Columbia Savings | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo by Larry Underhill

Columbia Savings

In mid-2008, the Columbia Savings Building was threatened with demolition as part of the Wilshire La Brea Project. This project sought the redevelopment of the entire block bounded by Wilshire Boulevard, Eighth Street, and La Brea and Sycamore Avenues.

Everything on the block, including the Columbia Savings Building, was replaced with mixed-use retail and restaurant space and nearly 500 apartment units.

Following a lengthy effort to try and save Columbia Savings, the building was demolished in 2010.

The Conservancy responded to the project's environmental impact report (EIR) with detailed information about the building’s significance. Although creative options existed for reusing the building while meeting most of the project objectives, the building's significance was ignored throughout the environmental review process. The city's Planning Commission voted on August 13, 2009 to recommend certification of the project EIR.

n an effort to definitively prove the building’s historic significance—and require consideration of preservation alternatives in the EIR—the Conservancy nominated the building for listing in the California Register of Historical Resources.

The nomination was scheduled to be heard in January 2010. The Conservancy urged the city's Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee to postpone its vote on the final EIR until the State Historic Resources Commission had a chance to review the nomination. Our plea went unheeded. On December 1, the PLUM Committee voted to recommend certification of the EIR.

The City Council certified the EIR on December 4, 2009. Staff from the Conservancy attended the Council meeting to voice our opposition to the project one last time, as we had for over a year.

Knowing that the certification of the EIR was likely, the Conservancy wrote to the City Council before the meeting, asking for a condition on the certification that would require the issuance of building permits for the new project before allowing demolition of the Columbia Savings Building. This would have safeguarded against the building's pre-emptive demolition and the very real potential that the site could remain vacant indefinitely, given the current economic climate.

A number of Conservancy supporters and community members also attended the meeting to voice their concerns. Unfortunately, no one had the opportunity to address the Council. The agenda item was quickly voted on with no public discussion, despite speaker request cards submitted at the beginning of the meeting.

Since no public comment was heard, the Council couldn't consider adding a condition to prevent pre-emptive demolition. As a result, the EIR was certified, the building's demolition began hours later, and the massive lot now sits vacant for the foreseeable future.