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Preservation Drama at the Van Dekker Residence

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Last we heard from Rudolph Schindler's Van Dekker Residence in Woodland Hills, it seemed about to ride into the sunset (at least until eventual word of its triumphant restored return or tragic demolition). Several offers had been made on the house, some from developers who would tear it down and some from people who wanted to restore the house. According to agent Brian Linder, the house was set to close escrow this week with a buyer who collects Schindlers and Neutras and has restored several architectural properties. But a nomination for Historic-Cultural Monument status, advanced by the Cultural Heritage Commission at their meeting last week, has postponed the sale.

Linder says that because of the HCM nomination the buyer is now reconsidering the purchase and asking the seller for a credit. The buyer's plan was to restore the house with his consultants and apply for HCM status later--he thinks getting the status now will hold up the restoration while the CHC considers the matter and that improvements will take more time and cost more money if the house is an HCM. The Office of Historic Resources has to review and approve proposals for work on an HCM before permits can be issued.

The HCM nomination was made by a Cal Poly Pomona M.Arch student with a concentration in Historic Preservation whose name is A.D. Modlin. Linder says Modlin asked the seller if he could document the house for a student project and that the seller feels betrayed that he was actually working on the HCM nomination. The first Linder knew of Modlin's involvement was when a colleague showed up at the CHC meeting last week. Modlin says the seller knew his intentions, and writes in an email to Curbed, "I visited the Van Dekker House after hearing that it was on the market. After considering the state of the house, and the very real threat of a tear-down or unsympathetic renovation, I decided to nominate the house for Historic-Cultural Monument status. I discussed the possibility of a HCM nomination with the owner shortly after viewing the house, and again after I made the decision to complete and submit the application."

His professor Judith Sheine, the chair of the architecture department at Cal Poly Pomona and author of several books on Schindler (she also happens to be a former professor of Linder's), supports Modlin's work and the nomination, and writes in an email, "The potential buyer seems to be very serious about restoring the house properly; if this is the case, then I don't see why he should be worried about the nomination costing him more time and money. I believe his interests in restoring the house should coincide with the expectations of the Commission and the Dept. of Historic Preservation. In addition, he can apply for property tax credits if the house becomes a Monument, which would give him a financial advantage."

The city won't drop an HCM nomination once the process has begun, and the seller and potential buyer are still trying to work out a deal. Everyone involved does seem earnestly to want to save the house, although the seller has let it turn into what looks like a grand and well-conceived shanty. (The pictures of the current condition above were recently added to the MLS.)
· Rumormongering: Schindler Van Dekker Close to Sale [Curbed LA]