The Bizarre B’nai B’rith Lodge Demolition Threat (Free L.A. Preservation Talk #1)

Join Esotouric, L.A.'s most eclectic sightseeing tour company, for the first in an occasional series of free live webinars exploring timely historic preservation issues and how you can get involved.

Our guests for this program are two of the southland’s most dedicated independent scholars and historic preservation activists: Nathan Marsak (aka The Cranky Preservationist) and Steven Luftman (Art Deco Society of Los Angeles).

Nathan and Steven will share the strange tale of the B’nai B’rith Lodge (S. Tilden Norton, 1923-24) at 846 South Union Avenue, a beautiful and historic building that the city of Los Angeles’ Office of Historic Resources refuses to even consider making a landmark… after City Planner Ken Bernstein personally solicited private citizens to prepare and submit a landmarking nomination!

Steven wrote this nomination which is presently stuck in City Hall limbo, and you can read it HERE.

This program features the debut of a new Cranky Preservationist video, introducing you to the history of the B’nai B’rith Lodge (from Jewish community center to union hall to Korean church) and exploring its time capsule neighborhood which is almost entirely owned by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The Cranky Preservationist will introduce you to B’nai B’rith and the other significant buildings on this quiet block in the Pico Union District, and advocate that property owner Catholic Charities take the green and fiscally responsible path of adaptively reusing the historic building, while expanding onto its enormous surface parking lot.

During the live conversation to follow, Steven Luftman will describe how he came to take on the project of researching the layered history of B’nai B’rith at city request, and what he learned about the building and the many fascinating characters who have used it over a century.

And we’ll explore the city’s bizarre new tune: first it asked people to landmark the building, then it claims that due to a poorly written and often misunderstood set of State and Federal laws, owner Catholic Charities just has to say “we’re against it!” and the landmark documents can’t be accepted.

We think B’nai B’rith Lodge is a great building worth saving, that it’s cheaper and greener to preserve it than to demolish it, and that the city is wrong about the law. And we think Steven’s landmarking nomination deserves better than to be filed away unseen forever in a Planning Department file cabinet.

So let’s talk about it—and ask the city to reconsider, and let the B’nai B’rith Lodge landmark nomination be heard!


• STEVEN LUFTMAN (Art Deco Society of Los Angeles). Preservationist and community activist Steve will talk about his successful campaign to designate the derelict Fairfax Theatre as a protected national and local monument, how Historic Preservation Overlay Zones can preserve affordable housing and good buildings, and the redevelopment threats facing the Carthay Circle community.

• NATHAN MARSAK (R.I.P Los Angeles / The Cranky Preservationist). Half architectural historian, half performance artist, Nathan wields his acid wit to shine a light on the lies of the urban density movement, contrasting dense, green, attractive historic structures with the upzoned file cabinets for humans that too often replace them. He’ll highlight some of his favorite neighborhoods and the multi-family housing threatened by the wrecking ball, and remind us that while we can’t go back in time and save Bunker Hill, it’s not too late for Pico-Union.

This webinar is an illustrated lecture packed with rare photos that will bring the history and future of many precious Los Angeles landmarks to life, while inspiring you to look around your own community for ways you can help to keep old places around with fresh new uses. And you'll find the look of an Esotouric webinar is a little different than your standard dry Zoom session, with lively interactive graphics courtesy of the mmhmm app. So tune in and discover the incredible history of Los Angeles, with the couple whose passion for the city is infectious. Can't join in when the webinar is happening? You can tune in later, though you’ll miss the opportunity to ask questions in the chat.
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Price: Free
  • Language: English
  • Who can attend? Everyone
  • Dial-in available? (listen only): Not available.
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