Googie architecture is an L.A. original, dating back to a postwar era mesmerized by the jet age, space travel and car culture.
Unfortunately, some of the genre's most striking examples are old enough that some developers want to tear them down in favor of more efficient uses of land. The owners of the classic Norms restaurant at 470 N. La Cienega Blvd. recently obtained a demolition permit.
But the city's Cultural Heritage Commission this week gave the structure a two-month-plus reprieve, which was good news for preservationists and other lovers of this indigenous form Los Angeles architecture.
The commission voted 5-0 yesterday to formally consider Historic-Cultural Monument status for the Norms, said Office of Historic Resources manager Ken Bernstein:
The Commission voted 5-0 today to take the nomination formally under consideration, which means that a stay on demolition has gone into effect.
The L.A. Conservency is “happy with the vote” and added in a statement to the Weekly that the move gives the building a 75-day reprieve and then some:
CHC [the Cultural Heritage Commission] has 75 days to visit the site and hold a second hearing, at which they’ll vote on whether to recommend HCM designation to the City Council. Once receiving the nomination and report from the CHC, the City Council has 90 days to vote on the official designation.
The nonprofit, independent Conservancy nominated the building for Historic-Cultural Monument protection December 23. In the application, the group describes the 4640-square-foot building this way:
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.
The Cultural Heritage Commission says in a staff report on the 1956 building that it was designed by architects Louis Armet and Eldon Davis, known for their '50s-era work on Johnie’s Coffee Shop, Ship's Restaurant (demolished in 1996) and Pann’s Coffee Shop.
The Conservancy says that only eight Googie restaurants still stand in the area.
Norms, which once had eight Googie restaurants of its own, was the brainchild of founder Norman Roybark, and his restaurants still dot the L.A. landscape. Only two of its Googie versions, including the one on La Cienega and one in Huntington Park, still remain, the Conservancy says.
The La Cienega Norms is depicted in noted artist Ed Ruscha's “Norms La Cienega on Fire (1964),” the Conservancy notes in its nomination paperwork.
The organization is urging Googie fans and preservationists alike to join the fight to save the Norms La Cienega structure:
How people can help: Urge Councilmember Koretz to see the nomination through to designation, and sign the Conservancy’s petition urging the new property owner to vacate their demolition permit, since they’ve stated they have no plans to demolish the building.