An impassioned appeal by tenants of a 1950s-vintage apartment complex prompted the Landmarks Commission at Monday night’s meeting to ask for further information on the building, which was on the list of properties slated for demolition.
The property at 130-140 San Vicente Boulevard, known as the Teriton Apartments, was constructed in 1949 as a three-story multi-family residence. Designed in the Modern Vernacular style by architect Sanford Kent, its characteristics include its U shape, a central courtyard, rounded corners, and louvers above the entranceways.
A contractor acting as a spokesperson for the owner (who is listed in materials handed out by the tenants as simply Teriton Apts, with a Los Angeles address), told the Landmarks Commission that the building had “structural problems and access problems.” He quoted the owners as saying that the building had no architectural significance and was merely a “box-shaped building,” and that it had sustained considerable damage in the 1994 earthquake and was “not up to code.” In answer to a question from a Commission member, he admitted that he did not know how long the current owners have owned the Teriton.
Eight tenants and neighbors of the Teriton spoke to the Commission and presented evidence that the complex is in excellent condition, has historic significance, is part of a potential historic district, and is the envy of visitors.
Tenant Dwayne Howard, who helped prepare much of the information about the Teriton contained in a packet handed to Commission members, said of the property: “My lifelong passion for architecture and design and my involvement with historic preservation are the very reasons I call the Teriton home.” He refuted the owners’ claim that the building is in a deteriorated condition: “It is without a doubt one of the finest buildings from this period still intact.” He also noted that the tenants really don’t know who the present owner is.
Tenant Virginia Sharpe also confirmed that the tenants aren’t sure of the identity of the building’s owner. “I pay my rent to ‘Teriton Investors,’ ” she said. As for the “significant structural damage” cited by the owners, she retorted: “If there is [damage], none of us have been informed about it.”
Tenants were also dismayed that a notice of demolition, dated October 27, was posted in front of the building on November 10, four days before the scheduled Landmarks Commission meeting, and that the sign was removed a few hours later, leading some tenants to assume that the demo permit had been withdrawn. Only after someone made a phone call to the City was the demolition application verified and the sign re-posted. Despite the suddenness of the announcement, tenants scurried to collect data on their residence, in order to make a presentation before the Commission.
The packet presented to the Commission included a detailed description of the architectural characteristics and amenities of the Teriton, a review of the work of its architect, Sanford Kent, “ a local master of the Modern style,” who was apparently influenced by European Modernists, such as Walter Gropius and Mies Van Der Rohe, mention of other historic buildings in the northwest area on San Vicente Boulevard, mention of noted personalities connected with the building (Mickey Spillane lived there) and a petition signed by nineteen tenants and neighbors.
The Commission concluded that the tenants had made a good case for postponement of the demolition and requested that City Staff look into the matter for a future hearing.
A multi-unit dwelling at 941-943 11th Street was also given a stay of demolition as the Commission voted in favor of an application for landmark designation. The owner admitted that the Spanish-style house had “charm” but that he believed buildings had a “life cycle” and that this building, which he had inherited from his parents, had outlasted its time. The Commission, however, felt that there were many characteristics of the building that were unique in structures of this style and that some effort must be made to save some of them.
In other actions, the Commission filed for application for landmark designation of a eucalyptus tree at 1407 Hill Street. The owners of the property on which the tree stands were commended for being in favor of designation and for their stewardship of the tree.
The Commission also designated a multi-family residential building at 1143 11th Street, over the protests of the owner, Alan Lazarus, who said that landmark status for the building would be a “hardship situation” for him, as he wanted to develop the property as he saw fit. Commission members discussed the design elements of the building that impressed them and made some careful revisions to the language of the certificate, citing the primary façade as the main element and the interior façade as a secondary element.
In other business, the Commission approved a revision to a Certificate of Appropriateness for the demolition of a garage and replacement with a new garage at the rear of the property at 2612 3rd Street. The original C of A was approved on October 11, 2004. Also approved were the revision of a Statement of Official Action (STOA), correcting a clerical error for the designation of the Spanish Colonial Revival style office building at 710 Wilshire Boulevard, and a STOA designating the Phillips Chapel at 2001 4th Street as a landmark.No action was taken on the following demolition permits: 717 12th Street; 3015 Goldsmith Street; 1311-15 Centinela Avenue; 943-945 16th Street; 2655 33rd Street; 435 Palisades Avenue; 859 Woodacres Road; 228 15th Street; 533 23rd Street; 2324 Idaho Avenue; and 1228 San Vicente Boulevard.