Thursday, July 26, 2007

Felix the Cat Sign: "It's Your History, But It's Our Sign"

Earlier this month I wrote about the designation of the Felix the Cat Chevrolet sign in Los Angeles as a historic landmark.

The dealership operator has written an op-ed piece in the L.A. Times opposing the designation. As he notes, "With this historical designation, a future owner would have to build his business around the showroom and sign... While it may be theoretically possible for a future property owner to rebuild on the site, the legal, financial and other impediments that can be used to prevent such rebuilding almost guarantee its failure."

As I wrote previously, while I would very much like to see the sign preserved in some way, I am sympathetic to the dealership's position. Not only is Felix Chevrolet an active private business, but this could well hamper the long-rumored pending sale of the property to USC. The USC expansion would continue the much-need ongoing rehabilitation of the USC neighborhood, which would benefit countless residents of Los Angeles.

It would be a shame if the historic preservation effort were to freeze the neighborhood in time and prevent needed improvements to the area.


Blogger UGN said...

We are involved with the city here planning the renovation of an old movie theater so it can be used for performing arts. The redevelopment coordinator will shoot you hard looks if you accidently call the building "historic". That designation would tie a lot of people's hands.

5:58 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I hear you! I love history and historic buildings, and have been deeply saddened when some buildings weren't preserved, but you've got to balance that with private property rights and what's best overall for a community...and as the guy wrote in his op-ed piece, someone who opposes your rights can use the "historic" designation as a weapon, too.

In this specific case, the building has been changed many times and what's really important is the sign. I'm sure there must be lots of ways for this pop culture & graphic arts icon to be preserved and displayed independent of its current location.

Rumored plans for the dealership lots have sounded so exciting, with descriptions of mixed-use environments for student apartments and dorms, a gym, an expanded student bookstore, restaurants, etc. The Galen Center and the Tuscany "luxury" student apartments, with adjoining stores (Cold Stone Creamery, etc.), have added a lot to the "ambience" on Figueroa, and there has been talk eventually USC might extend all the way downtown (grin). Bit by bit USC has been expanding and with every block claimed, the area is safer and nicer. (One example of new USC construction is a Catholic Church in the University Park neighborhood north of campus.) The Figueroa & Jefferson construction, if the sale and plans went forward, would benefit far more people than simply the university community, in terms of safety, jobs, shopping options, etc. I hope the plans go forward.

Best wishes,

6:22 PM  

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