Calling All Kultur Mavens!

You may find this hard to believe, but out here in la-la land, the place where we never tire of trying to make ourselves look foolish, we have a new cultural cause celebre. Out in the Silverlake area of Los Angles a fellow owns an old, former gas station, now used as, er, we are not sure as what but it looks like an old car repair shop. It was built in 1941 and its owner, reasonably enough, thinks it has outlived its usefulness so he wants to tear it down and build housing which — Lord knows — is desperately needed.

But guess what? Local NIMBYs are protesting because they want this old decrepit-looking building designated as a “cultural monument” and preserved for posterity. Here it is in all its cultural glory:

Use the link below, and look at the photograph and see for yourself. One picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words. (Cut the link and paste it into your browser so you can behold this property in all its “cultural monument” glory):

What makes this a case of deja vu is that we started our amateur journalistic career by writing in 1989, in the now defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner about a similar caper in Studio City. Gideon Kanner, The Great Car-Wash Monument Caper, L.A. Heralf Examiner, July 2, 1989, at p. F1. There, local NIMBYs demanded that the City Cultural Preservation Commission declare a local car wash to be a “cultural monument” and thereby prevent its lawful owner from tearing it down and putting up a mini mall in its place. It was located at the busiest intersection in town, but that did not prevent the NIMBYs from calling for the preservation of “our quaint little village.” Incredibly, they got their way when the commission voted their way, but their triumph was short-lived when a Los Angeles Superior Court judge issued a writ of mandate vacating the “cultural” designation.

But while the fight lasted, it was a sight to behold, with the LA Times running beaucoup articles on this weighty civic matter almost on a daily basis. They even ran one of those full page Point/Counterpoint thingies where your faithful servant and a disappointed local politico squared off, with us taking the side of the owner’s right to use his property by tearing down the old car wash and replacing it with a small local shopping center. See Should a Studio City Car Wash Be Preserved as a Cultural Monument?, LA Times, June 25, 1989, at p. 5 (Valley Edition).

Fun was had, but all things come to an end and in the end the old car wash was torn down and replaced with the shopping center which as far as we can tell is thriving.

So we can’t wait to see how the Silverlake “cultural monument” caper turns out. Stay tuned.