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La Cienega Norms future in question as L.A. grapples with preserving history




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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Norms Restaurant on La Cienega Boulevard has been open 24/7 since 1957. It’s seen as an iconic example of Googie architecture and is Norms’ oldest location. But late last year, the restaurant’s ownership changed hands. The Roybark family had owned the chain for three generations, but sold it late last year. When news broke that the new owners had gotten a demolition permit for the La Cienega Norms, many preservationists and others in L.A. were concerned about what might happen to the restaurant. The new owners have said they don’t have any immediate plans to demolish the property, but that didn’t stop the L.A. Conservancy from petitioning to make Norms a historical monument.

Yesterday, the Cultural Commission voted to consider Norms’ as a historical monument, saving it from any demolition...for now. Ultimately, the L.A. City Council will have the final say on whether the La Cienega Norms is actually designated a historical monument.

The La Cienega Norms is just one example of an iconic yet aging landmark in Los Angeles. But what does it say for the bigger conversation about how L.A. grapples with preserving its history? In the debate between preservation and progress, where do you draw the line? How can L.A. keep its history and defining characteristics intact while still being open to progress? What are some other L.A. landmarks that fall into the same category as the La Cienega Norms?

Guests:

Chris Nichols, associate editor of L.A. Magazine and President of the Southern California Historical Restaurant Society

Mott Smith, Principal with Civic Enterprise Development, which develops urban infill projects in and around Southern California. He’s also served on L.A. Conservancy committees and developed a project that won an L.A. Conservancy prize (the Maltman Bungalows in Silver Lake).