Firestone Tire and Rubber Plant | Los Angeles Conservancy
Firestone Tire and Rubber Plant, "Building 2" by Adrian Scott Fine/L.A. Conservancy

Firestone Tire and Rubber Plant

In August 2020, the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) released its Notice of Preparation for the proposed demolition of the last building associated with the historic Firestone Tire and Rubber Plant, South Gate Facility. The Notice of Preparation for the South Gate Educational Center (SGEC) Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is the third environmental review project for the campus in ten years. With each EIR, LACCD has demolished a new set of historic buildings clearing the way for five new surface parking lots and one classroom building. 

During the LACCD's first EIR in 2009, SWCA Environmental Consultants determined the Firestone plant eligible as the South Gate Historic District for listing in the California Register of Historical Resources. At that time, four buildings comprised the South Gate Historic District. Buildings 1, 2, and 3 were identified as individually eligible for listing in the California Register and Building 4 was determined to be a district contributor. 

"Building 2" is the last remaining structure connected to this important industrial facility, targeted by the LACCD for demolition, thereby erasing Firestone Tire's significant legacy in South Gate.

Given the two previous EIRs, LACCD has either shown their lack of understanding of the California Envionmental Quality Act (CEQA) for planning the SGEC campus or is consciously dismantling the eligible historic district through a piecemeal process.

We believe there is more than enough space on the campus to provide LACCD's desired greenspace without needlessly demolishing this historic building. With more than 3/4 of the campus set to be used for parking, LACCD can reimagine their plans for parking as a means to incorporate the desired greenspace.

In 1927, construction began on Firestone Tire's first manufacturing facility outside of Akron, Ohio. The property, known as the Firestone Tire and Rubber Plant, South Gate Facility, was designed by architects Alec Curlett & Claud Beelman in the Italianate Mediterranean Revival style.

As Los Angeles's automobile and aerospace industries grew, so did the plant. Additions to the facility were constructed in 1929, 1942, 1951, and 1955. It's unknown if the original architects were retained for these additions. The Firestone Plant contributed greatly to the local economy, creating thousands of jobs, along with BF Goodrich and Goodyear, Los Angeles became the country's second-largest rubber manufacturer after Akron, OH.

After a number of sales in the 1970s, Firestone Tire closed its South Gate Facility in 1980. In 2009 the property was purchased by the Los Angeles Community College District for the South Gate Educational Center campus.

We believe that the Los Angeles Community College District has failed to adequately adhere to  the California Envionmental Quality Act (CEQA) and plan for their students needs during two previous environmental impact reports over a period of 10 years. 

To date, much of the campus remains vacant and it is not too late for LACCD to halt their proposed demolition of Building 2 and reimagine green space and parking design on their campus. 

Why is the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) planning to demolish this 1920s Claud Beelman-designed building (Building #2), the last-remaining structure at the former Firestone Tire and Rubber Plant in South Gate? It seems needless and a waste when it can otherwise be adaptively reused rather than demolished.

In recent years the LACCD has chipped away at this former historic district and once-massive factory, demolishing everything else and only leaving this building standing. Located at the prominent intersection of Firestone Boulevard and Santa Fe Avenue, it seems well-suited for reuse and telling the story of Firestone’s role in South Gate’s history. Instead, as part of the planned South Gate Educational Center, LACCD has now decided it should go to create green space.

Given this building doesn’t impede on the Educational Center’s operation and there are numerous planned surface parking lots surrounding it, the current plan could easily be reconfigured to accommodate green space without calling for the demolition of this significant historic building. If inclined, it is a readily achievable “win-win” for LACCD.

Please reach out to LACCD, pressing them to reconsider their plans and instead retain and reuse Building #2. Call and email the LACCD Office of the Board of Trustees at (213) 891-2044 and LACCDBOToffice@laccd.edu; and email Rueban Smith, Chief Facilities Executive, smithrc@email.laccd.edu. Please copy us at afine@laconservancy.org so that we can track support.