Silver Lake demolition takes city and neighborhood leaders by surprise

Photo by James Schneeweis

 The original home of A Different Light, a pioneering gay bookstore, was demolished on Saturday even after a developer had vowed to leave the Silver Lake building alone until further community meetings could be held, according to city and neighborhood council officials. There were plans in the works to nominate the building at Santa Monica and Sunset Boulevard as a cultural historic landmark and perhaps preserve portions of the facade for inclusion in a new housing development, said Elizabeth Bougart-Sharkov, who heads the Silver Lake Neighborhood  Council’s Urban Design & Preservation Committee. In fact, during an Aug.. 24 meeting , an official with Frost/Chaddock Developers said there was no talk of demolition, according to Bougart-Sharkov, who attended the meeting along with Council District 13 staff.  On that same day, however, city records show that a demolition permit was pulled for the building.

Bougart-Sharkov found out about the demolition permit on Saturday after a bulldozer had leveled the Tud0r-style storefronts, most recently the home to several Sunset Junction boutiques.  The demolition crew was finishing up the job by the time Bougart-Sharkov arrived on the block on Saturday afternoon. “They were just piling up the debris,” she said.

Julie Wong, a spokeswoman for Councilman Eric Garcetti, said that the council office is “extremely disappointed that this demolition happened after months of working in what we thought was good faith with the developer and the community. Even as late as a few days ago we were working to facilitate another meeting to discuss community concerns, and the developer assured us they would not take action without notice.”

The Eastsider has contacted Matt Levy with Frost/Chaddock  for comment.

A Different Light, which eventually became a chain of gay bookstores, opened the Sunset Junction store in 1979 as Silver Lake attracted more gay residents and businesses. The store closed in 1992.

“There was a lot of historic significance” to the building, Bougart-Sharkov said.

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  1. I attended a community meeting that was held nearby that site where Garcetti’s people and the developers informed neighborhood residents what they were planning to do. They proposed a new condo development that got the residents up in arms. It was going to be very modern and large and would cause a traffic nightmare at the intersection. People in attendance pointed out that the architects should at least try to preserve the look of the neighborhood and use a more Spanish style, but the developers had no comment. They did point out that some of the prices would accommodate lower income residents per city requirements. Very few people were happy… And this was at least 1.5 years ago with no word since.

  2. Garcetti LET this happen. He failed to act to stop it — and he could have. To claim he didn’t know about the demolition permit — gee, it was taken out from the CITY a month and a half ago! How can he claim to have been on top of this if he wasn’t even in tune with his own city government he is responsible for — which proves he at best wasn’t paying attention! Why didn’t he do anything to expedite the historic preservation designation, and get a hold on any demolition while that was proceeding?

    Is it because Garcetti is always too busy focusing on himself rather than on his district or even the city? Is it because as usual he was out of town too often smoozing with connections who have nothing to do with the city but can help- him personally? Is it because he is too busy with outside jobs and income to do the city work he is paid about $178,000 to do — such as skipping out on Council meetings to instead go play actor in daddy’s TV show?

  3. I have to question how well the process works if a demolition permit can be issued for a BLOCK of buildings and apparently it goes unchecked?

    This is bullsh*t.

    And, my vote for mayor will go to someone who is committed to something other than the rampant and out of scale development in our city.

  4. Oh, poor precious Silver Lake. Can’t feel sorry for you as your property values rise. Get some real things to complain about. You still have it better than a lot of the City. Your cheap shots are pathetic.

  5. This is garbage —

    This was a piece of our shared cultural history that has been demolished entirely out of a misguided sense of “progress” and “development” by moneyed interests.

    Real progress would involve development that did not destroy that which makes us who we are, the defining elements of our community.

    To destroy the building that makes Sunset Junction a Junction? Are you kidding me?

    This is going to be a constant issue for the foreseeable future in both Silver Lake and Echo Park and the community needs to get together on this and act to protect as much of our history as we can.

  6. I was so upset when I was walking to grab coffee yesterday and saw these buildings had been demolished. They contributed to the unique architectural landscape of the Sunset Junction neighborhood; I can’t imagine the “condos” (ie: expensive, prefab ugly housing) will add to Silver Lake’s diverse landscape.

    So disappointed in our city leaders for overlooking this process and letting some greedy developers sneak through the system. I second boo’s comment and really hope that one of the mayoral candidates expresses a desire to curb over-development and the destruction of LA’s historic properties.

  7. Wow, it seems like they bulldozed this in fear of it being zoned historic… and now they can easily argue for whatever design they want as anything’s better than an empty lot. So shady!

    @Fooled: Thanks for the insight… I never can understand why some developers won’t consider emulating the neighborhood’s pre-ww2 architecture when they propose mixed-use around here (brick facades, spanish colonial revival, whatever). I think plenty of renters looking to live in a walkable location on or near Sunset would actually prefer that over pseudo-neutra lofts – but perhaps that’s personal bias.

    Looking forward, I wonder if the neighborhood council / stakeholders could establish architectural guidelines to help facilitate future growth rather than just being anti-development, since it’s pretty clear these kinds of projects are going to keep happening.

  8. Barlow Hospital in Elysian Park needs to sell some of its land to build a new hospital. Developers are proposing an apartment building of 888 units. This will impact ALL of Echo Park. Many of our streets are one lane in each direction. Meeting will be held Tuesday, 9.27, @ 7:00 P.M. in the Barlow Hospital Library. Barlow is trying to limit the number in attendance to only the residents living closest to the hospital, which consists of 18 houses. Please attend this meeting to voice your concerns.

