The former Sunset Boulevard home of The Hollywood Reporter may be on its way to landmark status after the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission voted to designate the property a Historic Cultural Monument Thursday.
The commission’s recommendation still needs to be approved by the City Council, but a landmark designation could make things tricky for Harridge Development Group’s planned overhaul of the Crossroads of the World complex down the block.
According to a draft environmental impact report, the Reporter building and several other historically significant properties in the area would be razed to make way for the new project, which is set to include two residential towers and a hotel.
A landmark designation, however, would delay the building’s demolition for up to a year while city officials explore options to preserve the property.
Local writer and historian Charles Fisher, who nominated the THR property on behalf of the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles, told the committee the building deserved to be saved due to its distinctive Regency Moderne style and close association with The Hollywood Reporter and its influential founder, William Wilkerson.
Wilkerson also operated several nightclubs on the Sunset Strip, including Ciro’s and Cafe Trocadero. Today, however, he’s most often remembered for outing communist sympathizers working in Hollywood, leading to the industry’s infamous practice of blacklisting political dissidents.
Jerry Neuman, a representative of Harridge Development, acknowledged the site’s historic significance, but argued that parts of it were not worthy of preservation.
The property actually consists of three separate buildings that were all constructed between the 1920s and 1940s. The Sunset Boulevard-facing structure is the oldest of the buildings and originally served as a luxury menswear boutique called Sunset House. Its distinctive facade was added in 1937 by architect Douglas Honnold.
The properties behind it held offices and a printing facility and are far less architecturally distinctive, Neuman says. He describes one of the buildings, as “merely a large box.”
But commission president Richard Barron argued that the entire complex was significant as THR’s base of operations from its founding in 1930 until the 1990s (LA Weekly used the site after that, before moving out in 2008).
In a 3-1 decision, the commission recommended the entire property for inclusion on the city’s list of Historic-Cultural Monuments and even diverged from city staff, finding that the building met two—rather than one—criteria for historic significance.
A staff report noted that alterations over the years had detracted from the building’s architectural significance, but members of the commission argued that many of the changes were reversible.
Barron suggested that preserving the building would be easier if it met multiple requirements for landmark status.
“You know how we deal with developers,” he said at one point, addressing the other members of the commission. “They’re going to weasel around ... the more glue on it, the more it sticks.”