West Los Angeles Civic Center
UPDATE (9.21.21): The Conservancy has shared concerns, as the proposed West LA Commons project appears to call for demolition and only salvage of the Mid-Century Modern historic buildings and the identified historic district. We fully support affordable housing and believe this is readily achievable with the proposed site plan and alongside an adaptive reuse 'win-win' scenario utilizing the existing historic buildings for new, compatible uses.
On May 15, 2020, the County of Los Angeles released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the West Los Angeles Civic Center. This RFP follows a Los Angeles City Council vote on April 29 to enter a joint development agreement with the County for the redevelopment of the entire West L.A. Civic Center site rather than a selected County-owned portion as originally proposed.
In January 2021, the County and City selected Abode Communities and AvalonBay Communities to redevelop the site. Initial renderings have been released but no plans are certified at this time. The project will need to go through Environmental Review prior to project approvals.
The current RFP sets three primary project objectives:
- Repurposing adjacent but segregated properties that currently contain underutilized buildings and public spaces;
- Offering a singular economically viable building site capable of being developed to meet current community needs; and
- Providing a prime, transit-oriented location for much-needed affordable housing.
SurveyLA first identified the Civic Center as a potential historic district in 2012 for its architecture and role in expanded government services after World War II. The district is made up of four contributing buildings and a bandstand, all designed in the Mid-Century Modern style, and organized around a central plaza.
The County contracted with Sapphos Environmental, Inc. to perform a due diligence review of historic resources. In their report, the consultant recommends applicants consider hiring a historic consultant to maintain the historic district while achieving project goals that include affordable housing and municipal office space among others.
The County released an initial RFP in November 2019. In this iteration, the County focussed only on the West L.A. Courts Building, which it plans to purchase from the State of California for approximately $35 million.
Upon reading the previous RFP, the Conservancy found that the County had not adequately addressed adverse impacts to historic resources failing to list adaptive reuse as a project alternative. Following outreach by the Conservancy, the County released an addendum to the RFP addressing potential historic resources.
After a month into its release, the county suspended the previous RFP to pursue the joint redevelopment project detailed above.
The West Los Angeles Civic Center is an excellent and intact example of a Mid-Century Modern style branch administrative center. The civic center complex is a significant representation of expanded government services following World War II.
The City and County of Los Angeles jointly developed the Civic Center between 1956 and 1964. Planning for the Civic Center began in 1956 as the need to decentralize city and county services increased with the region's post-WWII population boom. In 1949, the City released its Master Plan of Branch Administrative Centers. The Master Plan proposed twelve new branch administrative centers throughout the City. Between 1957 and 1964, the public library branch, municipal building, and court building were constructed.
Despite being incomplete, the Civic Center opened in 1961, exemplifying the Mid-Century Modern design aesthetic.
Today, the Civic Center continues its government functions as envisioned. However, in the 1990s, the Civic Center became a prominent location for the progression of skateboarding. During this period, skateboarders from across the world traveled to the Civic Center after it was featured heavily in skateboarding films.
The West Los Angeles Civic Center Historic District is made up of four contributing buildings and one structure as listed below:
- The Courts Building
- The West L.A. Municipal Building
- Felicia Hahood Multipurpose Center
- LAPL West L.A. Regional Branch Library
- The Bandstand
The Los Angeles Conservancy believes that the West Los Angeles Civic Center is an excellent and intact example of a Mid-Century Modern branch civic center. By combining adaptive reuse and sensitive infill construction, the City and County of Los Angeles can meet their project objects while maintaining the historic built environment.