Norms on La Cienega Is Saved! (Sort of)
Courtesy Hunter Kerhart/Los Angeles Conservancy
If you were worried about the fate of the circa-1956 Norms restaurant on La Cienega Boulevard, you can rest a little easier.
The L.A. City Council this week voted in favor of designating the Googie-architecture classic in Beverly Grove as a Historic-Cultural Monument. The 4,640-square-foot building is the subject of a demolition permit.
The new status makes it more difficult to raze the beloved, jet-age restaurant. Any possible demolition date could be pushed back by as many as 360 days with approval of the City Council. That time could be used to explore alternatives.
There's also a certain public perception attached to a Historic-Cultural Monument — that the structure in question is precious.
The unanimous vote was made at the behest of area City Councilman Paul Koretz. He called the building "not just culturally significant but culturally uniting."
His spokesman, Paul Michael Neuman, told us:
... The Councilmember's goal was (and is) not only to save the great Googie architecture, which is of tremendous significance, but also the business itself, which is a much-loved community gathering place, and quite affordable eatery, for an extraordinary number and diversity of people, many of whom dine there several times a week and have done so for years and even decades.
He said the landlord and the restaurant's owner are now talking about keeping the Norms there "for a long time to come — for the foreseeable future."
Kortetz's motion focused especially on the structure's Googiest facets:
[The] building's west- and south-facing facades are primary exterior elements of the building that this designation is intended to protect ...
The Los Angeles Conservancy, which recommended City Historic Monument status for the structure, called yesterday's vote "great news."
But, in a statement, it noted that the owner "still has an active demolition permit that could remain valid even after the designation." The nonprofit started a petition to urge the owner to "vacate" the permit "as an act of good faith and to restore public confidence."
One of the the most high-profile backers of historic status for the building was Mad Men creater Matthew Weiner, who said he wrote some of his earliest notes for the AMC TV show at the 24-hour coffee shop.
The eatery was designed by Louis Armet and Eldon Davis, who were known for their '50s-era work on Johnie’s Coffee Shop, Ship's Restaurant (demolished in 1996) and Pann’s Coffee Shop.
The Norms at 470 N. La Cienega Blvd. is one of only two Googie buildings left in that coffee-shop chain, and one of only eight remaining Googie restaurants in the region. The Conservancy described its Googie bonafides:
Norm's La Cienega retains the original character-defining features of Googie style California coffee shops: A prominent roof, the expression of the structure in the shape of the roof, the use of natural stone walls, integral neon signage, glass exterior walls, interior counter and seating configuration, an upswept ceiling, and exposed kitchen equipment behind the counter.
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