In 2000 a plan emerged by then-owner Legacy Partners to demolish the existing 260-unit development with a new 403-unit project. Following strong opposition from long-time tenants, the Conservancy, and then-councilmember Michael Feuer, successfully designated Chase Knolls as a Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM). A Los Angeles Times editorial at the time said, “You don’t have to be an expert to recognize that there’s something special about Chase Knolls.”
Chase Knolls, built between 1947 and 1949 and designed by Heth Wharton and Ralph Vaughn, is an intact example of postwar garden apartments developed to meet the needs of the period’s population boom.
In 2000, when Legacy Partners purchased Chase Knolls, the owner did not communicate their plans to the residents. Over months residents began to notice individuals taking soil samples and units remaining vacant long after tenants moved out. The suspicious activity inspired concerned residents to organize under the Chase Knolls Residents Association (CKRA). In the same year, CKRA began distributing a newsletter to residents in Chase Knolls as well as the surrounding community. Grassroots action sparked media attention that led to Councilmember Feuer’s commitment to preservation.
In 2004, with the property designated, the owner proposed plans for an infill project to achieve additional units. CKRA worked hard advocating for the project to meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. For years CKRA worked tirelessly for a preservation solution. By 2013, the owners rehabilitated the residential building exteriors, including new roofs, period-appropriate paint colors, and the restoration of key landscape features, many of which had fallen into disrepair or destroyed.
After much debate, the owners ultimately decided to instead preserve Chase Knolls. They gained approval for sensitive infill development as part of this negotiated process, allowing them to build up to six new buildings with 141 units in areas where carports exist, increasing the number of allowable housing units to 401, just shy of what was originally proposed through demolition. Legacy Partners also pursued incentive programs including the Mills Act to provide substantial property tax relief in exchange for preserving and maintaining the historic property.
While there have been delays and challenges in terms of implementing provisions outlined within the Mills Act contract, there is good news to report. By the summer of 2013, the owners have completed a full exterior rehabilitation on all of Chase Knolls’ garden apartment buildings – including new roofs, period-appropriate paint colors, and the restoration of key features. Work resumed on the approved project in the summer of 2016.