Friday, November 6, 1998

Historical landmark alteration angers residents


oppose restaurant’s decision to paint dome

By Neal Narahara

Daily Bruin Contributor

The dome atop the former Wherehouse building on the corner of
Weyburn and Kinross avenues has been the center of a local dispute
since it got a fresh coat of white paint this summer.

The building, constructed in 1929, is a declared historic,
cultural monument, and many residents and business owners were
therefore concerned when the appearance of its once-colorful dome
was altered.

In preparation for its December opening, new tenant Michael
Chow’s Euro Chow restaurant had the dome painted white, matching
the white motif of the restaurant’s interior.

"I’m not sure what’s so controversial about it," said Ira
Smedra, the owner of the building. "You couldn’t do structural
changes, but (the tenant) is allowed to repaint the dome."

Officials of the Westwood community design review board disagree
with this assertion. The board is required to approve any changes
to the appearance of the building before any changes are actually

When representatives for Euro Chow requested to paint the
building, the board had no idea that they would paint the dome.
According to board officials, they were under the impression that
restaurant representatives only wanted to paint the walls of the

"When you think of a building being painted, you don’t expect
the roof to be painted," said Gary Klein, a Los Angeles city
department of planning official and adviser to the design review
board. "We had no visual inclination to believe the dome would be

"I think there was confusion at the time. Now we’re looking to
get the dome restored to its original condition," Klein said.

Since the dome is already painted, however, neither the design
review board nor the city planning department has the ability to
force either the tenant or owner to restore it to its previous
look. Smedra says he has no plans to do so, and Chow has not been
in the area to deal with the issue.

The only recourse for the board or planning department would be
to request assistance from the department of building and safety.
If the plans presented to the board did not include the dome, the
department of building and safety could compel the owner or tenant
to restore what it has changed.

"The community would like to see it restored," said Terry
Tippit, chair of the design review board. "I would hope (Chow) will
listen to the community."

Some community members have expressed distaste for the dome’s
present appearance.

"I think it was a mistake (to paint the dome white)," said Lila
Rioth, a board member of the Westwood homeowner’s association and
the american institute of architects. "It makes an incredible
difference in how that area looks."

"I’ve talked to two or three people who have noticed it and
didn’t like it," Rioth said.

The dome building ­ originally the headquarters of the
Janss Investment Corporation, the developers of Westwood Village,
Westwood Hills and Holmby Hills ­ was designed in the late
1920s by the renowned architectural firm Allison and Allison, the
designers of Royce and Kerckhoff Halls.

In response to the Janss brothers’ request for a building to
complement the architecture on campus, Allison and Allison created
the Mediterranean-influenced, domed building. As a tribute to UCLA,
the dome was covered with a zigzag pattern consisting of blue and
gold, glazed ceramic tiles.

The tiled pattern, which had become dull with age, was restored
with acrylic paint and gold leafing in the 1980s. While the
"restored" pattern and color were slightly different from the
original design, Elliot Lewis, the building’s previous owner, said
the dome has never before been painted white.

"We were careful to maintain the building in its original
condition," Lewis said. "(Painting the dome white) is not something
we would have imagined anyone would do. It’s not our taste."

The review board and the planning department are confident that
the dome will be restored.

"(The restoration) is a matter of interest for both parties
­ the design review board as well as the owner and tenant of
the building," Tippit said.

Despite their confidence, the design review board and the
department of planning plan to avoid any similar problems in the

"We’ve never had a case like this before," said Tippet. "We’ll
be more specific now."PATIL ARMENIAN. Insert courtesy of University

Westwood residents are angered by the painting of the dome, part
of a designated historical landmark.

Comments, feedback, problems?

© 1998 ASUCLA Communications Board[Home]