Here’s How Walt Disney’s Studio Could be Saved From Demolition

Options range from preserving it as a Historic Cultural Monument to storing it in a museum
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UPDATE: On September 15, 2016 the City of Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission voted unanimously to consider the Historic-Cultural monument designation for the former home of Walt Disney. The group will visit the property in the next few weeks and then take a final vote on the monument status. Curbed reports that commissioner Barry Milofsky wondered if the original garage where Walt Disney began his studio might someday be relocated back to the home from the Garden Grove museum it was moved to in the 1980s.

In the 24 hours since we broke the news about the impending destruction of Walt Disney’s former home, our civic leaders leaped into action to save it.

“Councilmember Ryu feels very strongly that this property is significant,” Council District 4 communications director Estevan Montemayor told me this afternoon. “Today we have reviewed all the options and asked for an emergency [Historic Cultural Monument] nomination. That designation initiates a 75-day stay and will allow the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission to consider its significance.”

The nomination will come from new city planning director Vince Bertoni, who spent five years working in preservation-friendly Pasadena and had a hand in creating Los Angeles’ Historic Preservation Overlay Zones and the Broadway Historic District downtown.

“It’s a fairly unusual process,” says Ken Bernstein, director of the city’s Office of Historic Resources. “But given the iconic status of Walt Disney, it certainly appears worthy of consideration. There will be a temporary stay on any demolition.”

Earlier this morning I spoke to the homeowner’s representative, Hyunbae Kim. “My sister and brother-in-law want to build a single family residence. The one there is quite old,” Kim explained. “When we bought it we didn’t know until the tenant told us that this is where the Disney studio started.”

The home has been a rental for the last few years, but the magnificent century-old woodwork appears to be largely intact from Disney’s era—did you see the clip of Walt kissing Lillian out on the lawn? And dig that massive stone fireplace! Kim mentioned that the current owners purchased the property in a private sale. “It was never listed,” she said. “Because it was a friend of the family sale and the (former) owner Jeannie Ha is quite ill.”

If the property becomes as a Historic Cultural Monument, it could be eligible for a property tax reduction via the Mills Act and could take advantage of the historic building code for any renovations. The owners could also negotiate with the city to relocate the building.

“The Valley Relics museum in the San Fernando Valley just called, and they’re interested in moving the property,” Kim said. “I’d like to know what Disneyland thinks. Anything is possible. At this point, anything is possible.”

 

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