Press Release: L.A. Conservancy Sues West Hollywood over Violation of Environmental Law
Los Angeles Conservancy Sues City of West Hollywood over Violation of State Environmental Law
Los Angeles, September 18, 2014 – The Los Angeles Conservancy today filed litigation against the City of West Hollywood to force the City’s compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) regarding the proposed demolition of the historic Jones Dog & Cat Hospital building.
“We are not a litigious organization, but the City’s violation of CEQA was so egregious that we had no choice,” said Linda Dishman, the Conservancy’s executive director. This is the first litigation filed by the Conservancy since 2007, regarding the now-demolished Ambassador Hotel.
Located at 9080 Santa Monica Boulevard, the Jones Dog & Cat Hospital building was constructed in 1938 and designed by the renowned architectural firm of Wurdeman and Becket. It is an early, intact design by the firm and may be the only remaining work of theirs in West Hollywood. It is also a rare example in the city of Streamline Moderne commercial architecture. The City acknowledges the building as a historic resource for purposes of CEQA review.
The litigation stems from the City of West Hollywood’s failure to adequately evaluate preservation alternatives for the building as part of the Melrose Triangle Project, a mixed-use project proposed for the block bordered by Melrose Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. The City Council certified the project’s environmental impact report (EIR) on August 18, approving the project as proposed, which calls for the building’s demolition.
The Conservancy considers the certified EIR flawed and inadequate because of its cursory analysis of preservation options for the building. Though the EIR purported to identify a preservation alternative, it offered no details, schematics, or other information to allow meaningful evaluation and comparison with the proposed project.
“Cities have to obey the law when it comes to environmental review,” said Adrian Scott Fine, the Conservancy’s director of advocacy. “West Hollywood’s actions set a dangerous precedent.”
The Melrose Triangle Project EIR failed to consider a range of reasonable preservation alternatives and mitigation measures or to adequately analyze the alternatives and mitigations that it did consider, including the feasible adaptive reuse and incorporation of the Jones Dog & Cat Hospital building into an economically viable mixed-use project.
In addition to the Conservancy, local advocacy groups including the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance, the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles, and Save the SMB [Santa Monica Boulevard] Streamline Moderne have worked tirelessly for the feasible reuse of the building as part of the project.
The developer of the Melrose Triangle Project, the Charles Company, had agreed over the summer to work with the preservation community and evaluate options that would incorporate the building into the proposed project. The Conservancy worked successfully with the Charles Company in the past to reuse the Golden Gate Theatre in East Los Angeles as a retail drugstore. Yet in this case, the developer proposed only to reconstruct a small portion of the facade in a new location. That is not meaningful preservation.
“We’re not opposed to the development of a mixed-use, gateway project at this location,” said Fine. “We oppose the needless loss of this historic building when its adaptive reuse as part of the overall design is so clearly feasible. State law requires no less.”
About the Los Angeles Conservancy
The Los Angeles Conservancy is a membership-based nonprofit organization that works through advocacy and education to recognize, preserve, and revitalize the historic architectural and cultural resources of Los Angeles County. Founded in 1978 as part of the community-based effort to prevent demolition of the Los Angeles Central Library, the Conservancy now has 6,000 member households and hundreds of volunteers, making it the largest group of its kind in the U.S.
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