The West Hollywood City Council delayed at its Monday night meeting.
Built in 1952 by Edward H. Fickett, FAIA, the mid-century modern building at 1422 N. Sweetzer Avenue (at Sunset Boulevard) has been recommended for the local cultural resource designation by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission. The designation gives tax breaks to the owner but also creates strict guidelines for maintenance and repair.
The City Council has been scheduled to finalize this designation several times but delayed that vote at the request of the property owner Edwin Silver who is opposed to it. Silver contends the building is in poor condition and has been altered by repairs over the years, thereby not qualifying it for the designation.
Silver has said the financial burden placed upon him by historic upkeep requirements would be too great and he might consequently have to use the Ellis Act to evict all the tenants and leave the rental business.
Councilmember John D’Amico favored the designation, worrying that without it, Silver might do more repairs that would further damage the historic integrity of the building.
Councilmember John Duran said this situation was another example of a building worthy of historic designation that also falls under the city’s rent control laws which don’t allow the owner to make enough money to do the upgrades.
Mayor Pro Tem Abbe Land agreed, saying the building was worthy of designation and that the city needs to come up with incentives for landlords to do upgrades.
Councilmember John Heilman questioned whether the city should designate every building just because Fickett designed it. He said he was more concerned about seeing that the tenants get protection (i.e., to stay in the building).
Mayor Jeff Prang called the Sunset Lanai one of his favorite Fickett buildings in the city, one he doesn’t want to see demolished, something the owner could do easily without the designation in place.
In the end council voted 4-1 to defer voting on the designation to an uncertain date in the future. Prang said the deferral was in essence a defacto designation. Planning Director John Keho agreed, saying that with the cultural resource application still on file pending a final vote by the Council, the owner can’t do anything to the building. Duran said if Silver does try to get demolition permits, the city could act quickly to stop it.