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Chili Bowl nominated for historical-cultural status

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission has nominated the Chili Bowl building in West Los Angeles to be added to the city’s list of Historic-Cultural Monuments, despite the property owners arguing against the nomination and one commissioner calling the building “not attractive.”

The building’s inclusion to the list will now be considered by the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee before it can be sent to the full council.

Jay Handle, who spoke on behalf of the property owners, said the skin of the building had been redone, windows have been replaced, the doors have been changed, and those actions should make the Chili Bowl ineligible for a historic designation.

“This property stands in the way of, quite frankly, affordable housing, which is planned on the property,” Handle said. “I have told some of the commissioners and I’ve made it clear to the (Los Angeles) Conservancy that if there is a historical nomination approved, this is something that we’ll move out of the city anyway. This building will be picked up and it will be moved.”

Handle said the structure may be moved to Palm Springs or somewhere near there.

“We’d like to be sure that you actually outline the property itself, what you do consider historical, because there are additions that are not historical,” Handle said, adding that a small structure abuts the building.

Properties that are put on the historic cultural monument list can be altered and the use of them can be changed, but it’s a much more rigorous process to do that compared to buildings that are not deemed historical.

The Chili Bowl is located at 12244 W. Pico Blvd. It was built in 1935 in Silver Lake and moved to its current location. The building is characterized as “programmatic architecture,” or novelty architecture. Its structure, just as its namesake promises, looks like a bowl for chili.

The Chili Bowl was once a chain of restaurants in Southern California started by Arthur Whizin. It is now Shunji Japanese Cuisine, which has operated there since 2012.

Commissioner Barry Milofsky said he was “a fan” of the architecture.

“It’s sort of indicative of the growth and certain development of Southern California,” Milofsky said. “The  fact that this is roadside architecture, which is how the city developed and evolved … the fact that it was moved here from Silver Lake, I wish we [put it] back. I like it.”

The commission voted 4-1 to nominate the building to the list, with Commissioner Diane Kanner opposed.

“I was put off by the top of the building, they have those wire extensions to keep birds from nesting on the building, not especially attractive,” Kanner said. “I thought the stucco treatment was very heavy-handed. I just don’t find it a very attractive building, but I’m sympathetic to the idea that this is programmatic architecture that is vanishing.”

Kanner said the owners may not have known that the building had historic significance when they bought it.

“I can’t get too excited about this building,” Kanner said.

Milofsky said it may be possible to preserve the building and allow for affordable housing to be built on the site.

From City News Service