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City commission recommends Walt Disney’s first LA home for landmark status

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The home's owner now says demolition “would not be good for the community”

Diehard fans of classic animation and innovative corporate branding strategy can breathe a small sigh of relief; it’s starting to look like Walt Disney’s first Los Angeles residence might be saved from demolition.

The city's Cultural Heritage Commission unanimously voted Thursday to recommend the home for Los Angeles City Council approval as a city landmark. Should the council accept that recommendation, the home’s demolition will be further delayed while city officials evaluate options for its preservation.

In July, LA Magazine broke the news that the house’s current owners had requested permits from the city allowing them to tear down the 1,458-square-foot bungalow in Los Feliz where Disney lived with his aunt and uncle in 1923, replacing it with a larger two-story home.

Almost immediately, the city's Planning Director Vincent P. Bertoni snapped into action, nominating the house for Historic-Cultural Monument status. This delayed the home’s demolition while the Cultural Heritage Commission reviewed the application.

Hyun Bae Kim, one of the home’s owners, was in attendance at today's Cultural Heritage hearing. He told the commissioners that, since the monument application process began, his family has decided that demolishing the home "would not be good for the community." He also indicated that he has been meeting with Councilmember David Ryu to discuss possible means of preserving the home.

In July, he told Curbed that he purchased the home without realizing its historic significance and was surprised by the public outcry to the planned teardown.

Numerous Disney admirers were also at the meeting to support the home’s preservation, including Brent Young and Dina Benadon, who own the animator’s childhood home in Chicago. "Many people say [Walt Disney Studios] started with a mouse," Young said. "In fact, it started in this house."

That rhyming claim appears to be at least somewhat correct; among a collection of documents presented to the commission was Disney’s first contract as a producer of animated films, in which he lists the home’s Kingswell Avenue address as his primary residence.

Commission President Richard Barron said that detail helped to convince him that the home was worthy of monument status. He noted that Disney lived in the house for less than a year and warned against the instinct to preserve each and every structure graced by the Hollywood icon.

Other commissioners were more enthusiastic about the home’s historical bonafides, though at least two expressed disappointment that the famous garage in which Disney made his first features was no longer on the property. Commissioner Barry Milofsky wondered whether a Historic-Cultural Monument designation would eventually allow for the home to be reunited with the garage—currently housed at the Stanley Ranch Museum in Garden Grove.

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