By Maureen Neeley
In March this year, Nancy Latimer, Long Beach Heritage advisor, hosted a joint group of LBH Advisors and Advocacy committee members. This meeting resulted in many positive outcomes, one of which was the desire to see more Long Beach buildings nominated for landmark status.
A little history
In the 1980s and 1990s we lost many significant structures to ill-conceived planning. The Jergins Trust, Heartwell, Omar Hubbard, Barker Brothers, and the Pacific Coast Club were just a few of the icons that were razed in the face of misguided property tax codes and unenlightened earthquake retrofit techniques. At the same time, the demolitions ignited a fire under many residents who understood that losing our unique historic fabric was short-sighted economic policy.
To that end, our city’s former Historic Preservation Officer, Ruthann Lehrer, enlisted several preservationists to help identify and nominate scores of buildings throughout Long Beach. Although not a guarantee that a building would be untouched, historic landmark status does provide a great deal of protection against demolition. Today, the city’s Development Services website lists 131 landmarks, several of which –unfortunately - have been demolished. The last structure to be landmarked was the former Palace Hotel on Anaheim in 2009.
Today – New Landmarks on the Horizon?
At our joint Advocacy-Advisors meeting in March 2014, several buildings throughout the city were identified as potential landmarks. At the April CHC meeting, LBH Advocates Maureen Neeley and Tami Dowgiewicz made a brief presentation requesting that the city activate this core function of our Historic Preservation Element, one that contributes to our eligibility as a Certified Local Government.
The commissioners positively received the presentation, directing staff to bring nominations back to the commission, thus requiring that each building be assessed vis-à-vis the city’s landmark criteria.
With current staff shortages, this nominations project became inter-departmental. Development Services ‘borrowed’ a city librarian to conduct the research and complete the forms. Using local staff allowed for easy access to local resources.
So, which buildings are top on the list? Although there are many, many worthy candidates, the committee had to start somewhere. In an effort to select potential landmarks in several districts, and to provide city protection for some that are already on either the state or national register, the following structures were nominated in July 2014 by the Cultural Heritage Commission as eligible for landmark status. The first four are undergoing secondary review, and we hope to see their nominations at City Council by the end of 2014, and the balance some time next year:
- Fire Station No. 12 (6509 Gundry Ave.)
- Former Southern Pacific Passenger Depot (now in the city yard on San Francisco Avenue, soon to be moved to Willow Springs Park)
- Alamitos Branch Library (1836 E. 3rd St.)
- Edison Theatre (formerly the site of the Nippon Pool Room, 213 E. Broadway)
- Forest Lawn Mortuary (formerly Sunnyside Mausoleum, 1500 E. San Antonio Dr.)
- Federal Post Office (300 Long Beach Blvd.)
- Jennie Reeve Spec House by Greene & Greene (1265 Chestnut, moved from 316 Cedar)
- Former Southern California Automobile Club building (757 Pacific Ave.)
ACTION: If you have information on any of these buildings, or would like more information on the nomination process, please call either Steve Gerhardt with Development Services (570-6822) or Maureen Neeley, LBH Advocacy Committee (438-4687).