Press Release: L.A. Superior Court Rules in Favor of Los Angeles Conservancy in 8150 Sunset Case
Los Angeles, April 26, 2017—On Tuesday, April 25, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Amy Hogue ruled in favor of the Los Angeles Conservancy in its public interest lawsuit to stop the needless demolition of the historic Lytton Savings building (now Chase Bank). Now a designated Historic-Cultural Monument, the 1960 building at 8150 Sunset Boulevard was proposed for demolition as part of a new mixed-use development.
“We’re very grateful for this decision, and we’re excited that the development project can move forward incorporating the historic Lytton Savings building,” said Linda Dishman, the Conservancy’s president and CEO.
“We’ve worked with many architects and developers to successfully integrate historic places into new development, and now that can happen here,” said Adrian Scott Fine, the Conservancy’s director of advocacy. “Blending old and new is the wave of the future in Los Angeles.”
The Court’s comprehensive ruling found that because the City’s approval of the Lytton Savings building’s demolition violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a state law that protects California’s built environment as it does the natural environment, the project approval must be set aside. The environmental impact report (EIR) for the 8150 Sunset Boulevard project studied two alternatives that included the historic building and determined that they would feasibly accomplish the project. The City later claimed that the preservation alternatives were not feasible and approved the building’s demolition.
The Conservancy did not challenge the adequacy of the project EIR. Conservancy attorney Susan Brandt-Hawley explained the significance of the Court’s ruling as, “The City Council abused its discretion and violated state law by approving this demolition of a historic resource. The loss of Lytton Savings would be a significant environmental impact, and it is feasible to instead avoid demolition and move ahead with the project.”
At 20,000 square feet, the Lytton Savings building represents only a small portion of the 330,000-square-foot development planned for the site. “The City Council already amended the project once after certifying the EIR,” said Dishman. “It can now amend the project again to accommodate this historic building, which represents just six percent of the project’s total square footage.”
The Conservancy had worked with the developer early in the process, and reusing the Lytton Savings building was considered part of the project until architect Frank Gehry developed a new design for the site. Gehry has experience working with existing buildings; he designed a performance hall inside a 1955 building in Berlin and recently broke ground on the renovation of the historic Philadelphia Museum of Art.
About the Litigation
In the litigation, the Conservancy contended that the City blatantly disregarded environmental law in its approval of the 8150 Sunset Boulevard Project, a mixed-use development proposed for the southwest corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights Boulevards.
The project EIR acknowledged Lytton Savings as a qualified historical resource under CEQA. The EIR identified two feasible preservation alternatives allowing Lytton Savings to be incorporated into the project. Under CEQA, a project must avoid significant impacts such as the demolition of a historic resource if the fundamental project objectives can be met without demolition.
Nonetheless, the Los Angeles City Council approved the project that, as designed by architect Frank Gehry, calls for the needless demolition of Lytton Savings. While the City claimed that the EIR’s preservation alternatives were not feasible, its findings were contradicted in the EIR and were not supported by any substantial evidence.
In August 2016, the group Friends of Lytton Savings nominated the building for Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) designation to provide some measure of protection. However, the City’s Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee postponed consideration of the nomination, leaving Lytton Savings unprotected when the City Council approved the project to replace it. The City Council approved the project on November 1 and the HCM nomination on December 13.
About the Building
Completed in 1960, Lytton Savings exemplifies a transformative shift in bank design after World War II. As the EIR explains, the bank design “was strategically conceived as a modern multi-media showcase for Modern art, architecture, and interior design … related directly to its Sunset Boulevard context” with a “distinctive folded plate concrete roof.”
It was designed by the late Kurt W. Meyer, a renowned architect devoted to public service and historic preservation. He served as chair of the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles, worked with financier Bart Lytton to try and preserve Irving Gill’s Dodge House (ultimately demolished) in West Hollywood, and served on the first advisory council of the Los Angeles Conservancy.