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Will a Silver Lake service station become a historic monument or an apartment building?

BY BARRY LANK

SILVER LAKE – Will a long-time service station be preserved for future generations to view and admire as a classic piece of roadside architecture or will it be demoed for a new building?

A City Council motion has been filed to declare the Precision Motors service station at 1650 Silver Lake Boulevard a Historic-Cultural Monument. Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell filed the motion this week, calling the building “an excellent and rare example of a Streamline Modeme architecture automobile service station.” According to the motion, the site was developed into a service station in 1941.

O’Farrell’s motion comes a month – almost to the day – after the owner filed to demolish the same building. The owner  has plans to replace the service station with a three-story mixed-use building, with the top two floors being 14 apartment units.

Under the council motion, the Planning Department would be instructed to prepare the Historic Cultural Monument application for review by the Cultural Heritage Commission, which would submit a report and recommendation to the City Council. During that period, any demolition would be postponed.

It’s not the first attempt to save a vintage Silver Lake service station.

It was a decade ago that preservationists and residents tried to prevent the demolition of what was once a Streamline Moderne-style gas station at the corner of Glendale Boulevard and Rowena Avenue. But that effort failed and the small building was quickly torn down.

After  the site remained vacant for many years,  a developer is now building three homes on the site.

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26 comments

  1. This is probably going to be deemed “personal”, but good Lord, developers are, by and large, bereft of morals, if not downright evil. They build things with absolutely no attention to the needs and the aesthetics of the neighborhoods in which they operate — indeed, they don’t usually live in and rarely visit these neighborhoods.

    If you are wealthy and priviledged enough to own a property, you have a moral obligation to take into account the aesthetics of the neighborhood, and to take into account the feelings of the actual human beings who actually live and work in that actual community.

    Money money money money money money.

    • yeah, lived in them thar hills before the real greed stepped in–early 90’s. rather live under the bridge down the road–better folks. peace.

    • For the record, I am absolutely for the preservation of this building. It’s a great example of streamline modern and quintessentially Los Angeles. That being said, your comment is total hyperbole and nonsensical.

      You’re commenting on the looks and needs of the neighborhood… well you have no idea what the proposed building will look like and the neighborhood definitely needs housing.

      I would love to see this building restored and turned into some sort of restaurant with patio, like Oriel in Chinatown. Even better would be to utilize some of the excessive parking for a triplex in the same style as the gas station.

      We’ll see what happens…

    • “People should do what I say because…. reasons”

    • Pretty sure a developer built this gas station back in the day. And of course they’re in business to make money. Do you work for free?

      That said, this’d definitely make for a cool restaurant w/patio as others have mentioned. Probably more likely it’d just be turned into a Starbucks drive-thru though (which’ll screw up rush hour traffic way worse than any road diet ever could.)

  2. I think this gas station is ugly and would prefer to see housing with ground floor retail personally. Calling it an historic cultural monument is a big stretch…

  3. Tear that eyesore down and build something useful.

    • A bigger eyesore so yuppie asshole can live in “the cool area” and make traffic stand still with their asshole cars.

  4. Making neighborhoods liveable, walkable, and affordable means building mixed-use, medium-to-high-density buildings, and filling in dead areas like this. I think it’s the height of selfish ‘priviledge’ to think you can freeze a neighborhood in amber, stop new people from coming in, stop the development of ecologically friendly, high density housing, and tell people what they are or are not allowed to do on their own properties.

    me me me me me me me

    • Actually, Brad, making area high density serves to increase prices, doesn’t decrease them. This is a big reason prices have been soaring ever since the city created the small lot subdivision ordinance that allows a lot with a single family house on it now to have five smaller houses on it. The price of that dirt had been about $200,000 but now has risen $1 million+ in just the past decade — suddenly after the SLS ordinance kicked into play — because of the potential of the small lot subdivision.

      That is doing NOTHING to lower the price of housing, it has skyrocketed prices by literally quintupling the price of the dirt. Meanwhile the actual vacancy rate has little changed for the past 50 years, has been fairly consistent, so there is no more shortage of housing than there has been for 50 years — but prices have skyrocketed in the wake of the small lot subdivision ordinance, and as the politicians all drowning in developer and construction union money keep screaming “housing shortage” to keep everyone scared about it.

      • Koreatown is still one of Los Angeles’ most dense neighborhood; it’s one of the most affordable within city limits. MacArthur Park, another of our cities most dense; very affordable by LA Standards due to a combination of things, like crime and and cleanliness but it’s available housing stock takes partial credit for that affordability. Downtown, our most dense neighborhood with plenty of new construction has experienced an oversupply (at the price point) and many landlords and building owners are offering concessions like free rent for XX months or free parking, reduced rates etc.

