It all started over the inability to replace windows, and now West Hollywood's historic El Mirador apartment building may be demolished.
“If they don't allow any use for this building,” says El Mirador owner Jerome Nash, “and I can't rehab it, it will have to be torn down.”
Built in 1929, the city-designated landmark stands on Fountain and Sweetzer avenues. If flattened by a demolition crew for, say, another run-of-the-mill condominium project, it would be downright scandalous.
But that's where things seem to be heading, according to Nash, who says city officials such as West Hollywood City Attorney Mike Jenkins, City Manager Paul Arevalo, and City Councilman John Heilman have strung him along for six years and made it impossible to get the necessary approvals to replace decaying windows.
“Heilman is the souring force of the whole thing,” says Nash, noting that the powerful politician who has served on the West Hollywood City Council since 1985 has refused to work with him.
Featuring a Churrigueresque Spanish Colonial Revival architectural style, El Mirador has been home to movie star Jean Harlow, Academy Award-winning cinematographer Conrad Hall, and other Hollywood types.
The story of how things have gotten to this low point at El Mirador is long and twisted.
It essentially started with West Hollywood officials notifying Nash in 2005 that he must replace decaying windows, which needed approval from the city's Historic Preservation Commission.
Over the next six years, Nash and the city clashed over the appropriate replacements, which Nash says was ridiculous since the windows weren't original fixtures from 1929 but windows from a poorly-handled rehab job in the 1960s.
Still, city officials wouldn't listen and quibbled over every detail for six, long years.
In the meantime, Nash says, water damage from rain continued to deteriorate the interior of the building because of the lousy windows, and tenants started to leave El Mirador.
Nash says he eventually evicted remaining tenants through the California Ellis Act because he didn't want to be held responsible for anything that may happen to them due to the poor condition of the apartment building.
The owner also says he was trying to force the city's hand into action with the threat of the evictions, but when West Hollywood officials still wouldn't give him the approvals to fix the windows, he went through with the evictions.
Nash is now angry and ready to file a lawsuit against the city.
“They made me look like I've created this situation,” says Nash. “They've made me look like I'm the villain. The last thing I want to do is tear down the building.”
Nash says he owns two other old buildings in West Hollywood that he restored, and had “big plans” to do the same at El Mirador.
Nash says he recently met with West Hollywood officials, but they're still not willing to play ball. After six years, he's fed up and willing to let El Mirador rot to the point where a demolition crew will be needed to tear down the landmark.
“I've wasted too much time and energy on this,” says Nash. “I want to get out of the rigamarole of the city.”
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.