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Decision near on Brentwood site

Historic-cultural status would stall plans to raze the Barry Building. A panel will act Tuesday.

September 17, 2007|Martha Groves | Times Staff Writer

Proponents of "monument designation" for the building that houses Dutton's Brentwood Books plan to be out in force at a key meeting Tuesday.

That's when a three-member Los Angeles City Council committee will decide whether to recommend to the full council that the Barry Building on San Vicente Boulevard become the city's latest historic-cultural monument.

The designation would force the building's billionaire owner, Charles T. Munger, to engage in a public process to win approval for a planned development at the site. Munger is a founder of the Munger, Tolles & Olson law firm and a partner with Warren E. Buffett in Berkshire Hathaway.

The landmark designation is supported by the Los Angeles Conservancy, the Cultural Heritage Commission, the city planning department's Office of Historic Resources and many Brentwood community leaders. Councilman Bill Rosendahl said he also backs the designation.

Although it would not necessarily prevent demolition of the building, the designation would compel Munger to engage in a public environmental review. It would provide the building's supporters a year in which to try to come to terms with him.

Some Brentwood residents say Munger, 83, has said in community meetings that he would save Dutton's if residents supported his development project. But they contend that he has yet to show them any formal plans or drawings and that his descriptions of the proposal often change.

In July, Munger said he had scrapped plans to build 60 luxury condos at the location on San Vicente Boulevard in favor of erecting a two-story retail complex that would retain Dutton's in a new and improved space. The idea of high-rise condos had met with stiff community opposition.

Since then, however, Munger or his representatives have told residents he might want to add a mezzanine level and even a bell tower level.

Sheri Saperstein, who attended a recent Brentwood Community Council meeting where Munger spoke, said he criticized opponents and said his plan would benefit the community.

Leading the effort to win designation is Diane Caughey, daughter of the late Milton Caughey, the architect who designed the building in the Midcentury Modern style. She said she expects at least 50 interested residents, preservationists and others to attend the planning and land use management committee meeting.

"We are going to designate the building," she said. "At that time, we will be open to negotiating with Mr. Munger. We are in favor of integrating the Barry Building as it is and where it is into a larger project."

Munger declined to comment.

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martha.groves@latimes.com

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