Update (12/6/2019): It appears that the interests that sought to demolish the home have officially prevailed. In a 3-2 vote, the city commission in charge of granting landmark status determined that the historic elements of the structure had been so destroyed by the unpermitted demolition that it “ruined” what would have been important to preserve.
Developer Philip Rahimzadeh, the home’s owner who initiated the work on the structure, claims both that he was not aware that there was a proposal for landmark status in effect for the property at the time the crew arrived, and that they were simply trying to “remove lead and asbestos,” according to Curbed, not fully demolish the building.
A Hombly Hills estate designed by architect Paul Revere Williams has been stripped of its facade this week–just as the city weighed designating the property as a historic-cultural landmark. The estate was formerly home to Hollywood royalty including Eva Gabor, Audrey Hepburn, and Frank Sinatra, adding to its historical significance.
The city council voted on September 10 to move forward with consideration of the application for landmark status. That vote came at an emergency hearing called by Councilmember Paul Koretz.
Now, preservation activists are concerned that the work that’s been done on the home—the destruction of the facade in particular—could diminish the likelihood that the landmark application will ultimately succeed.
“The landmark application was under review per an emergency hearing to put a stay on any demolition permits,” Jaime Rummerfield of Save Iconic Architecture says.
A city case file for the property obtained by Curbed seems to confirm that the work was not allowed. “Construction work is being performed contrary to the code,” it reads. “Demolition has occurred on Historic Monument without any permits, inspections, or approvals.” Save Iconic Architecture activists also shared photographs of what they understood to be posted stop work notices at the property.
It’s not clear if Rahimzadeh, an executive with Core Development Group, was aware of the landmark application when he purchased the property in April for an estimated $11 million, but the historic and architectural significance of the building was mentioned in real estate listings for the house. Los Angeles reached out to Rahimzadeh’s office for comment, but did not hear back.
“The home reflects the ideals of the ‘Golden Age’ of Hollywood with both its opulent design and its history of famous owners,” Rummerfield says. “This home was a part of Hollywood heritage, and a rare example of Paul R. Williams’ work that is still intact. Once these structures are gone they are lost forever.”
Williams, born in Los Angeles in 1894, overcame discrimination achieve an elite education, study at USC’s School of Engineering, and even becoming the first-ever black member of the American Institute of Architects. Racism was so severe in his era, the L.A. Conservancy notes in a biography of Williams, that he taught himself to sketch upside down, because his wealthy white clients felt uneasy sitting next to a black man and preferred he stay on the other side of the table.
And yet, he would go on to design nearly 2,000 homes in Los Angeles, craft iconic buildings, and contribute to numerous city institutions from the early planning of LAX to designing public housing projects. Now many of those buildings have been destroyed or altered, and preservationists are scrambling to protect those which remain.
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