Politics

Norms faces demolition threat; Cultural Heritage Commission considers landmark status

New owners have a demolition permit for the iconic Norms Restaurant building on La Cienega. The structure is representative of the Googie architecture movement which originated in Southern California.
New owners have a demolition permit for the iconic Norms Restaurant building on La Cienega. The structure is representative of the Googie architecture movement which originated in Southern California.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
New owners have a demolition permit for the iconic Norms Restaurant building on La Cienega. The structure is representative of the Googie architecture movement which originated in Southern California.
New owners have a demolition permit for the iconic Norms Restaurant building on La Cienega. The structure is representative of the Googie architecture movement which originated in Southern California.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
New owners have a demolition permit for the iconic Norms Restaurant building on La Cienega. The structure is representative of the Googie architecture movement which originated in Southern California.
New owners have a demolition permit for the iconic Norms Restaurant building on La Cienega. The structure is representative of the Googie architecture movement which originated in Southern California.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
New owners have a demolition permit for the iconic Norms Restaurant building on La Cienega. The structure is representative of the Googie architecture movement which originated in Southern California.
New owners have a demolition permit for the iconic Norms Restaurant building on La Cienega. The structure is representative of the Googie architecture movement which originated in Southern California.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
New owners have a demolition permit for the iconic Norms Restaurant building on La Cienega. The structure is representative of the Googie architecture movement which originated in Southern California.
New owners have a demolition permit for the iconic Norms Restaurant building on La Cienega. The structure is representative of the Googie architecture movement which originated in Southern California.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
New owners have a demolition permit for the iconic Norms Restaurant building on La Cienega. The structure is representative of the Googie architecture movement which originated in Southern California.
New owners have a demolition permit for the iconic Norms Restaurant building on La Cienega. The structure is representative of the Googie architecture movement which originated in Southern California.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
New owners have a demolition permit for the iconic Norms Restaurant building on La Cienega. The structure is representative of the Googie architecture movement which originated in Southern California.
New owners have a demolition permit for the iconic Norms Restaurant building on La Cienega. The structure is representative of the Googie architecture movement which originated in Southern California.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC


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Days after the new owner of classic 1950s coffee shop Norms got a demolition permit from the city of Los Angeles, the city's Cultural Heritage Commission agreed Thursday to consider landmark status for the iconic store on La Cienega Boulevard. 

The commission has 75 days to grant the building cultural-historic status. Final approval would have to come from the Los Angeles City Council and could make it more difficult to alter or destroy the coffee shop, considered a prime example of so-called Googie architecture.

"There are no immediate plans to demolish this property," D.J. Moore, an attorney with Latham & Watkins who represents the owners, said at the public meeting Thursday. "The ownership is currently considering a variety of options for the property and has always recognized the importance of the architectural components of the building."

The attorney said the building's owners got the permit from the Department of Building and Safety last week because they may want to redevelop the site in the future.

Preserving Los Angeles' historic buildings and architectural gems is an ongoing battle. The tentative reprieve for Norms came the same week author Ray Bradbury's Cheviot Hills home was torn down. In Los Feliz, architect A.C. Martin's century-old Oswald Bartlett home was demolished last month.

The Los Angeles Conservancy maintains a watch list of buildings that could be on the chopping block. 

"This building embodies the forces of change and the optimism looking toward the future that was a historical characteristic of Los Angeles in this period of time," said architect Alan Hess, who prepared the nomination for Norms for the Los Angeles Conservancy. "That's why it is historically so significant."

Built in the 1950s, Norms was built in the style of Googie architecture, the '50s idea of the future.

"The moment you walk into Norms it feels like family, so it would be sad to see it go," said customer Jesse Stamps, who has eaten at the Norms on La Cienega for six years. "It's got soul. There's a soul inside here."

Norms was started by Norman Royback in 1949. It was a family-owned business until it was sold in 2014. 

The La Cienega building was designed by well-known architects Louis Armet and Eldon Davis. Its Googie features include a prominent angled roof and integrated sign, the use of glass and natural landscaping. The open kitchen, visible to the customer, was a new design feature at the time. 

Supporters argue it is a well-preserved example of Googie architecture. Other examples include Johnie's Coffee Shop on Fairfax and the old Van de Kamp’s Holland Dutch Bakery in Arcadia. Ships Coffee Shop in Westwood was also considered a fine example until it was torn down in 1984. 

Do you think Norms should get landmark status and be preserved? Let us know in the comments, on our Facebook page or on Twitter (@KPCC).

https://storify.com/kpcc/should-norms-be-preserved