There's no doubting that history was made inside the the former location of Tower Records at 8801 Sunset Boulevard.
According to the accounts of employees, Stevie Wonder shopped there, members of Guns N' Roses met there and acts ranging from Prince to Duran Duran performed there.
At the hearing that opened on Tuesday, March 26, the West Hollywood Historic Preservation Commission heard numerous testimonies from locals who believed Tower Records was an integral part of the city's and rock music's history.
However, whether any remnants of that history remains is another question entirely. According the city's department of community development, the answer is "no."
City staff has recommended the West Hollywood Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) deny the request of author Domenic Priore to designate as a local cultural resource.
The HPC asked staff to conduct more research and return with a recommendation after last month's hearing was continued without a final ruling.
In the staff report submitted to the HPC, staff argues that because the building does not possess any remarkable architectural features, and because its iconic red and yellow signs were removed when Tower Records closed in 2006, the building does not merit designation as a cultural resource.
Staff argues that the application is in violation of Criterion A: Special Elements of the City of the West Hollywood municipal code, which requires that buildings both exemplify special elements of the city and possess structural integrity.
"The report concluded that the property does not satisfy the second of these two conditions. Although the subject building has undergone few material alterations since its construction in 1970, the removal of features that referenced Tower Records appears to have resulted in a cumulative loss of integrity, as these features played an integral role in connecting the vernacular commercial building with Tower Records’ tenancy," the staff report states.
In making its case against designation, city staff also referenced Chapter 11.5 of the California Code of Regulations, which states that "properties must retain enough of their historical character or appearance to be recognizable as historical resources and to convey the reasons for their significance.”
Those who are fighting to secure a historic designation for Tower Records have argued that there is precedent for saving historic buildings that don't necessarily support historic architecture.
Priore's co-applicant Jerome Cleary emailed West Hollywood Patch a list of two-dozen Los Angeles area locations that have been designated as historic "without integrity." His list can be downloaded above.
Among the locations Cleary listed is the Darkroom on Wilshire Boulevard, which was designated as historic place in 1989 despite serving as a home to several restaurants after the photography business closed.
One significant different between the Darkroom and Tower Records, though, is that despite some significant changes, the Darkroom still retains its distinctive camera lens facade to this day.
According to staff, another important distinction is the one between West Hollywood's and Los Angeles municipal code.
While Los Angeles' municipal requires that buildings be culturally or architecturally significant, West Hollywood buildings must be both.
"One difference that staff noted is that the City of Los Angeles’s designation criteria do not explicitly state that properties must retain integrity, whereas the City of West Hollywood’s Criterion A does," the staff report states.
The West Hollywood HPC will continue their hearing on the Tower Records designation Monday, April 22 at 7 p.m. in the Plummer Park Community Center, Room 5 & 6, 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard.