condominium and retail project
bordered by Los Feliz Boulevard to the north, Hillhurst Avenue to the west
and Avocado Street to the south.
First and foremost, I am a
preservationist and have a long track record of supporting the historic and
architecturally significant buildings in our city. We have an opportunity
here to fight to save the last in this distinctive chain and we should wage
this fight to save The Derby.
Secondly, I am concerned about the density
that the developers have proposed, especially as their project envisions
street-level retail along Hillhurst including a grocery or equivalent-sized
store. In neighborhoods where traffic congestion is already a factor
and accessibility to public transportation poses a serious challenge,
my preference is to limit density. To preserve the residential flavor
of Los Feliz, Silver Lake and other neighborhoods with a lot
of single-family dwellings, we need to be mindful of their relationship
to adjoining blocks of multiple unit buildings and also
Finally, on the matter of a grocery
operation, whether it is Whole Foods or another chain that would draw
multiple daily car trips to an already busy intersection such as Los Feliz
and Hillhurst, I cannot think of a more problematic situation. I do not
support a market at this corner. The traffic would go from bad to worse and
would present an
overnight nightmare situation for drivers and residents.
As your councilmember, be assured that I will continue to press
for preservation of The Derby and encourage your continued participation
in this important process.
Thank you for your interest in your
Councilmember, 4th District
DEVELOPER'S MEETING, OCTOBER 26th
|On October 26, 2005,
the Adler-Realty development team presented their project to a packed
meeting of interested residents. Questions and comments, some quite
impassioned, from the crowd of over 100 mostly focused on concerns about
increased traffic and density of the project.
Renee Weitzer, chief planning deputy for Tom LaBonge, explained that
the Councilmember was opposed to placing the proposed supermarket on
Los Feliz and favored preserving the historic building on the site.
Representatives of the developer indicated that the supermarket was
nearly a dead issue and that without it retail space would be reduced
from 47,000 sq. ft.. to about 13,000 sq.ft. They also said they would
consider plans that would partially preserve the building currently
occupied by The Derby and Louise’s Trattoria. They explained they would
not do an environmental impact report dealing with traffic, air and
noise pollution until their plans were in a more final form.
In the end there was no mistaking the fact that the standing room only
audience harbored very serious reservations about the impact of such a
large project in the area and a representative of the developer
indicated that that message was received, without indicating what the
next version of the plan would look like, other than the likely absence
of the supermarket.
SRO crowd listens to the developer's plans
The Adler-Realty representatives
The effects on already clogged streets was a main concern