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I’m Josh Cooperman and this is Convo By Design with a conversation unlike any we have had on the show before. And after 9 years doing this podcast, that’s saying something. DISCLOSURE… opinions voiced by guests appearing on this episode are their own and not necessarily the views of Convo By Design or the host of this podcast.
I was reading an article recently about another Los Angeles mansion on the potentially slow march to its demise. This one is in Beverly Hills, as many of them are and it’s the same story. Someone with more money than almost everyone else comes in and buys a property for which he possibly has other intentions than living in it, as is. I read this article on dirt.com, and this property sits on North Roxbury Drive and Lexington Road. The Hollywood Regency-style residence was designed by, Carleton L. Burgess.
Let’s stop here for a moment. What makes “significant”, or “special or, more to the point, worth saving? Serious question and one that is really hard to answer for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the rights of a property owner. They worked for the money, or inherited it, whatever, it’s their money. Can they not buy and do with it what they wish. Well, yes, unless there are regulations that prohibit it. This Burgess residence lies within the city of Beverly Hills and unfortunately, Beverly Hills was extremely late to the preservation party and because of that, many architectural gems have been wiped clean, again… being honest here, is an LA tradition and every architect since the 1940’s knew that going in.
Now, in 2012, the City of Beverly Hills discussed ideas around architectural preservation at a city council meeting. In that meeting, they reviewed a list of significant Beverly Hills architects, calling it “A list of local master architects” and the list included 150 such designers. This list was part of a recent requirement to an ordinance that the city adopted to begin preserving properties it deemed “significant”. It’s important to note that at the time, the city was also compiling a list of original architects for more than 2,900 structures. Using their own mathematical formula, they determined that there would be under 500 structures that would be awarded with a historically significant designation. Interestingly enough, the time for significant architecture in the city was crafted by those working in Beverly Hills prior to 1970. Fair enough.
The city had a pretty solid plan. The list would be used as criteria for preservation designation and designation as a “local historical landmark.” An interesting note, the criteria verbiage states, “Represents a notable work a person included on the city’s list of Master Architects or possesses high artistic or aesthetic value.” Now, that last part is tricky. “Aesthetic value” to whom? And then it get’s even MORE fascinating with some very specific criteria that includes according to BHMC 10-3-3212:(1)
The property meets two of the following criteria:
The property retains integrity from its Period of Significance.
The property has historic value.
Is identified with important events in the main currents of national, state, or local history, or directly exemplifies or manifests significant contributions to the broad social, political, cultural, economic, recreational, or architectural history of the nation, state, city or community;
Is directly associated with the lives of significant persons important to the national, state, city or local history;
Embodies the distinct characteristics of a style, type, period, or method of construction;
Represents a notable work of a person included on the City’s List of Master Architects or possesses high artistic or aesthetic value;
Has yielded or has the potential to yield, information in the prehistory or history of the nation, state, city or community;
Is listed or has been formally determined eligible by the National Park Service for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, or is listed or has been determined eligible by the State Historical Resources Commission for listing on the California Register of Historical Resources.
Okay, so this does clarify things a little bit and which much of the criteria is nebulous at best, some is very clear. And there is a process and procedure:
“The list will also be used to screen incoming development and demolition proposals and identify properties that could be historically significant. If a property is identified, and the work proposed would demolish or remove historic characteristics, the City Council and the Cultural Heritage Commission will have 30 days to direct staff to conduct further analysis and initiate nomination proceedings. While the property is being evaluated, no permits will be issued, and no work or demolition will be allowed. For demolitions, the 30-day review period is an extension of the existing 10-day wait period currently required of any demolition proposed in the City. The 30-day review period for development
Page 3 of 4 6/27/2012
List of Local Master Architects
projects is a new holding period; however, plans submitted will continue to be processed and therefore it is not anticipated that the 30-day review period will result in any added wait time, unless the City Council or CultUral Heritage Commission instructs staff to initiate nomination proceedings. If the City Council ultimately designates the property as a landmark, the property could still be remodeled or potentially demolished; however the proposal would first be reviewed and approved by the Cultural Heritage Commission, and the City Council upon appeal.”
One guess whose name DOES appear on the list of 150 Notable Architects. Correct. Carleton L. Burgess. On January 24, 2012, the City of Beverly Hills adopted ordinance No. 12-O-2617 establishing a historic preservation program. That program included a list of notable architects and the architect was listed. Further, the City of Beverly Hills maintains a list of Master Architects(2) for specifically this purpose.
