Kidney Center of Los Angeles / Universal Care Medical & Dental | Los Angeles Conservancy
Universal Care Medical & Dental Building. Photo by Adrian Scott Fine/L.A. Conservancy

Kidney Center of Los Angeles / Universal Care Medical & Dental

In June 2018, the Los Angeles City Council certified the proposed residential and commercial mixed-use development project at W. 6th and Bixel Streets known as the Sapphire Project.  In approving the project, the Council adopted a Statement of Overriding Considerations, thereby concluding that the benefits of the project outweigh the loss of the two architecturally significant structures on the project site. The approved project will demolish all buildings on the site, including the pair of prominent Late Moderne structures on W. 6th Street.  Two new buildings would be constructed in their place and be connected by a pedestrian bridge.

The Conservancy submitted comments on the environmental review for the project, raising concerns about the significance of the structures, urging for them to be identified as historic resources in the draft environmental impact report (DEIR) and for the inclusion of preservation alternatives that could reuse them as part of the project.

The Cultural Resources technical report in the DEIR identified 1111 W. 6th Street and 1125 W. 6th Street as eligible for listing in the National Register and California Register, respectively.  A third building at the rear of the site at 1330 W. 5th Street was not found to be a historic resource.

The DEIR included three true alternatives in addition to the no project alternative.  Both the “Adaptive Reuse Alternative” (reused as residential and selected as the environmentally superior alternative) and the “Commercial Reuse Alternative” (reused as commercial) would have reused the two buildings on 6th Street while appearing to retain their eligibility as historic resources.  A “Reduced Density Alternative” would have demolished the two buildings like the proposed project.

Of the 11 project objectives, the analysis found that both reuse alternatives fully met 3, partially met 2, and failed to meet 6.

Despite the inclusion of two seemingly viable preservation alternatives in the DEIR, the City ultimately selected the proposed project for certification. The Conservancy is disappointed that the city rejected a clear opportunity for a "win-win" solution combining adaptive reuse with new construction.

 

The Sapphire Project aims to construct a new residential and commercial mixed-use project at W. 6th and S. Bixel streets. The proposed project calls for the removal of all existing on-site structures, including two significant modern resources. Two new buildings would be constructed in their place and connected by a pedestrian bridge.

Constructed in 1955 and 1967, respectively, the Kidney Center of Los Angeles (1125 W. 6th Street) and Universal Care Medical & Dental Building (1111 W. 6th Street) buildings were both designed by noted Southern California firm Kistner, Wright & Wright. In 2014, both buildings were identified as being eligible for historic designation through SurveyLA, the City of Los Angeles' comprehensive citywide historic resources survey, as excellent and rare examples of Late Moderne commercial architecture in Westlake.

The Conservancy submitted comments on the Notice of Preparation in April 2016, pressing the City of Los Angeles to mandate consideration of a range of potentially feasible preservation alternatives in the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

The City released the Draft EIR for the proposed project in July 2017. Learn more >>

In our comments on the Notice of Preparation (NOP), the Conservancy pressed the City of Los Angeles to treat 1111 W. 6th Street and 1125 W. 6th Street as "historical resources" under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) based on their architectural significance.

According to SurveyLA, the Universal Care Medical & Dental Building (1111 W. 6th Street) is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the California Register of Historical Resources, and as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM). The Kidney Center of Los Angeles (1125 W. 6th Street) is eligible for the California Register and as an HCM. 

As currently proposed, the nearly 350,000 square foot project would demolish both buildings, causing significant and irreversible adverse impacts to cultural resources. The Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) should study a range of preservation alternatives that reuse the historic buildings for residential and/or commercial use and incorporate higher density infill construction elsewhere on the site. 

We strongly encourage the applicant to explore the potential for a "win-win" outcome. Throughout the country, including in Los Angeles, there are similar examples to demonstrate how new construction can be successfully integrated with existing historic buildings.