The Palladium, Threatened by New Development, Receives Historic Status

The Hollywood Palladium, seen here the night of its grand reopening following renovations in 2008EXPAND
The Hollywood Palladium, seen here the night of its grand reopening following renovations in 2008
Timothy Norris

[Note: This article has been updated.]

Angelenos wringing their hands over the fates of Hollywood institutions like Amoeba Music — which everyone thought was closing for a split second earlier this month — may at least be able to rest easy when it comes to the Hollywood Palladium. The city's Planning and Land Use Committee recommended last week that the Los Angeles City Council officially name the venue a city Historic-Cultural Monument. [Update, Friday, Sept. 30 at 6:40 p.m.: Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell confirmed via press release that the City Council did, in fact, vote unanimously on Thursday to approve the historic designation.]

This will come as welcome news to those who have fond memories of seeing David Bowie in ’73, or Prince in 2014. The Historic-Cultural Monument designation means, among other things, that the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission and the City Council can stall demolition permits by up to 360 days and imposes stricter rules for renovations. The designation reportedly also will help fund a restoration of the building’s storefronts on Sunset Boulevard.

The Palladium building is a cornerstone example of L.A. art deco architecture. It was designed by Gordon Kaufmann, the legendary architect who also did the L.A. Times building downtown, the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills and, most famously, Hoover Dam.

The venue opened in 1940 and traces its history from the big band era through the filming of The Lawrence Welk Show in the ’60s and on to decades of pop music concerts. From the ’70s through the ’00s, the venue hosted landmark performances by everyone from The Rolling Stones to Chuck Berry, and The Smiths to Jay Z. In 2008, the venue was closed temporarily for renovations, and the front marquee and main “blade” signage were restored.

But there’s more to the story than simply protecting an old cultural institution from a hypothetical wrecking ball. The Palladium is at the epicenter of one of the most contested development projects in Los Angeles right now — a pair of 30-story, mixed-use towers dubbed the Palladium Residences, which some angry neighbors say exemplify out-of-control high-rise development in the city. The towers, as proposed by Florida-based development company Crescent Heights, would be erected over the top of the Palladium, preserving the building. "The project's application volunteers a condition that requires nomination of the Hollywood Palladium ... as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument," reads a banner on the Palladium Residences website.

The development is contested most significantly by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a neighbor of the Palladium and a nonprofit that, despite its core mission to provide "cutting-edge medicine and advocacy" in the fight against AIDS and HIV, has taken up the antidevelopment mantle in L.A. Most recently the nonprofit contributed the vast majority of funding for a March 2017 ballot measure, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, which would put a freeze on most major developments in the city.

It was the AIDS Healthcare Foundation that submitted the original application on behalf of the Palladium for historic-cultural status. Whether the historic-cultural designation boosts the development plans or the foundation's fight against them remains to be seen.

"I am proud to support the Historic-Cultural Monument designation for the Hollywood Palladium," said L.A. City Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell, who represents the area, in a statement provided to L.A. Weekly. "The status, which has been years in the making, will protect and preserve one of the city's iconic music venues for the future enjoyment of generations of Angelenos."

The venue, currently leased by Live Nation, continues on in 2016 as one of the city’s staple midsize venues. Upcoming shows at the Palladium include The Descendents, Phantogram, Ween and Green Day.

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