A Los Angeles City Council panel voted 2-1 Tuesday to recommend landmark status for the San Vicente Boulevard building that houses Dutton's Brentwood Books.
The recommendation, strongly opposed by billionaire Charles T. Munger, the property's owner, paves the way for a vote by the full council whether to name the structure the city's latest historic-cultural monument.
To enthusiastic applause from Westside constituents, Councilman Bill Rosendahl urged the panel to vote to recommend the 1951 Barry Building, named for the former owner who commissioned it, as a rare example of mid-century modern architecture in a commercial structure.
The designation is supported by the Los Angeles Conservancy, the city's Cultural Heritage Commission, the city planning department's Office of Historic Resources and the Brentwood Community Council.
"I want to designate it today so we can force the feet to the fire," Rosendahl said.
Those feet belong to Munger, who has met with community members several times in recent months in an effort to reassure them that he would take their concerns about preserving the building into account.
But Brentwood residents testified at the planning and land use management committee meeting at City Hall that Munger has yet to reveal any architectural drawings and that his descriptions of the project have changed often.
Rosendahl's stance prevailed over the objections of Jack Weiss, a panel member and fellow Westside councilman, who suggested that the vote be deferred to allow the two sides to negotiate a compromise. Councilman Ed Reyes, the committee chairman, and Councilman Jose Huizar voted in favor.
Munger's legal team noted that Doug Dutton, the book shop's proprietor, who had previously spoken in favor of the designation, now supports the property's redevelopment. Dutton, who did not attend the meeting, said in a statement that "if I only had a choice between a new location built especially for a bookstore on Munger property or a part of that property as a historical monument, I would, quite naturally, choose the new store."
After the vote, Rosendahl told Barry Building supporters outside the meeting room that Munger had agreed to work with him to try to devise a compromise. Munger said he disliked a process that allowed the city to reduce his property value by "$15 million," but he added, "I would be amazed if this can't be worked out."
The designation does not end the matter, Rosendahl said. It does not prevent the owner from developing the property or even demolishing the building. But it creates a review process. If the owner requests a permit for demolition or substantial alteration, the community and owner would have several months to try to achieve a compromise.