Copyright 1994 The Times Mirror Company
Los Angeles Times

May 22, 1994, Sunday, Home Edition

SECTION: Westside; Part J; Page 3

LENGTH: 658 words



When it comes to Miracle Mile buildings, what some see as historic others
deem dilapidated.

That, in essence, is the issue fueling an eight-year dispute between
landlords and tenants over a proposal by city planners to turn the Miracle
Mile South neighborhood into a "historic preservation overlay zone," or
HPOZ. Such a designation would force owners and developers to seek consent
from a special city-sanctioned association before altering or demolishing
area buildings, some of which date to the 1920s.

Tenants concerned about rapid redevelopment during the mid-1980s real
estate boom unsuccessfully rallied for such a historic preservation zone.

Now, a pro-preservation group is gearing up for another fight June 9 at a
city planning department hearing. The proposal will then go before the
City Council.

"At some point in the near future, we're going to have nothing left of our
beautiful neighborhood, just some stucco buildings with big balloon signs
that say, 'Apartments for Rent,' " said Denise Robb, founder of the
Miracle Mile Action Committee, a residents' group that supports the
proposed zone.

Proponents argue that such a designation, which would cover Miracle Mile
South bounded by Detroit Street on the east, Hauser Boulevard on the west,
3rd Street on the north and Wilshire Boulevard on the south, would protect
buildings and neighborhood character while preserving owners' rights to
make needed changes.

Some landlords, however, say that the zone would lower property values,
add a useless layer of bureaucracy and preserve buildings of questionable
historic significance.

"There's no reason for a building from 1929 to be a historical monument,"
said Horst Beil, a landlord and member of the Miracle Mile Apartment &
Commercial Owners Assn. "I was born in Germany, and my town goes back
thousands of years."

Said Jeff Fader, a landlord who owns 13 buildings in the area: "An HPOZ is
just another layer of someone telling me what I can and can't do, what
color I can paint my building,"

Stefanos Polyzoides, a Los Angeles architect and USC professor, said that
preservation efforts are necessary to ensure well-planned communities.
"The more this city becomes like Swiss cheese, with open lots everywhere,
the more uninviting it becomes," he said.

The zone, which would be the eighth HPOZ in the city, would include a
number of Depression-era buildings designed by notable West Coast
architects such as Max Maltzman and Milton Black, said Nancy Fernandez of
the city Cultural Heritage Commission. Each zone has an association
commission that reviews construction plans. Appeals are heard by the
Planning Commission.

A motion for a Miracle Mile South historic zone died in the City Council
in 1987. Around that time, a spate of redevelopment ultimately led to the
demolition of about 50 apartment buildings in the area over several years.
(A zone covering Miracle Mile North, which is north of 3rd Street, south
of Beverly Boulevard, west of La Brea Avenue and east of Gardner Street,
was passed in 1990).

Robb and others said the issue has apparently been revived because of
residents' dissatisfaction with 1992 "downzoning" rules, which sought to
control runaway redevelopment by lowering the number of units built per
lot. Residents fear that the new regulations are too weak to curb further

Council President John Ferraro, who proposed the Miracle Mile South zone
in 1987, is now taking a wait-and-see approach. "We have not taken a
position," said Ferraro deputy Renee Weitzer. "We wanted to go to the
hearing and learn more."

Some say the zone might be a moot point anyway. According to Fader,
redevelopment has mostly dried up since the recession hit several years
ago. Even so, apartment dwellers such as Robb, who has lived at the same
Miracle Mile address for six years, aren't taking any chances.

"It's scary to think about what will happen if (developers) come back,"
she said.

GRAPHIC: Photo, Landlord Horst Beil says that, unlike in his native
Germany, Miracle Mile buildings lack history. CASSY COHEN / Los Angeles