St. John's in the Valley Methodist Church | Los Angeles Conservancy
Left: St. John's in July 2013; Right: The cleared lot in April 2014. Photos courtesy of the San Fernando Valley Blog.

St. John's in the Valley Methodist Church

St. John's in the Valley Methodist Church, located in the heart of the San Fernando Valley, is believed to have been demolished in spring 2014 prior to the issuance of a demolition permit. The property owner has sought to redevelop the site since 2012. 

Completed in 1959, St. John's was an excellent example of Mid-Century Modern architecture in an ecclesiastical context and was reflective of the Valley's ethnic and religious diversity.

In 2013, the SurveyLA field team evaluated the property and identified it as being eligible for designation on the National Register of Historic Places, the California Register of Historical Resources, and as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM). 

In January 2014, the Los Angeles City Council adopted a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) for a condominium project, which did not acknowledge the presence of a known historic resource on the property. The applicant is now seeking to develop a small lot subdivision. 

The property owner applied for a demolition permit on February 25, 2014, which was obtained on May 6, 2014. An entry (including photos) on the San Fernando Valley Blog on April 7, however, reveals that St. John's had already been demolished, prior to the clearance of the permit. 

 

The Department of City Planning processed the environmental review for the replacement project at 20600-20620 West Roscoe Boulevard as a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND), which did not acknowledge the SurveyLA findings or include a thorough study of potential impacts on historic resources. 

The City Planning Commission (CPC) reviewed the original MND for a condominium development at a hearing on April 25, 2013 and voted to adopt staff findings and recommend approval.

The City then recirculated a slightly revised MND on May 30, 2013 due to changes in density and the overall site plan. The City found that the project would not have an impact on cultural resources, as "the project site does not contain any historic resources of record and is not listed on any Local, State, or Federal Registers." The CPC approved the revised project in October 2013, and City Council adopted the MND in January 2014. 

Since receiving approval for the condo project in early 2014, the applicant has changed course and is currently proposing to construct 77 small lot single-family dwellings. 

Because St. John's in the Valley Methodist Church had been previously identified as being eligible for the local, California, and National Register, its demolition resulted in a significant impact where an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was required. 

The Conservancy is concerned about the precedent that this project might set, as it reflects a growing trend in the City's treatment of historic resources and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Similar questions have been raised with the demolition of the Mole-Richardson Studio Depot in June 2014 and the proposed demolition of the Sportsmen's Lodge

Furthermore, the Conservancy is troubled by the evidence indicating that the religious campus was demolished prior to the issuance of any permits.