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Historic West Hollywood Studio Fades to Black

By Josh Premako, 4/05/2012


Modernization efforts began as demolition crews set to work this week at a historic West Hollywood studio backlot founded by silent film stars Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford in the 1920s.

The demolition of the Pickford Building was underway Wednesday at The Lot studios on Formosa Avenue. (photo by Josh Premako)

By Wednesday morning, workers had torn down much of the Pickford Building at the Formosa Avenue entrance to The Lot, a busy, 11-acre compound of sound stages and offices on the south side of Santa Monica Boulevard.

With a long history of film production, the studio is now used primarily for television filming.

Historic conservation groups have decried the demolition work, part of owner CIM Group’s plans to modernize the facility. The firm acquired the property in 2007, spokesperson Karen Diehl said.

The first phase of construction will remove the Pickford and Fairbanks buildings — both flank the studio’s entrance — to make way for a five-story, 92,827 square-foot building, according to a CIM statement. An artist’s rendering shows a glass and steel building that looks more at home in the 1960s of AMC’s “Mad Men” than the existing 1930s architecture.

Construction is expected to wrap up by early 2013, and CIM said filming production would not be hindered by the work. Subsequent development phases have not been designed or scheduled, according to the statement.

The Lot was placed on West Hollywood’s list of Historic and Cultural Resources in 1987. By Wednesday afternoon, city officials did not return calls inquiring what kind of protections are in place for sites on the historic property list, specifically when it comes to demolition work.

There are 82 properties on the list, many of them single-family homes or apartment buildings. A development plan for The Lot was initially approved in 1993, and supplemental plans were approved in 2007.

Because CIM went through the proper channels of gaining city approval for its plans, the demolition is an example of why community involvement is important, said Adrian Scott Fine, director of advocacy for the Los Angeles Conservancy.

If more people had been aware of the development issues and involved in speaking out before final approval, he said, perhaps a different outcome could have been secured.

“This studio portrays so much of what L.A. is about,” he said. “It has kind of fabled connections in terms of early entertainers.”



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One Response to “Historic West Hollywood Studio Fades to Black”

  1. MIchael Donahue says:

    I was at the planning commission meeting. The city planning manager stated that Mary Pickford never worked in the Pickford Building. This is patently false, as she filmed “My Best Gal” with Buddy Rogers in 1927, the year that the building was built and named in her honor. She owned the studio for many years thereafter, yet the city planning manager makes such a grossly wrong statement? Either West Hollywood did not do their own research, or they were paid off, or they believed CIM’s info without fact checking. What they have done is destroy their most important historic site. If there is any question of lack of community involvement, who would have even believed someone could even consider tearing down one of the most historic film sites in the County, let alone the only one in the care of the City of West Hollywood? It’s an abomination. There is no disputing what they have done is wrong, irreparable, and a slap in the face to the future. Destroying the history of Hollywood is no favor to the people of Southern California. Case closed.

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