Echo Park - What's the most iconic part of Taix French Restaurant - the building, or the business? These two different visions of preservation are heading for the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission.
The Silver Lake Heritage Trust submitted an application last week to have the restaurant building on Sunset Boulevard declared a Historic-Cultural Monument -- a designation that would make it much more difficult to demolish for a proposed residential and retail complex.
“As a community cultural icon,” the Historic Resources Group stated within the application, “Taix French Restaurant at 1911 W. Sunset Boulevard appears eligible for designation as a City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument for its commercial identity as a longstanding Echo Park restaurant and as the second generation of a French restaurant established in Los Angeles in 1927.”
But Mike Taix, the restaurant owner who sold the building to developers last year, submitted a statement to the Cultural Heritage Commission saying he is trying to preserve the business by changing the building.
“Preserving the legacy of the Taix Restaurant is not a matter of bricks and mortar,” Mike Taix said in his statement. “It is a matter of restaurant economics and changing public tastes to which we must respond.”
Holland Group, a real estate developer, plans to replace the old Taix building with a six-story complex that has 170 units of housing and 13,000 square feet of retail commercial space - including a place for a new, scaled-down version of Taix restaurant.
The concept has been supported by housing advocates but has been opposed by preservation groups, including the L.A. Conservancy and the Echo Park Historical Society.*
Mike Taix has said before that Taix French Restaurant cannot survive as a business in its current form.
In the statement he issued Tuesday, he notes, among other things, that the restaurant has become significantly under-patronized, especially the banquet rooms, that the large parking lot tends to be a waste of space, and that mere maintenance for the aged building has become too expensive.
“Put simply, Taix is no longer profitable and its premises are a white elephant,” he stated.
Taix is now asking the city to designate the site of the restaurant - rather than the existing structure - as historical. That would make demolishing or modifying the building itself easier.
“Preservation of the Taix French Restaurant as a historic-cultural resource requires that it be able to respond to economic and social challenges that compel changes in its current physical premises,” Taix said in his statement.
But within the application from the Silver Lake Heritage Trust, the Historic Resources Group aims the focus at the building itself.
Almost nothing from the current building was included in the developer's proposal that was made public last spring.
“I think the problem is they plan to save none of the building, and this is a historic building,” said Charles Fisher, a historian who is representing the Silver Lake Heritage Trust in its application. “I’m sure a project can be worked where they can saved more of the interior and exterior.”
Mike Taix noted in his statement, however, that “our initial plan proposed fronting the new building with our current faux-Normandy Sunset Boulevard elevation … But frankly, that plan pleased no one…”
The development plan that eventually formed encountered negative reactions from the public. The developers, Holland Partner Group, are now in the process of unveiling an updated plan - a design that is supposed to draw more from the style of Echo Park itself, Mike Taix said.
The restaurant is not in its original location, having opened Downtown in 1927 before moving in 1962 to its current Sunset Boulevard location, which has since been added on to and remodeled. The restaurant continued to undergo extensive renovations - including in the 1980s, when it was made to look older rather than newer, a nod to the Taix’s theme of ”Country French Cuisine since 1927."
The Historic Resources Group argued, however, that the changes in the building don’t nullify its historical status, since all those changes were made while Taix occupied the building.
“Though the present Taix French Restaurant is not the same entity as the original Taix, it carried on the legacy begun in the original restaurant in 1927 and serves much the same menu as that of the original restaurant,” the application states. “As a result, the present restaurant has capitalized on the commercial identity originally established at Taix French Restaurant 92 years ago.”
* Jesus Sanchez, publisher of The Eastsider, is on the board of the Echo Park Historical Society