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Because of unauthorized demo, Eva Gabor’s former home too ‘ruined’ to landmark

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Commissioners were outraged, but the owner says he didn’t intend to sidestep the landmarking process

A photo of a house with the front ripped off. The wood behind the facade is exposed and the windows have been removed. A brick driveway leads up to the house.
The house at Delfern Drive in September.
Courtesy of Save Iconic Architecture

Eva Gabor’s former house in Holmby Hills isn’t eligible to become a Los Angeles landmark, a city commission decided Thursday—mainly because some of its potentially historic elements were demolished without permits two months ago.

“It’s been ruined,” said commissioner Richard Barron, speaking of the home’s historic value.

The vote was split 3-2 and came after heated discussion, with commissioners expressing outrage at the owner’s actions.

The facade of the actress’s longtime home was gutted in September, and the property owner did not have the permits required by the city to do the work. In response, the city issued a stop-work order.

But it was too late. By then, Jessa Ross, of the city’s office of historic resources, said the owner had already razed the architectural elements that most connected the dwelling to its famed architect, Paul R. Williams.

She said the property owner knew there was a pending landmark nomination for the home at 100 Delfern Drive, and must have known the work violated city code.

But the owner, Philip Rahimzadeh, “one of the most active local developers” in Downtown LA’s Arts District, told commissioners he wasn’t aware of the landmarking effort because it was initiated through an “emergency nomination” by Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz.

Property owners are usually alerted about landmarking efforts on their property once an application is deemed complete by the city, but in this case, the application came later. Even if a landmarking application hadn’t been filed, Rahimzadeh would still have needed a permit. He applied for a demolition permit in August, but started work before it had been approved.

Rahimzadeh and his representative, Daniel Freedman, downplayed the work, saying they were only trying to remove lead and asbestos in the house.

If it was an abatement effort, it was also “demolition in disguise,” Barron responded.

The unpermitted demolition became a flashpoint for some preservationists, many of them in the audience at Thursday’s hearing, who wanted to see the residence landmarked as a punitive measure.

At one point a woman in the audience yelled: “Is there nothing illegal about what’s happening here?”

Adrian Scott Fine, director of advocacy for the Los Angeles Conservancy, urged the commission “to send a strong message” to Rahimzadeh and property owners who turn to unpermitted demolitions in an attempt to avoid landmarking.

But Freedman said the city’s ineffective communication about the nomination set them up to fail.

“This is not the case to make an example of someone,” Freedman said.

Throughout their impassioned discussion, commissioners were reminded a number of times that their task was merely to determine whether home’s condition merited landmarking.

Commissioner Gail Kennard noted that in terms of the architecture, the house was “basically gone.”

In the end, they conceded that, tasked with evaluating whether the house at present was historic, there was really no choice.

“It’s not our job to determine what’s criminal or not,” said commissioner Pilar Buelna.