Rancho Los Amigos | Los Angeles Conservancy
Rancho Los Amigos and early dormitory structure. Photo by Adrian Scott Fine/L.A. Conservancy.

Rancho Los Amigos

 

Learn more by checking out a recording of our live stream presentation: People + Places: The Forgotten Story of Rancho Los Amigos

On June 23, 2020 the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors voted in full support of a plan for nearly wholesale demolition and redevelopment of Rancho Los Amigos. This will demolish nearly 60 historic buildings and destroy a nationally-significant historic district. 

For decades the County has allowed Rancho Los Amigos to deteriorate and in some cases be destroyed on a building-by-building basis. Per the County, "[t]he buildings to be demolished have been vacant and boarded up since the 1980s and have deteriorated due to weather, interior and exterior vandalism, and multiple arson fires." 

Over 60 historic buildings are slated for demolition as part of the Los Angeles County’s plan for the Rancho Los Amigos (RLA) South Campus, a California Register-listed and National Register-eligible historic district dating to 1888. In total, the County plans to demolish over 100 existing buildings as part of the redevelopment, retaining a Moreton Bay fig tree, a water tower (1913), and only three historic buildings, including the 1926 Administration Staff building, 1930 Casa Consuelo patient ward, and a Power Plant building.

The buildings in red are planned to be demolished. Only the buildings (including a tree and water tower) in yellow will remain. UPDATE (6/2020): an additional building, the Power Plant, is now proposed for preservation. 

The proposed project will construct three new County administrative buildings on a portion of the seventy-four-acre site. The County seeks to consolidate existing facilities creating an Internal Services Department (ISD) Headquarters, Probation Headquarters, and a County Office Building.

On October 28, 2019, Los Angeles County held a project open house at the Barbara J. Riley Community & Senior Center in Downey. Approximately 100 residents attended with many raising concerns about the proposed project's many environmental impacts.

During the Project's Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) review period, the Conservancy submitted a letter detailing our concerns and through a series of meetings has repeated expressed the problems with the way the County is approaching this proposed project. Our various comment letters are available for review in the documents section of this page.

The final EIR was released on June 12, in anticipation of this proposed project and a request for approval going before the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors on June 23. 

From 1888 to 1906, the RLA South Campus was developed as the Los Angeles County Poor Farm. During this period, citizens unable to care for themselves performed agricultural labor at the working farm in exchange for room and board. In this capacity, RLA provided relief to the overcrowded county hospital by housing its more able-bodied patients, freeing space for the sick and elderly.

Beginning in 1907, the campus evolved from poor farm to long-term rehabilitation hospital and renamed Rancho Los Amigos in 1932. In 1957, agricultural production halted as the campus transitioned to a permanent hospital facility.

Primarily developed between 1907 and 1932, the vast majority of the district’s buildings are extant. Listed in the California Register, a historic resources survey found the district eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

There are 103 buildings, structures, and features on the 74-acre site, of which  just over 60 are contributing. These resources are largely primary buildings, which include an auditorium, dormitories, meeting halls, and a cafeteria/kitchen. Set within the buildings are landscaped areas, courtyards, and intact circulation patterns. Five historic resources have been found to be individually eligible.

The County’s current proposal calls for the demolition of nearly all buildings, structures, and landscape features with the exception of three individually eligible buildings, a water tower plus the Moreton Bay fig tree.

For over a decade the Conservancy has been working closely with various County representatives in regards to Rancho Los Amigos and its future, with numerous reuse and redevelopment proposals considered. In all cases we have pressed for meaningful retention of the Historic District and repurposing the buildings for new uses. We strongly believe there is a “win-win” scenario available to the County where both preservation and new construction is possible. Now more than ever, we question why the County is investing funding in a massive expansion of County operations, including a Probation Headquarters and administrative offices, during this time when other pressing community needs are great and resources are scarce. 

The County has repeated cited the conditions, deterioration, vandalism and a series of arson fires as being life-safety concerns and as justification for the nearly wholesale demolition of the Historic District as part of this project.

To be clear, the County now attempts to use the years of neglect it has shown these resources as a basis for nearly wholesale demolition of the historic district, when new construction is proposed for only 35 acres of the overall 74 acre site.

No analysis was provided in the DEIR that substantiates that buildings are beyond repair or reuse and therefore must be demolished. Further, no recent analysis was provided that substantiates how such infeasibility was ascertained. The lack of condition and feasibility analysis are core deficiencies in the EIR.

After repeated requests by the Conservancy, and being told it was not available, on May 15 County representatives provided us with new feasibility cost analysis dated May 2020. How exactly did the County decide and make findings in the 2019 DEIR that preservation was infeasible without this analysis?

Further, the over 2,000-page feasibility analysis was only provided to the Conservancy, not the public. We have scrambled in a very short timeframe to review and understand this document, and we’ve quickly determined critical information is missing for us to ascertain if the numbers are fully accurate and preservation is infeasibility as stated by the County. By not providing this information, why is the County essentially hiding the ball and failing to meet its CEQA obligation?

The EIR is legally inadequate in its description of existing conditions, failing to support claims regarding the condition of existing resources or disclose its legal duty to protect those resources.

The EIR should instead have considered feasible alternatives that incorporate a mix of new construction and adaptive reuse of many of the buildings that are contributing resources to the historic district.

The Conservancy has advocated for this win-win approach for a number of years, but the County has yet to take the necessary hard look at this proposal, in violation of the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”). We commented on the Notice of Preparation (NOP) for the project in 2017, the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) in 2019, and met with LA County and project team representatives multiple times to learn more about the proposal and tour the campus. We raised several concerns about the project’s purpose, the County’s need to evaluate adaptive reuse and preservation alternatives in the draft environmental impact report (DEIR), and the County’s problematic approach that seeks to demolish nearly all of the historic campus despite the project being limited to 35 acres of the 74-acre site.

On June 23 the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors voted in full support on a plan calling for nearly wholesale demolition and redevelopment of Rancho Los Amigos. This will destroy a nationally-significant historic district. There was no discussion as this item was apparently not considered important enough to address community concerns. 

We asked for the following:

  • Reject the County’s preferred project for nearly wholesale demolition, and instead pursue a viable preservation alternative, calling for a “win-win” outcome that balances both preservation and new construction while maintaining the Rancho Los Amigos Historic District.  
  • Question why the County is investing funding in a massive expansion of operations during this time when other pressing community needs are great and resources are scarce. Where is the accountability?
  • Press for safeguards to ensure demolition doesn’t occur unnecessarily and require a condition that demolition can only proceed once the project is funded and building permits are issued.

Here’s what you can do now:

FIRST, contact Fourth District Supervisor Janice Hahn where this project is located. Call her office at (213) 974-4444 tell her you're disappointed in her decision and to reconsider.  Also, contact Ivan Sulic in Hahn's Field Office at isulic@bos.lacounty.gov. So that we can track progress please copy Adrian Scott Fine at the Conservancy, afine@laconservancy.org.  

SECOND, contact all members of the Board of Supervisors and also express your disappointment in their decision and lack of accountability to L.A. County's heritage:

THIRD, post to social media (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and tag the County of Los Angeles and Board of Supervisors. Find their social media pages at https://lacounty.gov/social/.