  9. @Ruth – Perhaps The Eastsider will look into this matter since it was apparently a hot topic back in 2009 as well, and the old website included a write-up on it. Anyone attend the meetings in September 2009? Any input on what the proposed 2009 EIR stated?

  10. Ruth and Cristi, please don’t hijack the topic here! I appreciate your concern about Barlow, but write that up elsewhere, not here.

  11. So this is Garcetti’s doing? And he is running for mayor?

    If someone can confirm how he’s attached to this, I’m going to write a letter or two…

  12. Awesome! More crap to come! There are about 920 other disgusting, hazardous, useless properties that could be demolished and we knock down places that are unique and historical. High five, Los Angeles.

  13. This is typical of the way things are handled in this City. How many times have you walked down a street in Hollywood and asked yourself “Who let this happen?” Who let our history be torn down for the short term profit of a few? It’s the way it goes in this town and it’s the way it will continue to go as long as less than ten percent of the registered voters in LA bother to go to the polls. The East Hollywood Neighborhood Council (just East of Silverlake) has created a Route 66 Task Force to fight for the historic legacy of our neighborhood. Millions of tourists come to Los Angeles each year, and they don’t come to see luxury condos. They come for the history believe it or not. They come to see the beautiful City they see in the movies. That history belongs to the community. Until we stand up and fight for it, rich developers from Orange County and Japan and Chicago will continue to steal it from us, while their bought and paid for politicians will sit back and let it happen.

  14. The city of LA needs a better process for approving developments. Its still the wild west around here. How about no demo permit until developers have full planning and building and safety approvals. This would be simple to enforce and would prevent something like this from happening. What a waste …

  15. Seriously? They leveled THIS, and left that crack den eyesore across the street from Malo standing?
    I thought I liked Garcetti, but more and more, it’s just the opposite.


  16. This has been pretty frustrating. On August 31st I sent Garcetti’s staff a message specifically asking for protection against demolition. It’s not like I’m a stranger to them since we worked together on the designation of the Black Cat. Never got a response. Frost/Chaddock, the developer, has put up some humongous buildings, wonder how closely Eric will remain aligned with them, as it now appears he is. Haven’t heard anything from his office other than “I’m shocked, I’m utterly shocked!!!”


    This was a piece of our shared cultural history that has been demolished entirely out of a misguided sense of “progress” and “development” by moneyed interests.

    Real progress would involve development that did not destroy that which makes us who we are, the defining elements of our community.

    To destroy the building that makes Sunset Junction a Junction? Are you kidding me?

    This is going to be a constant issue for the foreseeable future in both Silver Lake and Echo Park and the community needs to get together on this and act to protect as much of our history as we can.

    EBS – and BTW – the SL Neighborhood Council has Development Guidelines policy since 2004. The thing is that the NC is an advisory body and cannot enforce its policies. It’s always a matter of negotiating with the developer at GOOD FAITH. Frost/Chaddock Developers LLC proved that they are not trustworthy!

  18. Did they just demolish empty buildings, or were there actual BUSINESSES that got destroyed?

  19. @BP – Actual businesses got destroyed! You should of seen the vintage store owner rushing outside while her business was being bulldozed! Luckily she got out of there in the knick-of time with a handfull of Cosby sweaters and a teenie bopper poster of Donnie Wahlberg! Oh the Horror! The Horror! Good thing there wasn’t a pet store in the building.

  20. Has anyone looked to see if this developer contributed to Mr. Garcetti’s Mayoral

  21. Ousted Business Owner

    Trust me, Garcetti’s office new exactly what was coming. I owned one of the businesses in that building. I personally spoke to those in charge of these matters at CD13. There was some bizarre hand wringing and nothing more. Like “Yeah, jeez, it really sucks. We don’t know why they want you out”. It was glaringly obvious what was coming when they gave us all about 34 days to get out with threat of law suit if we didn’t hustle. When I asked the fellow in charge at CD13 what he thought the eviction of all the tenants was about he told me that Frost/Chaddock had told them that it “just didn’t make financial sense to have the tenants there any longer”. Huh? This statement was made in order to insinuate that some or all of us weren’t paying rent. COME ON!!! We were all paying rent thanks and everyone one new it. They turned a blind eye. They’re either in cahoots, or CD13 just doesn’t give a damn about such things. Oh well, the building is gone now. Just as they planned. It was the most charming little building in the junction if you ask me.

  22. Ousted Business Owner

    By the way, The warehouse next to that building will be next, followed by the building on the corner that use to house LoveCraft. Then the big yellow house behind it (across from the Stella parking lot). I’m not sure if there are more houses involved, but these three things I am sure of.

  23. Ousted Business Owner

    And one last thing: the Silverlake Neighborhood Council would have stopped this, but they are basically powerless in these kind of situations. If the developers don’t care about being on the good side of the council, then they do whatever they like and this is exactly what you get. It’s a shame that they can’t enforce even a hold on a demo permit until things get sorted. They need more power. They’re the only body who gives a damn and gets it.

    If you think it’s sad now, just wait for something like a Quizno’s, Wells Fargo and CVS to go in on that corner in the mixed use section of the new building. I mean, developers love these kind of big money tenants, and clearly Frost/Chaddock is no anamoly. Can’t you just see it now? And at the end of the day the Neighborhood Council won’t be able to do anything about it. Shame.

  24. Ousted business owner, as a neighbor, I am so sorry you and the other tenants had to go. The blame lies squarely on Eric Garcetti’s shoulders. It happened under his watch. He has issued no public statement that I’ve heard. Nothing. This property lies at the heart of Silver Lake. What’s going to happen next? Don’t we have a right to know what to expect?

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