So, if this particular property was crafted by a noted “Master Architect” and fulfills 2 of the criteria listed, which it arguably hits at least 4 of the 6 criteria, then why is this up for debate? Yo already know the answer to this question. Someone with a significant amount of money, in this case, the owner, according to the article on Dirt.com, is a man named Eric Baker, the CEO and co-founder of StubHub, so you there is a significant amount of money there. Also mentioned in the article was that Baker or his representatives applied for a certificate of ineligibility for historic designation.
So, I’m going to warn you right now, were are going to get into the weeds a little bit. Here is what constitutes a Certificate of Ineligibility(3):
10-3-3221: CERTIFICATE OF INELIGIBILITY:
Any owner of a property not listed on the local register may at any time file an application with the city requesting a determination that the subject property is not an eligible property and therefore is exempt from the provisions of this article.
A. Applications: A request for a certificate of ineligibility shall be made by filing a written application with the department of community development. The application shall be completed on a form provided by the department, and shall include all required information and payment of applicable fees. Copies of the application shall be provided promptly to members of the commission by the director to enable commissioners to provide information to the director concerning the subject property where appropriate.
B. Administrative Procedure: Within thirty (30) days after the filing of the application, the director shall review the application materials and determine whether the application is complete or whether additional information is required. If the application is determined to be incomplete, the director shall promptly inform the applicant in writing of the missing information. Within thirty (30) days after the submittal of the missing information, the director shall again review the application materials and determine if the application is complete. The processing time lines and procedures set forth in this section shall commence on the next business day after the application is deemed complete.
Within thirty (30) days after the application is deemed complete, the director shall prepare and serve on the property owner by first class, prepaid mail a written preliminary evaluation stating whether or not the director finds that the subject property is an eligible property. If the director does not find that the property is an eligible property, the director shall issue the requested certificate of ineligibility; but if the director believes that the property is an eligible property, the director shall not issue the certificate. If the director fails to prepare and serve a preliminary evaluation regarding the subject property within the allotted thirty (30) days, such failure will be deemed a finding of ineligibility, and the director shall issue the requested certificate of ineligibility without further delay.
C. Hearing After Preliminary Evaluation: If the director declines to issue a requested certificate of ineligibility, the commission shall consider the matter de novo at its next regularly held meeting; provided, however, that if the next regularly scheduled meeting is set to occur less than ten (10) days or more than thirty (30) days after completion of the preliminary evaluation, the director shall schedule another meeting to occur within thirty (30) days after completion of the application at which the commission shall hear the matter. The director shall give written notice of the date, time, place, and purpose of the hearing to the applicant/appellant and any designated agent(s) by first class, prepaid mail not less than ten (10) days prior to the hearing. If, based on the director’s preliminary evaluation and any other evidence provided to the commission at or prior to the hearing, the commission determines that the subject property is not an eligible property, it shall issue the requested certificate; but if the commission finds that the subject property is an eligible property, it shall not issue a certificate.
D. Effect Of Certificate Of Ineligibility: A certificate of ineligibility bars the commission or the city council from initiating landmark designation proceedings concerning the subject property, in whole or in part, for a period of seven (7) years from the date of issuance. While a certificate of ineligibility is in effect, the subject property shall not be listed on the local inventory, and shall not be subject to the provisions of sections 10-3-3217 and 10-3-3218 of this chapter.
E. Effect Of Nonissuance Of Certificate: A final determination not to issue a certificate of ineligibility bars the owner of the subject property, and any successor in interest, from filing another application for a certificate of ineligibility concerning the same property for a period of five (5) years. Any such final determination may also serve as a basis for the commission to list the subject property on the local inventory if it is not already so listed.
