The city's Cultural Heritage Commission has agreed to consider making the former Valley Music Center a landmark, a move homeowner activists hope will save the unusual dome-shaped Ventura Boulevard building from being demolished for condominium or apartment development.
The Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization is seeking city cultural monument status for the building, a move engineered to save the sprawling theater that for years operated as a theater-in-the-round.
The commission will tour the 29-year-old facility Jan. 31, city officials said Tuesday.
If the auditorium at 20600 Ventura Blvd. receives monument status, it would be the youngest landmark in Los Angeles, a cultural heritage official said. Currently the 22-foot-tall "Tower of Wooden Pallets," built in 1951 in the back yard of a Van Nuys house, is the youngest city landmark.
The 2,900-seat auditorium, noted for its white domed roof, is owned by the Jehovah's Witnesses, who are selling the building to a developer, said church elder Jim Larcher. The sale is in escrow and Larcher said the developer, whom he declined to name, intends to tear down the theater and build "luxury multifamily housing."
The church has outgrown the facility, which it uses as a regional assembly hall. Officials are hoping to use the proceeds of the sale to build another auditorium, possibly in the Santa Clarita Valley. Homeowners leading the monument drive said in their application that the building should be preserved because it is similar to the "now world famous" Pacific Theater Cinerama Dome on Sunset Boulevard. Before the Music Center went bankrupt and was sold to the Jehovah's Witnesses in the late 1970s, Art Linkletter, Robert Goulet and Mitzi Gaynor had performed on the stage, the homeowners said.
"This building has been a part of this town for such a long time, it's so unique, it should stay here," said Jack Marek of Woodland Hills, who filed the application. "We don't want it torn down to cram more condominiums in our community."
While the facility is under consideration for landmark designation, city law prohibits the issuance of demolition permits for the building. If monument status is ultimately approved by the City Council and the mayor, any demolition or alteration would require costly and time-consuming environmental reviews, a process that tends to thwart development plans because it can substantially reduce profits.
Larcher said he does not yet know how the action will affect the sale of the building and said he didn't want to get involved in debate over whether the site should receive such a designation.