A brown run-down building with broken windows and a steel fence surrounding it.


Rancho Los Amigos

The former County Poor Farm, now abandoned, provides a rare glimpse into the early history of Los Angeles.


On October 1, 2021 Downey certified the Specific Plan which reaffirmed the County’s proposed demolition of the historic district. 

Place Details


7601 Imperial Highway,
Downey, California 90242
Get directions


1888 campus, existing structures mainly from 1900s through 1940s


A brown run-down building with broken windows and a steel fence surrounding it.

Rancho Los Amigos and power plant structure. Photo by Adrian Scott Fine/L.A. Conservancy


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

In June 2021, the City of Downey released its Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Rancho Los Amigos South Campus Specific Plan. On October 1, 2021 Downey certified the Specific Plan which reaffirmed the County’s proposed demolition of the historic district. The Conservancy submitted comments on Downey’s Specific Plan on multiple occasions raising concerns about the importance of this historic resource.

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.

For decades the County had 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 were 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 planned 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 proposed project would construct new County administrative buildings on a portion of the seventy-four-acre site. The County sought to consolidate existing facilities creating an Internal Services Department (ISD) Headquarters, Probation Headquarters, and a County Office Building.

About This Place

About This Place

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.

Our Position

There were 103 buildings, structures, and features on the 74-acre site, of which just over 60 are contributing. These resources were 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 proposal called for the demolition of nearly all buildings, structures, and landscape features apart from three individually eligible buildings, a water tower plus the Moreton Bay fig tree.

For over a decade the Conservancy worked closely with various County representatives in regard 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 believed there is a “win-win” scenario available to the County where both preservation and new construction is possible. We questioned why the County is investing funding in a massive expansion of County operations, including a Probation Headquarters and administrative offices, during a 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.

The County attempted 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.

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 quickly determined critical information was missing for us to ascertain if the numbers are fully accurate and preservation is infeasible as stated by the County.

The EIR was 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 advocated for a 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.


Figure 2-3 in the DEIR shows the extent of historic resources on the Rancho Los Amigos South Campus | Map produced by ESA for Rancho Los Amigos South Campus Project Draft Environmental Impact Report
One of many holes in \"secured\" perimeter fencing | Erik Van Breene
Auditorium | Adrian Scott Fine
Demolition by neglect | Adrian Scott Fine
Rancho Los Amigos | Adrian Scott Fine
Figure 2-8 in the DEIR shows the two remaining historic buildings (1100 &1234), Moreton Bay Fig Tree, and Water Tower (1301) | Map produced by ESA for Rancho Los Amigos South Campus Project Draft Environmental Impact Report
Figure 2-6 in the DEIR shows shows the proposed County buildings in relation to historic resources and overall South Campus site. | Map produced by ESA for Rancho Los Amigos South Campus Project Draft Environmental Impact Report