Historic preservation leaders Kim Cooper and Richard Schave this week published an unvarnished, witty take on the FBI’s investigation of Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar and his leading role in relentlessly targeting irreplaceable Los Angeles historic sites for destruction.
They refer to Huizar as “the one-man wrecking ball.” Read their account below:
“Council President Herb Wesson stripped Huizar of his powerful committee seats, including chairmanship of PLUM, which will soon decide the fate of our Times Mirror Square landmark nomination. (Psst, if you could send an email of support by Monday, we’d so appreciate it!)
With Jose Huizar casting the deciding vote for development in Los Angeles, the preservation community knew the fix was in. But we still fought to save the soul of the city, and sometimes we even won. But the losses have been agonizing.
Jose Huizar’s political career is decorated with the ruins of Los Angeles landmarks. As President of the Board of Education, he rammed through the decision to raze the Ambassador Hotel, a loss that created deep rifts in the preservation community and nearly broke its spirit.
When seismic concerns made it necessary to rebuild the iconic Sixth Street Bridge, Huizar pursued an international design competition instead of respecting the Boyle Heights community’s desire for a faithful restoration, as promised by the Community Redevelopment Agency.
Pershing Square, too, was subject to an international design competition, ignoring public sentiment favoring a restoration of John Parkinson’s 1910 park plan.
Parker Center, a masterpiece of mid-century design and one of the finest buildings in the city’s portfolio, is presently being demolished, the first step in Huizar’s proposed partial privatization of the Civic Center.
Broadway, which was a thriving Latino business district for decades, died on Huizar’s watch—even as he boasted about the supposed successes of his Bringing Back Broadway initiative and sought Federal funding for a pointless streetcar loop to L.A. Live. His council office dedicated enormous resources to an annual street party, when for one night every historic marquee obnoxiously featured Huizar’s name in lights, every photo op a political advertisement.
With Broadway storefronts vacant and the pedestrian culture gone every other day of the year, vandals came and scrawled their tags all over the landmark buildings. Despite a few high profile leases, our historic National Register Broadway Theater District has never looked worse.
When community members successfully landmarked Kurt Meyer’s lyrical Lytton Savings on Sunset Boulevard, Huizar and his cronies altered the agenda so that Frank Gehry’s development plan was heard first, dooming the bank to likely demolition.
On Skid Row, where thousands camped on the sidewalks, a humanitarian crisis spiked to third world levels. Instead of helping this vulnerable community, Huizar colluded with local business interests to sabotage their efforts to form a Neighborhood Council and have an independent voice.
In Boyle Heights, too, there was a marked lack of leadership, even as gentrification fears sparked protests and conflict in the streets. Huizar offered no support to the low-income tenants of the historic Wyvernwood garden court apartments, who face eviction for a proposed high-rise redevelopment scheme. Roosevelt High School’s historic R Building, so significant in Chicano history, was demolished as the councilman took controversial meetings with charter school advocates, and allegedly directed his staff to fundraise for his Catholic high school on city time.
And just this week, the landmark Pickle Works warehouse in the Arts District burned, amidst reports that the city-owned building contained a well-known homeless encampment. And while Huizar skipped work in the aftermath of the FBI searches, the pending landmark Little Rascals house on Motor Avenue was illegally demolished by the owner.
Our beloved Los Angeles is no longer at the mercy of a man who will always choose development over history, the desires of billionaires over the needs of his constituents, and who treats his female employees like a harem.
Until and unless the FBI raids result in criminal charges, we’re left to wonder if Jose Huizar’s many bad land use decisions were the result of corruption, disinterest, incompetence or if some are the work of an unskilled wannabe urban planner with too much power, too little taste. But this much is clear: Jose Huizar’s reign is done. Now let’s all pull together to clean up his mess and hold future office holders to a higher standard, as people and as policy makers. This incredible city deserves nothing less, and representing her citizens is a sacred trust.”
Here is a direct link to Kim and Richard’s newsletter.[Photo: Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar was stripped of his power on the land-use committee amidst an FBI investigation. Photo Credit by Charlie Kaijo]