The Highland Camrose Bungalow Village, a cluster of 13 historic homes near the Hollywood Bowl, could become the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute for Young Musicians and Conductors under an ambitious new plan to save the 60- and 70-year-old structures.
At the request of county Supervisor Ed Edelman, members of the city's Cultural Heritage Commission agreed Wednesday to forbid demolition of the bungalows for at least two more months while city and county officials join in an attempt to buy the two-acre site, now priced at $2.9 million.
City Councilman Michael Woo introduced a motion to council members Wednesday that would free $200,000 in city park funds to go toward the plan. The City Council is expected to vote on the proposal after it is studied by the city's Parks and Recreation commission.
County supervisors, meanwhile, are expected to vote soon on a larger share of the purchase price, Edelman said. The supervisor said he hoped the state would contribute money toward the plan, based on initial support he has received from state Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles).
But Edelman predicted that the county would be able to finance the purchase even if the state does not participate. Edelman said he has identified sources of financing, but declined to say what they sources are.
"I'm hopeful," the supervisor said in an interview Thursday. "I think it looks promising at this stage."
The Jan Development Co., a Beverly Hills firm that bought the weather-worn village more than a year ago, has agreed to sell the property if preservationists are able to find the financing. But in the eight months since the village was declared a Los Angeles historic landmark, efforts to attract a private buyer have failed.
If no agreement is reached, Jan Development hopes to tear down the village and construct a 180-unit luxury apartment complex on the site. Edward Czuker, vice president of the company, said the firm is willing to negotiate with potential buyers and is anxious to resolve the issue.
"Our costs to date, including carrying costs, contract costs and legal expenses, are just under $3 million," Czuker said. "If the plan is a 'go,' I'm happy to cooperate. But if it's a 'no-go,' I don't want additional delays to put a burden on us. Every time we think we're at the end of the rainbow . . . the end gets further away."
Controversy over the site began a year ago when Jan Development announced plans to tear down the bungalows. Residents of the village and surrounding neighborhoods fought the move with the help of former City Councilwoman Peggy Stevenson. Stevenson, who was then seeking reelection, was unseated by Woo.
Residents argued that the village was historically important because of its California Craftsman architecture and because many of Hollywood's film-making pioneers are believed to have lived there. Residents also argued that a large apartment complex would worsen traffic on nearby Highland Avenue, a heavily congested route between downtown Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.
Despite criticism by some council members of the bungalows' deteriorated condition, the city designated the village a historical landmark in April, giving preservationists at least six months to find a way to buy and protect the site. That time period was extended late last year.
Brian Moore, president of the nearby Whitley Heights Homeowners Assn., said the high cost of the property has scared away potential private investors. But he said Edelman became interested in a possible public purchase of the property late last year, and the idea has caught on among city officials and members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Assn.
Moore said he is optimistic that the plan will pass. The presence of the Hollywood Bowl, the restored Cecil B. DeMille Barn and the historic Whitley Heights neighborhood may help overcome possible opposition, he said.
"The Cecil DeMille Barn was a wreck--a real ruin--and now it's celebrated across the country," Moore said.
The future of the village is "still on the 'if' side," he added. "There are always the naysayers who say 'Tear it down. It's old. It's not beautiful.' But in this area you've got a whole region of historic things. It's very shortsighted on the part of those . . . people who don't see the commercial value of historic sites."
As part of the plan, the bungalows would become a permanent home for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute, a summer training program for 110 of the nation's top young musicians and conductors. The grounds also would be used as a picnic area for patrons of the Hollywood Bowl, located just north of the village.