On September 18, 2019, the owner of the Barry Building requested a permit to demolish the landmarked structure. There is no replacement project; the owner is interested in selling the property as a vacant parcel. Because the Barry Building is a designated Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM #887), the demolition request will go through environmental review. The process begins with the preparation of an environmental impact report (EIR), before consideration by the City’s Cultural Heritage Commission. The City is currently determining the scope and contents of the EIR.
In 2016, Charles T. Munger, the building's owner, used seismic concerns as a means to evict commercial tenants. Since then the building has remained boarded up and vacant. While unoccupied, local residents have observed the building unsecured and left open to the elements and reported those concerns to the Department of Building and Safety.
In January 2012, the City released the final EIR for the Green Hollow Square Project, which called for the demolition of the Barry Building and alteration of the Coral Tree Median HCM. This project appears to have been abandoned and in October 2013, the owner's representative formally requested to withdraw their zoning entitlement application.
After the release of the project’s final EIR, the Planning Commission granted Mr. Munger an extension to work on an alternative “that may retain most of the Barry Building.” Since that time, no advances have been made and Munger has since passed the property on to his heirs.
Thank you to Council District Office 11 for their continued support of a preservation alternative. City Councilmember Mike Bonin told the Los Angeles Times, “I will not support demolition of a building officially deemed culturally and historically significant, and I encourage development that preserves the building that once housed Dutton's bookstore."
In May 2012, former Councilmember Bill Rosendahl announced his formal support of a preservation alternative for the Green Hollow Square project, explaining “the Preservation Alternative [in the environmental impact report, EIR] is preferable because it alone can achieve both the goal of creating a unique shopping center and protecting a historically designated landmark by integrating the Barry Building. That is why I continue to support the Preservation Alternative.”
Additionally, the City’s Cultural Heritage Commission reaffirmed their strong support for Preservation Alternative 4 and their commitment to serve as a resource and work with the developer to further refine that alternative in formal comments submitted on the project’s final EIR.
Despite more than eighty comment letters submitted on the draft EIR urging for the retention of the Barry Building as part of the new project, the final EIR called for the demolition of the modernist landmark, which is designated as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #887.
The project also included an optional design feature for a mid-block turn lane across the Coral Tree Median in front of the project site. Allowing the removal of some coral trees and creating a new mid-block crossing would have set a precedent and could have had a cumulative impact on the continuous, uninterrupted nature of this linear monument (HCM #148).
The property’s owner, Charles T. Munger, sought to raze the Barry Building to make way for the Green Hollow Square project, which would have contained over 73,000 square feet of retail, restaurant, and office space in three new, two-story buildings on San Vicente Boulevard. As proposed, the Barry Building would have been demolished to make way for one of the new buildings -- even though the Barry Building’s scale, massing, and arrangement of retail spaces is remarkably similar to what would have replaced it.
The EIR did include a Preservation Alternative that would reuse the Barry Building for retail space while retaining its landmark designation. Despite this preservation-friendly choice being identified as the environmentally superior alternative, the EIR also made unsupported claims that this seemingly preferable option would not meet a number of the project objectives.
Should the proposed project or similar be resurected for approval in the future, the Conservancy will continue to advocate for a Preservation Alternative while asserting that many of the project objectives can indeed be met by reusing the Barry Building while avoiding needless alterations to the Coral Tree Median. .
Demolition of a Historic-Cultural Monument
Allowing the demolition of a designated HCM is exceedingly rare and sets a bad precedent. Out of more than 1,000 HCMs in Los Angeles, only around half a dozen have been demolished purely for new development. Demolishing the Barry Building would have beeen unnecessary, misguided, and detrimental to the City’s program of local landmarks.
Although Los Angeles’ current Cultural Heritage Ordinance can’t prevent the demolition of a Historic-Cultural Monument, it does allow the City to delay demolition. This delay period allows for further consideration of preservation alternatives, which has been successful in the past. As a result, there have been very few instances when a Historic-Cultural Monument has been demolished to make way for new development (excluding loss because of fire, earthquake damage, etc.).
The 1985 demolition of the Philharmonic Auditorium Building (HCM #61) remains an ever-present reminder that our city’s landmarks can be vulnerable. Despite receiving HCM designation in 1969 for its rich cultural heritage and architectural significance, this prominent landmark opposite Pershing Square was demolished for a mixed-use development project that never materialized.
Twenty-eight years after its demolition, the site remains a parking lot. If the Barry Building were demolished, its loss would call into question the City’s ability to protect our cultural heritage when clear adaptive reuse options exist.
As part of this proposed project, the Conservancy strongly believed that the Barry Building could and should be adaptively reused. We also objected to the unnecessary removal of the coral trees, which would have compromised the uninterrupted, linear nature of the median.
The following points summarize the Conservancy’s advocacy position throughout this nearly four-year campaign:
- The Barry Building and Coral Tree Median are designated Los Angeles landmarks (Historic-Cultural Monuments #887 and #148, respectively). Every effort should be taken to avoid the demolition of these designated landmarks, which would call into question the City’s ability to protect our cultural heritage when clear adaptive reuse options exist.
- The Barry Building can be adapted as the centerpiece of a successful Green Hollow Square project, preserving the unique and authentic character of Brentwood that many in the community have consistently supported.
- The Barry Building can be sensitively upgraded for enhanced energy efficiency to meet the project’s sustainability goals.
- Alternative 4, the preservation alternative, should be the preferred project as it would retain and reuse the Barry Building while meeting many of the project’s goals. These include providing the same number of parking spaces and nearly the same amount of square footage as the currently proposed project.
- The Coral Tree Median is a unique, historic landscape that deserves preservation instead of being compromised by a new mid-block crossing.