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'The Taj Mahal of All Bakeries' : Van de Kamp's Building Gets Monument Designation

March 12, 1992|MELANIE MURPHY KARIAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

GLASSELL PARK — The Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission has approved monument protection for the 61-year-old Van de Kamp's Holland Dutch bakery building at San Fernando Road and Fletcher Drive.

Facing no opposition to the nomination by the Los Angeles Conservancy, the five-member panel added the vacant building at 3020 San Fernando Road to the city's list of historic-cultural monuments.

The designation, still subject to approval by the Los Angeles City Council, would mean that the commission could halt rehabilitation or demolition work for up to a year while requiring any would-be developer to complete an environmental review.

John Miller, who researched the nomination, called the decision wonderful.

"As a corporate symbol, this is the Taj Mahal of all bakeries," Miller said. "It can be equated today with McDonald's golden arches."

A nearby resident who passes the bakery on his way to work, Miller said he has been concerned about Van de Kamp's since October, 1990, when the company filed for protection under Chapter 11 bankruptcy laws.

Designed by architect J. Edwin Hopkins, the bakery's facade is an example of Dutch Renaissance Revival style, said Jay Oren, staff architect with the commission.

In a written report, Oren said the building, distinguished by a red-tile roof and Flemish gables, "was part of the most successful corporate effort in the history of L.A. to establish image through architecture."

The designs of the bakery and corporate headquarters, reminiscent of a 16th-Century Dutch townhouse, were intended to complement the windmill motif of Van de Kamp's 100 retail stores throughout Southern California, the blue and white Dutch girl uniforms worn by the staff and the packaging of its baked products. The facade also was used as a corporate logo for many years.

Although the owner of the property, VDK Development Corp., did not protest the monument designation, company spokesman Larry Mielke said he found it a half-baked concept.

"It is absurd that someone . . ., anyone just walking by, can nominate property they do not own," said Mielke, who also said VDK has no specific plans for the site at this time.

"The decision seems rather subjective to me," he said. "What it means is delay (in the future). But we'll live with it. What choice do we have?"

Although VDK officials had cooperated in allowing city staffers to tour the disassembled plant, Mielke said, the company did not receive notice of the conservancy's plan to vote on the designation action until the day of the meeting Feb. 19, and therefore launched no formal protest.

City Councilman Mike Hernandez, whose district includes Van de Kamp's Holland Dutch Bakery, told the commission he would prefer a partial designation limited to the front exterior of the facility to allow flexibility in its future use.

"This building has the potential to serve as an anchor for much needed investment and economic development in the 1st District," Hernandez said.

Hernandez's office later said he supported the conservancy decision.

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