Twelve Highland Park houses built around the turn of the century were designated cultural-historic monuments Friday by the Los Angeles City Council, saving two of the buildings from possible demolition.
The City Council's 11-0 vote in favor of the designation increased by 50% the number of cultural monuments in Highland Park.
Diana Barnwell, who chairs the Highland Park Neighborhood Assn., said the council's decision greatly contributed to maintaining the historical integrity of the neighborhood. "Our belief in the special nature of this community and the individual structures is being recognized," she said.
The designation means that the city's Cultural Heritage Commission can delay any work on the endangered houses as long as a year with approval of the City Council.
The owners of the two houses most in danger of demolition--the Morrell House, a Craftsman style house; and the Reeves House, a Colonial Revival structure--opposed the historic and cultural designations.
The attorney for owners of the Reeves House, at 219 N. Ave. 53, told the council his clients were planning to raze the structure and build an apartment building with $600-a-month, two-bedroom units. He said that designating the house a monument would only stall the owners' plans.
"It is absolutely economically prohibitive for my clients to do anything else than erect this apartment building, and they will do so," said Terrence L. Butler of Los Angeles. "The only question the council faces here today is when they will do it."
Butler said his clients, Robert Regan and S. Malik of Orange County, had proposed moving the structure to another site in the area but would be unable to do so under guidelines used to protect historic and cultural monuments.
"I think it gives evidence to suggest that perhaps the homeowners' association truly isn't interested in saving the building," Butler said. "What they are interested in is de facto zoning."
Robert Spira of the Highland Park Neighborhood Assn. said the group wants to keep the neighborhood as true to its historic form as possible.
"Our preference is to keep the street as intact as possible, particularly the contributing structures," Spira said. "If we cannot work out an arrangement to do that, we will of course consider any viable possibilities that do preserve the structure."
Stanley T. Mak, a developer from Monterey Park who owns the Morrell House at 215 N. Ave. 53, also opposed the nomination of his house, citing the costs he would incur in retaining an attorney and delaying architectural work.
"We just hope the council would recognize our economic plight and not designate this house as a historical monument," Mak said.
Councilwoman Gloria Molina, who represents Highland Park, said the developers may have purchased the properties without realizing the importance of historical monuments to the community.
"It's going to be unfortunate that there are a lot of greedy real estate people that are selling these structures now and not informing the present property owners or the potential property owners of their particular situation," Molina said.