Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist | Los Angeles Conservancy
Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist (2011). Photo by Larry Underhill.

Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist

On December 2, 2015, plans for the proposed redevelopment of the Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist were suspended, thus ending the threat of adverse impacts to the designated Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM). The Conservancy pressed for alternatives to the initial proposal calling for the demolition of this Modernist church building.


A historically significant church in Hollywood, this modern house of worship was designed by local architect Howard Elwell. The first services were held in the completed church in 1960.

Save Residential Hollywood, Inc. nominated the former Fifth Church of Christ for listing as an HCM in May 2015. The City's Cultural Heritage Commission voted to recommend designation during its meeting on September 17. On November 24, City Council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee voted 2-0 in favor of designation.

A mixed-use development project known as Hollywood Horizon calls for the demolition of the church. New York based-developer LeFrak Organization, which purchased the property from the Fifth Church congregation in 2008, is partnering with Beverly Hills-based developer Kennedy Wilson on the project.  The project would have consisted of 410 apartments in three buildings of six, eight, and twenty-four stories.

The Conservancy submitted comments on the Notice of Preparation in January 2015, pressing for the consideration of preservation alternatives that would retain and incorporate the building as part of the proposed project.

The property is located in Councilmember David Ryu’s district.  In a 2015 candidate interview with the Conservancy prior to his election, Ryu stated that he hoped the developer of the Hollywood Horizon project would work with the community and the Conservancy. 

 

The former Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist is significant as both an example of modern ecclesiastical architecture and as a prominent, local example of Christian Science architecture from the postwar era.  We believe it is a historical resource under the California Environmental Quality Act and should be considered as such in the environmental review.

In our comments on the NOP, the Conservancy pressed for the consideration of a range of options in the Draft EIR that reuse the historic building for uses consistent with the project description, combined with infill construction elsewhere on the site to provide the desired aggregate of square footage.

We believe that creative reuse options exist for Fifth Church and that it can be integrated successfully into a larger development project for the site. The proposed project should consider adapting the church building for commercial and/or retail use and incorporating it into the full project as a distinctive anchor of the community.

Media room, business center, and conference room uses, each of which is proposed in the NOP, could be particularly well-suited for Fifth Church; the building’s acoustically balanced auditorium, lower-level reading room and foyers being conducive to these uses.

Potential alternatives in the Draft EIR could explore a redesign that relocates new construction onto the current parking lot surrounding Fifth Church while repurposing the current landscaped corner of the property into the proposed public plaza.

Because the proposed project has a goal of achieving LEED Silver certification, the energy conservation realized through preservation and adaptively reusing Fifth Church should also be analyzed in the draft EIR.

The Conservancy also spoke in support of the Historic-Cultural Monument nomination for the former Fifth Church building.