By Nathan Solis & Jesus Sanchez
Saying he was “unencumbered by the past,” Councilman Gil Cedillo today came out against declaring Highland Park’s Superior Market, considered a prime example of mid-century “Googie” style architecture, a city historic landmark.
City staff, the Cultural Heritage Commission as well as two neighborhood councils had supported declaring the Figueroa Street market a cultural historic landmark, which would help protect the building’s exterior from changes that would impact its historic character. Superior Grocer’s proposed revamp would alter the store’s facade of broad windows and swooping arches. But Cedillo, whose opposition will be hard to overcome, said he had to look beyond the concerns of preservationists.
Siding with the property owner and market operator, Cedillo, during a meeting of the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee, recommended against the landmark nomination. He referred to previous agreements that the remodeling and redevelopment of the market “would not be deterred by legitimate preservation concerns.”
“I have to look for the entire the community … and look at what their needs are,” said Cedillo, referring to economic development, jobs and access to food. At one point, he referred to Highland Park as as “food desert.”
Susan Levinstein, whose father was the original landowner of the building, said the landmark nomination would only interfere with the building’s original, intended use as a local market – not a historic landmark. “The preservationists will have preserved nothing,” she said.
The matter now heads to final vote before the full City Council.
There are not many stand-out examples of mid-century modern buildings in the Highland Park area. Built in 1960, the nearly 34,000-square foot supermarket building was designed by architect Ronald Cleveland, who worked on more than 100 supermarkets, in what some refer to as the Googie Style of architecture, which was popular among the builders of coffee shops and other commercial buildings of the era.
Charles Fisher, who heads the neighborhood historic district and filed the landmark nomination, said his goal was not to undermine Superior’s operation. “It was never my intention to nominate this building to disrupt their business. They really left us no other options.”
Antonio Castillo, President of the Highland Park Heritage Trust, which supported the nominations, said Cedillo’s decision was purely political.”He went the bureaucratic route in his decision, ignoring the historical, architectural and the significance it has with the community. It was basic politics.”