F. Extensions Of Time Periods: Any period of time to act specified in this section may be extended by the commission or the director upon request of the owner of the subject property. Such a request shall be made in writing or on the record at a noticed hearing. (Ord. 15-O-2682, eff. 11-19-2015)
This was a special episode of the podcast for a very specific reason. We examine what makes an iconic property. We do this because while a structures age doesn’t make it significant, we do need to define what does. While Every Hills was fairly late in this regard, which cost the city many true iconic properties like; Wallace Neff’,s Pickfair, Wallace Neff’s Falcon Lair, or Wallace Neff’s Enchanted Hill. Wow, Neff took a hit in Beverly Hills. According to Curbed Los Angeles (4), Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen had Enchanted Hill demolished around 1997. Pia Zadora had Pick Fair torn down in 1990 and Falcon Lair’s main structure was destroyed in 2006. All before the 2012 organizational structure was established for historical preservation. Not every property that is older than a certain date is significant. But a structure crafted by a noted architect does, regardless of whether I like it or a multi-millionaire buys it. The architectural provenance is detailed, criteria is outlined and it appears very clear. There is a special hearing scheduled for June 21, 2022 and it should be interesting. According to an article in the Beverly Hills Courier(5), written by Samuel Braslow, and the most important of details in this whole thing is the fact that on March 15th, the City of Beverly Hills actually issued a certificate of ineligibility for the property thereby stating that this property has no significant historical value.
- BHMC 10-3-3212: Obtained from the internet on 6.10.22
- List of Master Architects. Obtained from the internet on 6.10.22
3. Certificate of Ineligibility. Obtained from the internet on 6.10.22
4. https://la.curbed.com/maps/los-angeles-lost-mansions. Obtained from the internet on 6.10.22
5. Braslow, Samuel, Beverly Hills Courier, 6.5.22. https://beverlyhillscourier.com/2022/06/03/council-will-review-1001-n-roxbury-despite-challenge/Obtained from the internet on 6.10.22
6. Mark Rios Letter to Beverly Hills City Council – Obtained via the Internet on 6.19.22
LATE ADD – As I was getting ready to publish this, I found a note entered into this fight by architect Mark Rios (6). An extremely accomplished architect and landscape architect who worked on this property not once, but twice. Here is an excerpt from his letter, and you will see instantly which side of this debate upon which he stands and it might surprise you.
“I’m writing to address the potential historic status of 1001 Roxbury Drive, Beverly Hills, which I
understand is currently being considered.
I’ve had a long history with the property. I had the unique opportunity to partner with two separate owners, David Bohnett and subsequently Lisa and Josh Greer, for full remodel and revisioning projects. The piece from LUXE magazine was a publication of my work on this property.
I hope you know from our past work in Beverly Hills, that I am an avid supporter of Architectural Historic Preservation. I can fondly list the historic buildings we’ve helped to preserve and restore within the city, and we continue to work to protect and add to the city’s important architectural resources. I support and applaud everyone in Beverly Hills who passionately works to protect and maintain this irreplaceable historic resource…I’d like to make a few more comments to consider in this conversation. I fully support the city’s urban design guidelines for this neighborhood, which I believe are the key factors which give this house, other homes, and the overall neighborhood its sense of value and character. Open front yards, the position of the house on the street, the avoidance of high hedges, the limited heights of fences, the limited amount of hardscape all SIGNIFICANTLY contribute to the character of Beverly Hills. These planning ideas should be celebrated and protected, because I believe it’s what give the neighborhood its “historic significance,” not the individual houses. If a specific house remains, gets remodeled or replaced, it doesn’t matter to be honest. What’s important is the character of the neighborhood which creates the important feel and personality of this part of Beverly Hills. I applaud the Beverly Hills Architectural Review board for all their time and effort to protect and improve your community,:Their hard work, and your work from the Planning/Development departments is evident- and it pays off.
In conclusion, I absolutely support the designation and protection of valuable Architectural historical assets within the City of Beverly Hills, but 1001 Roxbury is not one of them.
A note of interest, one of the most interesting things about this debate is the lack of history or importance surrounding this property. And significant owners of this property. David Bohnett, Josh and Lisa Greer, seriously, need for more fame? I’m not so sure. Published property in AD and Luxe. I don’t know, this doesn’t sit well with me and I believe in property owners rights, but I also strongly believe in preserving history and remarkable design. Okay, on with the episode.
Thank you to Councilmember Mirisch and Jamie Rummerfield for joining in the conversation. As mentioned, the owner’s legal council in this matter and Josh Flagg were invited to provide comment but neither did so at the time of publication.
So, say what you want about millionaires and billionaires doing what they wish with significant architecture and how that affects society as a whole versus their individual rights to do what they wish with the things they buy but at the end of the day, tomorrow actually, June 21st, 2022, there will be a satisfied group and an unsatisfied group. And there will either be a well documented and protected example of classic Regency-Style architecture, or there will be a Certificate of Ineligibility upheld and most likely, another piece of local history gone forever. We’ll see. Thanks for listening. Until next time, be well and take today first.