PRESERVATION POLITICS-Who doesn’t like Marilyn Monroe? Councilmember Krekorian, that’s who!
Why else would Councilmember Paul Krekorian support the demolition of one of the most significant homes of Marilyn Monroe?
With the blessings of Mayor Garcetti, who believes in eradicating as much of Hollywood’s history as possible, and with the support of Councilmember Krekorian, Marilyn Monroe’s home at 5258 Hermitage Avenue, Valley Village, was illegally demolished on June 15, 2015. While living there in 1944 and 1945, Marilyn was still known as Norma Jean.
Garcetti is an old hand at demolishing historic structures. Remember, the Spaghetti Factory at Sunset and Gordon in Hollywood? After a legal battle, the developer agreed to a court order whereby it received many millions of dollars of concessions for its project. In return it stipulated that it would not destroy the facade of the Spaghetti Factory. That stipulation became a court order – by Judge James Chalfant.
Then late on a Friday afternoon, Garcetti made certain that a demolition permit was issued and overnight, the Spaghetti factory was gone.
As a result, Judge Chalfant ordered the occupancy permits revoked and the project is now in limbo.
Garcetti and Councilmember Paul Krekorian learned their lesson. Destroy first!!! Destroy an historic building BEFORE any court order can be issued, BEFORE any historical designation can be made, BEFORE due process has run its course, and BEFORE the asbestos documents have been obtained.
Why was this home unique? Between 1944 and 1945, Marilyn was living with her in-laws, the Doughterys, while her husband James Dougherty was in the Navy. She was living in this house as “Norma Jean” when she was discovered and soon transformed into Marilyn Monroe.
Norma Jean’s mother-in-law, Ethel Dougherty, had found her a job at Radio Plane Munitions Factory aircraft plant where she sprayed parts with fire retardant and inspected parachutes. When Capt. Ronald Reagan needed a model for morale publicity, Reagan’s photographer David Conover selected Norma Jean. That was the launching pad for her entire career, yet Krekorian and Garcetti find nothing historically significant about this phase of her life.
It is one thing to be discovered, but how many stars were discovered by Ronald Reagan? If that is not one for the history books, nothing is.
One of the most amazing aspects of this tiny home at 5258 N. Hermitage in Valley Village is that it captures the essence of Marilyn’s life during a crucial transforming stage. While Norma Jean was born at County Hospital in Lincoln Heights, Marilyn Monroe’s career was born while living in this house. Without her working at the munitions factory and without Capt. Reagan’s need for a morale-boosting model, the world may have never had Marilyn Monroe.
The Garcetti Administration and Councilmember Krekorian do not see it this way. In opposing the historic status for this home, Councilman Krekorian’s office said the home did not qualify because Norma Jean was not in a highly productive phase of her career. Really? Then let’s tear down the birthplaces of all the presidents because obviously, when they were born, they are not being highly productive at birth.
We all need to see the verbatim reason that Garcetti and Krekorian trashed this home: According to the Councilman’s designated spokesperson, Krekorian said he thought there was nothing “in the staff report says that it was of any great historical significance, especially since Norma Jean only lived there one year.”
You see how easily an L.A. councilman can turn Marilyn Monroe’s home into nothing of great historical significance? This is not someone’s opinion about what Krekorian thinks, but the authorized words from his own staff.
By the way, it’s likely that the actual structure where Norma Jean lived was over 100 years old, giving it a claim to history even without Marilyn.
If the home had been so devoid of significance, why did Krekorian have it torn down just prior to the meeting of the Cultural Heritage Commission? The destruction happened on Monday, June 15 – just three days before the Commission’s hearing on Thursday June18. The hasty demolition shows that Krekorian and the developer both knew that the home qualified for historical protection. The only way to avoid the law was to have Krekorian’s quick approval of its destruction. (As we shall see, the house could not be legally demolished.)
Let’s take a moment to peek at this “Marilyn” hypocrisy. What standard did Garcetti use to protect Florentine Gardens when Hollywood desperately needed a full two acres for a new Regional Fire Station on its site? A Marilyn impersonator may have visited the club once or twice. The real Marilyn is not significant, but an ersatz Marilyn is significant?
The behind-the-scenes scuttlebutt about Florentine Gardens is that Garcetti wanted the now-defunct CRA to build mixed-use condos at Florentine Gardens. So he nixed that site for the two-acre regional fire station. Instead, Garcetti moved the proposed two-acre regional Fire Station 82 to Gridlock Hell -- the tri-intersection of Hollywood Boulevard, Van Ness and the Hollywood Freeway. Then, Garcetti downsized it by 75 percent so that it could be squeezed onto a half-acre space. Ironically, this lot also had historical significance. (see Scotty Bowers’ “Full Service”)
Krekorian’s and Garcetti’s excuse that Marilyn was not in a highly productive phrase of her career is so ludicrous that only an administration without shame would make such a claim. This extremely modest home was all the more historically vital as it captured what life was like at the end of World War II. It epitomized the American dream – the rise to fame from the most modest means.
Norma Jean’s small, old home embodied the essence of the Hollywood dream -- “being discovered.” Nothing can convey her rise to fame as much as seeing the home where she lived when she was first chosen for stardom.
Did Los Angeles really need another glitzy condo project at this exact location?
Apparently, Councilmember Krekorian thought so. We know how City Hall works. If Krekorian did not want the home demolished, it would be standing today and those condos would never be built.
Will Krekorian now impose the five-year moratorium for an unlawful demolition? Ha! Don’t hold your breath. The Los Angeles City Councilmembers represent one constituency only – the mega developers who want to re-make Los Angeles into Manhattan.
Korekorian knew that the demolition was not legal. The AQMD had posted the property as needing asbestos abatement documentation, but in a race to beat the Cultural Heritage Commission hearing, what’s a little thing like exposing all the neighbors and workers to asbestos? Who cares what the law says? And who’s going to enforce a law that Krekorian and Garcetti chose to flaunt?
The rampage of destruction of historical places in Los Angeles is a by-product of Garcetti’s mania to bring super density to all portions of the City. After being stymied in Hollywood -- losing lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit -- developers and politicos are looking for less sophisticated neighborhoods. They’ve settled on Valley Village as one site to which they are determined to bring super-density.
Developers have been buying up land in Valley Village and are launching plans to do to Valley Village what they did to Hollywood -- cram it with more apartments and condos than it can handle, bring gridlock to the area and chase out the current residents. Garcetti was so effective with his cleansing of Hollywood, that he actually killed his own council district. Between 2001 and 2010, Garcetti’s land use policies, which are now Krekorian’s land use policies, drove so many people out of Council District 13 that its loss of population caused it to cease being a legal council district.
Now, Hollywood is on the skids again. The traffic congestion is unbearable and transient Millennials are now a significant part of the population.
The destruction of Marilyn’s home at 5258 Hermitage tells us one thing – Garcetti and Krekorian are not going to allow anything to stand in the way of bringing super-densification to Valley Village.
ACTION INFO: There is another hearing on Tuesday, September 1, 2015, at downtown City Hall before the PLUM committee. The right thing to do would be to put the project into mothballs for five (5) years due to unlawful demolition.
CONTACT INFO: SaveValleyVillage.com
(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney. He can be reached at: Rickleeabrams@Gmail.com.)
Vol 13 Issue 70
Pub: Aug 28, 2015