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save our tiki history
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Jul 03, 2003
Posts: 44
Posted: 2006-11-17 9:56 pm   Permalink

Hi, I don't drop in here too often, but thought I would try to offer some 'in the trenches' observations.

I'm the former chairman of the Los Angeles Conservancy Modern Committee
http://modcom.org/ (Thanks for the plug Vintagegirl) I started volunteering in the late '80s.

MODCOM has been working very hard for the past 22 years to preserve historic sites from the Post WWII period and currently have an agenda with well over 50 locations in L.A. County that are threatened. There are groups like ours forming all over the country. Off the top of my head we've got Futura Girl in Las Vegas, http://atomicagealliance.com/ and folks in Palm Springs http://psmodcom.com/ Portland http://www.portlandmodern.com/ Phoenix http://www.modernphoenix.net/ and Kansas City http://www.kcmodern.com/ and the Society for Commercial archeology http://www.sca-roadside.org/ all working to save modern resources, which would include tiki.

Typically, historic preservation laws apply at three levels: city, state and federal. Out of the 88 cities in Los Angeles county,for example, only a handful have serious preservation laws and out of those, even fewer understand the resources of the recent past. However, ANYONE can prepare a landmark nomination locally - and there will always be volunteers in the Modern Committee willing to walk you through it. Designation is what makes city planners work to try and come up with a compromise that allows development, but not at the expense of historic resources.

Our tactics have ranged from simple publicity campaigns to full blown designations to protests and street theater. We have found new sympathetic owners for threatened properties, volunteered to write landmark nominations, and on rare occasions, filed lawsuits when we felt that Caliornia Environmental Quality Act was not being observed. Environmental laws like CEQA are extremely important tool in preservation. Here, read this: http://ohp.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=21731

The main problem with traditional preservation planning and what you are discussing here is that even after a major success, you preserve only the architecture. The preservation laws do not dictate the use of a significant building, or decorations or (for the most part) the interiors themselves. Historic blacksmith shops need not shoe horses.

The mention above about the Starbucks conversion was a 1958 bowling alley with an incredible rich cultural as well as architectural history. It took over 5 years, a huge community coalition, major press, a museum exhibition, the full-time staff of the Los Angeles Conservancy and the end result was a Starbucks. An architecturally significant, restored 1958 coffee shop, but a Starbucks nonetheless.
http://www.lottaliving.com/bb/viewtopic.php?t=1806 I like to think it's in stasis - awaiting an even more glorious return a la Austin Powers.

If you want to preserve a culture, an interior, a way of life, the only feasible way is to find new, sympathetic owners and work with them dilligently to help find financial incentives, things like the Mills Act http://ohp.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=21412 or other historic tax credits, utilize the simpler and easier historic building code in renovations, etc. Do whatever you can to remove the threat to the site and bring in people that get it and are able to help...but this type of work is the most difficult of the most difficult. Sometimes it's like working in a hospice... but the survivors make it well worth it.

As for the concern that you are taking profits from those sensitive heirs who sell off everything the minute gramma is gone....many studies show that historic designation increases the value of a property. Here is a study from Rutgers Univerity: http://geography.rutgers.edu/people/faculty/leichenko/leichenko_coulson_listokin2001.pdf

We're in the initial stages of Trader Vic's in Beverly Hills right now. It's going to be an incredibly rough and complex battle. I hope some of you will join us.

Thank you.

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