Roosevelt High School | Los Angeles Conservancy
R Building, Roosevelt High School. Photo by Manuel Huerta/L.A. Conservancy

Roosevelt High School

The Roosevelt High School Comprehensive Modernization Project, as currently proposed by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), will demolish and replace almost all of the historically and culturally significant buildings on the school campus, including the original Auditorium and Classroom Building (1922), also known as the "R" Building.

This project is part of a larger school modernization program by LAUSD. Roosevelt High School is one of eleven schools identified in an initial phased effort to upgrade facilities throughout the school district. 

Roosevelt High School played a key role in the 1968 East L.A. Chicano Student Walkouts (Blowouts), which helped catalyze the Chicano civil rights movement. March 6, 2018 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Walkouts, giving LAUSD a unique opportunity to recognize and preserve an important part of our shared Los Angeles history.

A group of local residents and Roosevelt High School alumni have formed the Committee to Defend Roosevelt High School/Defendamos la escuela Roosevelt to urge LAUSD to reuse Roosevelt High School's significant resources as part of the campus-wide modernization effort. The Conservancy is working with the Committee to support their efforts.

Students deserve the safest and high-quality school facilties possible. The Conservancy believes that LAUSD can provide safety, quality education, and historic preservation -- it's not an "either/or" choice. We have worked successfully with LAUSD to upgrade historic schools while respecting their historic character. We look forward to finding a similar solution for Roosevelt High School.

Because LAUSD's plan proposes demolition of historically and culturally significant resources at Roosevelt High School, the District is required to assess the impacts of demolition, as well as identify and consider a range of feasible preservation alternatives. This environmental review process occurs through the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

LAUSD released an Initial Study and Notice of Preparation for a Draft Environmental Impact Report in October 2017. The Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) was released on February 6, 2018. View the DEIR and related documents here:

The public will have forty-five days to comment on the DEIR from February 6, 2018 through March 23, 2018. Public comment is critical in the decision-making process, so please submit comments and attend public meetings if you can (see the "How you Can Help" tab for details).  

LAUSD will host a public meeting on the project on Wednesday, February 21, at 6 p.m., at the Roosevelt High School Cafeteria, 456 S. Mathews Street, Boyle Heights.

Please see the other tabs on this page for background, the Conservancy's position, and how you can help.

Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights opened in 1923. Over the decades, the campus expanded to nearly 23 acres, bounded by Mathews, Mott, Fourth, and Sixth Streets.

The original Auditorium and Classroom Building, popularly known as the "R" Building (as well as Building 1 in current LAUSD documentation), received a seismic upgrade and PWA Moderne-style remodel following the 1933 Long Beach earthquake. 

In March 1968, Roosevelt High School, along with Wilson, Lincoln, Belmont, and Garfield High Schools, was thrust into the national spotlight. Thousands of Chicano students staged a series of organized walkouts to demand educational equity, known as the East L.A. Chicano Student Walkouts (Blowouts).

Roosevelt High School administrators locked the gates surrounding the school to prevent striking students from leaving, and LAPD squad cars surrounded the campus to intimidate the strikers. Yet students participated in the Walkouts all the same.

Roosevelt's R Building has been documented as the primary setting for Walkout-related activities, such as a student sit-in and an assembly held by District officials. Historians have detailed the significance of the Walkouts as the first major protest against racial and educational inequality staged by Chicanos in the U.S., serving as an important catalyst for the Chicanx movement in Los Angeles and beyond.

March 6, 2018 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Walkouts, giving LAUSD a unique opportunity to recognize and preserve an important part of our shared Los Angeles history.

As currently envisioned, the proposed Roosevelt High School Modernization Project would demolish and replace historically and culturally significant buildings at Roosevelt High School, resulting in the complete loss of an important National Register-eligible historic district.

Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), LAUSD must consider a range of feasible preservation alternatives to demolition. These alternatives should accomplish most of the project goals while retaining one or more of the campus’s historic buildings, notably the original Auditorium and Classroom Building (R Building, also referred to as Building 1). 

However, in August 2017, the Board of Education authorized LAUSD to enter into a contract for design and construction activities associated with the Roosevelt High School Comprehensive Modernization Project. This action appears to pre-commit LAUSD to the project design before the completion of the environmental review process, which must consider a range of feasible preservation alternatives.

