Two California Craftsman-style houses in Highland Park have been saved from demolition by preservation enthusiasts who bought the homes from a developer last week and plan to restore them.
Ted Kitos, a West Hollywood official who says restoring old houses is his passion, bought the homes on North Figueroa Street jointly with West Hollywood Mayor Alan Viterbi after reading about them in newspaper articles.
Plans by developer Derek Ma of Monterey Park to raze the homes and replace them with a 10-unit apartment building were fought by community groups for more than a year.
Built in the early 1900s, the homes are part of "Professors' Row," a group of dwellings built for Occidental College faculty members when the campus was located on Avenue 50 and Figueroa Street. Occidental moved to Eagle Rock in 1914.
Historic Title Denied
The Highland Park Heritage Trust and the Sycamore Terrace Assn., two local groups that mounted a strong campaign to preserve the houses, lost a battle last year when the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission denied the homes cultural-historic monument status.
But William Raftery said, "We won the war." He is a real estate broker active in both groups and who handled the sale.
"They are two very visible houses in Highland Park," Raftery said. "This shows to the whole community that there is a whole new restoration going on in Highland Park."
Kitos, an aide to West Hollywood Councilman Stephen Schulte, has restored and sold three other buildings in Los Angeles. He said he could not resist the homes once he saw them.
"Certain buildings I look at sing to me. I know when they sing to me that I want to save them," he said. "I rode up to look at them thinking I would never get involved in this. It's too complex. I rode away from them thinking, 'Well, how can I do this?' "
Kitos persuaded his friend Viterbi to help him finance the purchase of the homes, which he plans to live in, restore and sell. A seven-month escrow on the homes closed last week. Kitos would not disclose how much they paid for the properties, saying they had to pay "quite a bit more" than the developer paid.
Kitos moved into one of the homes last week.
"When I'm restoring a building, I'm crazed," he said. "It leaks during the rains. I don't have a hot water heater so I have had two showers in the last week. It's cold. It's a mess. There are wires sticking out of the walls. But that's all part of it. Restoring houses is what makes me want to live."
2 Neighborhoods Targeted
The two houses, whose mahogany paneling, turn-of-the-century architecture and antique fixtures attracted preservationists such as Kitos, are the focal point of efforts by local groups to obtain historic-preservation zoning for two entire neighborhoods in Highland Park.
One proposed zone would cover a four-mile swath called Sycamore Terrace. It would be bounded on the north by Avenue 51, on the south by Avenue 42, on the west by Marmion Way and on the east by the Pasadena Freeway.
A second, smaller zone, called Echo Hayes, would be bounded roughly by Arroyo Seco Park on the east, Figueroa Street on the north, Roselawn Place on the west and Media Drive and Benner Drive on the south.
The efforts to obtain historic status for the two neighborhoods have been unsuccessful, but preservationists said they will continue fighting to obtain the designations. That requires public hearings and approval by Los Angeles' Cultural Heritage Commission, Planning Commission and City Council.