SILVER LAKE — Alarm bells have gone off among some preservation minded residents after a demolition notice was hung from the gate of a 109-year-old Craftsman bungalow on Coronado Street. The notice printed on a blue sheet of paper is part of a new city law that requires neighbors to be given at least 30 days notice before a demolition permit can be issued for older buildings. But if residents want to stop the bulldozers from arriving, what can they do if they have only 30 days?
A tenant at the bright blue-and-white bungalow, which currently houses an architectural salvage firm, said the owners want to build an apartment building on the the approximately 7,500-square-foot lot, which sold last April for about $800,000. While the three-bedroom home is not a city historic landmark, it was built more than 45 years ago, which under the new Notification of Demolition ordinance requires a 30-day notification if the owner plans to obtain a demolition permit. In addition to the notice posted outside, the owners of all adjacent properties must be notified by mail of the proposed demolition, according to the ordinance authored by Councilman Mitch O’Farrell.
“Too many times, I’ve seen buildings demolished before permits for a new project is even approved,” said O’Farrell in a statement when the City Council approved the ordinance last year. “This results in lifeless, empty lots which can create blight in our neighborhoods.”
Silver Lake resident Anne Hars said the bungalow is the sixth house in a two-block block radius to be slated for demolition in the next few months as developers take advantage of the city’s small-lot ordinance to build townhomes. Hars said this property might serve as an ideal test to see if the 30-day waiting period is an effective tool.
“Hopefully this new legislation doesn’t just allow residents to get in touch with their inner helpless citizen before watching the inevitable destruction of their neighborhood,” she said. “The planning department’s unwillingness to follow its own Small Lot Ordinance guidelines coupled with the lack of any real process in issuing demolition permits has made for a perfect storm for destroying this kind of historic treasure.”
With the 30-day demolition clock ticking, Adrian Scott Fine, director of advocacy for the Los Angeles Conservancy, the city’s largest historic preservation group, says residents better get organized:
The Notification of Demolition Ordinance is intended to make things more transparent, build awareness, and provide neighbors and interested groups with a “heads up” so they know about the demolition before rather than after it happens. As a 30-day window before the demolition permit is issued, it hopefully can give residents an opportunity to talk and have a conversation and perhaps even consider and negotiate alternatives to demolition. And in some cases, where it involves a historic property, concerned residents can involve their City Council office and press for local landmark, Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM), designation.”