The Board of Education also commissioned two historic resource evaluations of Roosevelt High School in preparation for the project. After reviewing an evaluation from June 2015, the Conservancy raised concerns that the document omitted important historical information. We urged LAUSD to commission a more thorough historic resource assessment, that would consider local, state, and national eligibility criteria.

As a result, a subsequent historic resource evaluation was completed in May 2017 (Draft Supplemental Historic Resource Evaluation Report for Roosevelt Senior High School, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California). This report detailed the historical and cultural significance of Roosevelt High School. It identifies the campus as historic district-eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, for its associations with the East L.A. Walkouts and Chicano civil rights movement.

Despite these findings, it appears that the planning for the proposed Roosevelt High School Modernizaton Project has continued apace, without reconsidering the retention of any identified historic resources. 

Safety, Quality, AND History

Students deserve the safest, highest-quality school facilities possible. LAUSD can provide safety, quality education, and historic preservation -- it's not an "either/or" choice. Roosevelt High School should be modernized, but it doesn't need to happen at the expense of the community's shared history. A partial preservation approach would preserve the R Building while integrating new construction and desired community amenities, including a wellness center.

LAUSD has upgraded older buildings at other campuses, including Jordan High School in South Los Angeles and John Burroughs School in Hancock Park, to meet current needs. Historic buildings are commonly upgraded and seismically retrofitted. Technological advances provide many options for seismically retrofitting historic buildings. 

Roosevelt High School’s historic buildings shouldn’t be frozen in time. Preservation allows a lot of flexibility in adapting buildings to continue serving the community. Rehabilitation of historic building interiors can range from preserving existing features and spaces to total reconfigurations to meet new community needs.

Technological advances provide many options for seismically retrofitting historic buildings. Preservation architects and engineers have made great strides in addressing these concerns. LAUSD officials have claimed that R Building has significant seismic issues. We have asked for data to substantiate this claim, but have yet to receive it.

Like any other building, historic buildings need proper maintenance and periodic updates. The current condition of a building does not dictate whether it can be rehabilitated.

Roosevelt High School played an important role in the East L.A. Chicano Student Walkouts of 1968, which mark their 50th anniversary in March. LAUSD has a unique opportunity to preserve the buildings where this history happened. Doing so enlivens history, social studies, geography, ethnic studies, and other subjects for current and future generations of Roosevelt High School students and others who are interested in learning about the histories of Boyle Heights, the Chicano Movement, and Los Angeles.

When people think of Roosevelt High School, they think of this building, and the important events and memories that are associated with it. Retaining the R Building would not lessen the various upgrades planned throughout the campus. 

Roosevelt has been identified as a National Register-eligible historic district for its association with the Chicano civil rights movement by the City of Los Angeles’ SurveyLA in 2014 and LAUSD’s Supplemental Historic Evaluation Report for the campus in May 2017. As part of the environmental process, LAUSD must consider preservation alternatives that will mitigate or avoid the significant effects of the modernization plan on cultural resources.

You can voice your support for preservation at Roosevelt High in several ways:

  1. Support the local community group Committee to Defend Roosevelt High School by:
  2. Attend the public meeting on the project next Wednesday, February 21, at 6 p.m., at the Roosevelt High Cafeteria, 4567 S. Mathews Street, and voice your support for preservation in the modernization plan. If you attended Roosevelt, if you have children who will attend Roosevelt, and/or if you live or work in Boyle Heights, please share your personal reasons for supporting the preservation of this historic place in your community. 
  3. If you have a personal connection with the school, take a moment to share your own story about Roosevelt High School.
  4. Encourage others, particularly residents of Boyle Heights, to join you in voicing their support. 
  5. Submit comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report by Friday, March 23, urging LAUSD to choose a partial preservation option for the project that honors the community’s shared history by reusing its most important historic structures. For talking points, see the “Our Position” tab on this page. As noted above, if you're a community member, please state your personal connection and reasons for supporting preservation.

Please email your comments to edward.paek@lausd.net and copy rsagara@laconservancy.org so we can track support. Or, mail them to the Los Angeles Unified School District; Attn: Edward Paek, AICP; 333 S Beaudry Avenue, 21st floor; Los Angeles CA, 90017.

You can find the DEIR and related documents here:

Thank you for your support!