Press Release: Los Angeles Conservancy Sues City of Los Angeles for Violation of State Environmental Law
Los Angeles, December 1, 2016 – The Los Angeles Conservancy today sued to force the City of Los Angeles’ compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in considering demolition of the historic Lytton Savings building (now Chase Bank) at 8150 Sunset Boulevard.
The Conservancy contends that the City blatantly disregarded environmental law in its review of the 8150 Sunset Boulevard Project, a mixed-use development proposed for the southwest corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights Boulevards.
The environmental impact report (EIR) acknowledged Lytton Savings as a qualified historical resource. 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 historical 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.
“By sidestepping not one, but two, viable preservation alternatives, the City abused its discretion and violated the law,” said Linda Dishman, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Conservancy.
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.
“As the lead agency in charge of ensuring that the CEQA environmental review process is followed, the City must implement feasible preservation alternatives that avoid loss of historic resources,” said Adrian Scott Fine, the Conservancy’s director of advocacy. “It did not.”
Early in the process, the Conservancy met with the developer, Townscape Partners, who responded positively to the idea of integrating Lytton Savings as part of the new development. This promising collaboration came to a halt after a new design for the site by Gehry was unveiled in 2015. This new design was ultimately approved.
When the City failed to address preservation alternatives as part of the EIR process, 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.
About Lytton Savings
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.
For more information, visit the Conservancy's Lytton Savings issue page.
Tiffany Narváez, firstname.lastname@example.org, (213) 430-4208