        The funny thing.. all of our city’s most dense neighborhoods are FAR FAR cheaper than our least dense. We’re looking at you Venice, Bel Air, Palisades, Hancock Park (Santa Monica, Bradbury, Beverly Hills, Malibu).. So tell me, how do you explain that little scenario that unquestionably disproves your wild assertion? Our most dense are among our most affordable.. and our least dense are definitely our most expensive.. interesting…

        Prices have risen because “value” has risen in central cities ALL OVER the country. For 60 years America built itself in away that prioritized sprawl and now this unsustainable planning method has met its demise in Southern California. People are no longer willing to dedicate 3-4 hours commuting to exurbs and suburbs and want the option to “sleep” closer to where they “live” We need to embrace and welcome this change of perception as a way to reconnect Americans with their cities by increasing density to accommodate new growth and met the incredibly high value of living in a more sustainable and enjoyable city.

        If you think you can stave density in order to preserve affordability, you need to have yourself a trip up to San Francisco where the same ideology has created the most expensive market in the country and one of the priciest in the world.

      • So anything that increases the cost of dirt should be resisted? We should just regulate land until the value is zero? Not take any action to improve neighborhood air quality and crime because it might raise land values and rents?

      • When in recent times could you buy a flat lot over 10,000 square feet for $200,000? Not since 1970s. Tom that time was almost 50 years ago and well before small lot ordinance. I have been a real estate appraiser in Los Angeles for over 25 years. I have worked from Malibu to Silverlake. The only way to bring the costs of housing under control is to build more units. With land as expensive as it is, as it is in all major metropolitan world cities, that fixed cost has to be spread out over as many units as possible to bring down land cost per unit. Toronto has built over 90,000 units of condos alone in last three years. Los Angeles in the sixties would build over six times what we build in a year today . To create a historical site for a boutique patio restaurant when people are living paycheck to paycheck desperate for new housing is insane.

    • Have you guys not walked around this area? A massive building there destroys the hometown feel.

      • Three story building is not massive. Berlin, Barcelona, or Madrid all have walkable neighborhoods much denser. Are we trying to be Mayberry, for retired homeowners? My friends in their twenties and thirties are one job offer away from moving to Austin or Denver. We are going to lose our creative, and most dynamic and enterprising age group, to be like Santa Barbara.

  5. Uhh, this has been something of a wart for a good long time. The site is on a major street and is mostly parking anyway. Textbook NIMBY if you ask me.

  6. I am pro-development.. I work in architecture & development.. but this structure is truly a gem in the rough. These streamline moderne buildings are unquestionably the most endangered architectural styles in Los Angeles.

    I get that the property is ugly (as is) but it just needs attention and another use.

    If the property is redeveloped, it would be great to see the structure restored and incorporated into a higher use for the property. Turn the station into the retail component of the project, fill it with a small restaurant or cafe then build something similar to the Mauretania in Hancock Park for the residential component on the north side of the lot.

  7. When the owner of the repair shop Doug McLeod retires.. I could see the space and 1/2 parking lot being converted to an indoor/outdoor garden restaurant. Maintain the architecture of the gas station including the roof of where the pumps used to be. Could be quite nice.

  8. Al’s Texaco. The owner was Al Villareal, a kind neighbor and pillar of the community for many years.

  9. Snap a few Instagrams of this “gem in the rough,” hang them in a museum, and let someone build new places to live in this city with a serious housing shortage.

    • Do you not walk this area?

    • There’s a huge difference between a city that preserves it’s history and one that eliminates it.. NY – Financial District vs Greenwich Village, Paris – 8th Arrondissement vs Nanterre, Chi – River North vs Hyde Park, Seattle – Belltown vs Capitol Hill..

      One you’ll find people enjoying the scenery and culture of the location, the other you wont! We truly do not need density everywhere.

  10. I’ve always thought it was a very cool building that could be a great little restaurant. But there are already 6 restaurants/cafes within a few hundred feet of it.

  11. This building is in poor condition, and I’ve seen far better examples of streamline moderne gas stations/structures elsewhere in the city. It’s also an unnecessary blight on what is otherwise a charming little commercial district. We need the 14 units of housing in every way.

  12. Many of you are mentioning the desire for a restaurant with a patio / an “indoor-outdoor garden restaurant” … both of which already exist down the street (Botanica!) 🙂

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