The oldest portions of the Times Mirror Square complex are definitely worthy of landmark status, a city committee decided Tuesday. But a 1970s-era addition to the complex by noted Los Angeles architect William Pereira has been removed from the site’s landmark nomination.
The Los Angeles City Council’s planning and land use management committee moved to advance the nomination for only two older buildings on the block-sized-site: a 1935 Art Deco structure designed by Hollywood Palladium architect Gordon B. Kaufmann and a 1948 Late Moderne-style addition designed by Rowland Crawford.
It denied a nomination to include the Pereira office building and an adjacent parking lot.
“This entire facility has tremendous significance,” said Councilmember Mitch Englander.
But he questioned how to strike a balance that would “preserve what is truly the architectural significance” of the site.
The decision deviates from the recommendation from the city’s cultural heritage commission, which supported monument status for the entire complex. The commission had noted the significance not only of the architecture but of the history connected with the buildings, which stood as a marker of the prolonged influence of the Chandler family over the growing city of Los Angeles through the newspaper they operated.
Landmarking the entire block could pose problems for Canadian developer Onni, which owns the site and plans to raze the Pereira and an adjacent parking garage as part of a plan to redevelop and reuse the site as a major retail and housing project. Two glassy residential towers with more than 1,100 residential units are proposed for the spot occupied now by the Pereira building.
By preserving only the two older buildings on the site, the city would “adequately preserve the legacy of the LA Times and its place in our city’s cultural history while allowing a potential project to move forward,” Azeen Khanmalek, the planning deputy for area representative City Councilmember Jose Huizar, told the committee.
The inclusion of the 1973 Pereira building in the bid for the site’s historic-cultural monument status has been contested. Consultants for Onni have argued that the structure was a middling example of Pereira’s work, and not worthy of landmarking.
Though committee members were, on paper, supposed to consider only the historic qualities of the buildings and their architectural significance, the fate of the Onni project and housing it could bring to Downtown was clearly weighing their minds.
Many committee members echoed concerns voiced by speakers at the meeting who feared that landmarking the Pereira building would result in the death of the planned development and its residential potential.
“There are other representations of Pereira architecture throughout the city that are more significant,” said Councilmember Gil Cedillo. In this case, it makes more sense “to advocate for housing,” Cedillo said.
But Harry Chandler, whose grandfathers commissioned the two older buildings on the site and whose father commissioned the Pereira, asked the committee to consider not just the architecture but also the history of the complex as a whole.
“There are not another three buildings in the entire city, next to the council chambers, [where] more history happened,” he said.
He asked that Onni try to find a way to built the project without demolishing the 1970s addition.
The nomination in its current form now heads to the full City Council for approval.