The Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission Thursday unanimously rejected an attempt by the Los Angeles Conservancy to have the city designate a home recently bought by prominent artist Arthur Jafa an historic-cultural monument, a move that was opposed by Jafa, who plans to demolish the currently uninhabitable house.
The L.A. Conservancy had sought monument designation for the home based on its association with Korean-American actor Philip Ahn, who lived there from 1952 to 1958, and Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, who lived in the home for less than a year between 1992 and 1993.
They also noted the home’s craftsman architectural style with Japanese influences, as well as being an early home in the High Tower neighborhood of Hollywood, which is accessible to residences by elevator instead of vehicle.
Margarita Jerabek, a representative for Jafa, opposed the designation by arguing that the property wasn’t associated with Ahn during the most productive part of his career, and that Cobain’s residence in the home was short lived.
Jafa gave an impassioned speech to commissioners in opposition of the designation. Jafa bought the house, his first to own, for $1.5 million in 2021. The house was “boarded up” and uninhabitable, and he has plans to demolish it to build a new home. Instead, L.A. Conservancy attempted to get the property added to the Historic-Cultural Monument list in an effort to have it restored.
“I’ve wondered so many times how any of you would feel if some entity just identified your home, came up, made some designation irregardless of your wishes and just tried to dictate to you how you’re supposed to — at your expense, at your expense — what you’re supposed to do with the property,” Jafa said to commissioners. He added that he wouldn’t have bought the house if he had any idea it would be targeted for monument status.
Mashael Majid, a representative for Council District 4, called in to support the owner and call for the designation to be rejected. She noted that the property, like other vacant and abandoned homes, has become an issue in the neighborhood due to people breaking in.
“The current owner, Mr. Arthur (Jafa) Fielder, a famous and culturally significant African American artist purchased the site last summer in an effort to activate it safely and expeditiously so that these issues don’t persist,” Majid said. “He purchased it prior to any nominations being made and is understandably upset, since he was not aware that anyone would be pursuing HCM designation here.”
When a property is designated an Historic-Cultural Monument, the commission has to approve proposed exterior and interior alterations. According to the city Planning Department, the commission also is able to object to the issuance of a demolition permit, delaying the demolition for up to 180 days, plus another possible 180-day extension, if approved by the City Council, to allow time to evaluate preservation alternatives.
However, the commission rejected the proposal to designate the property a monument.
Commission President Barry Milofsky said, “one of the big issues that we have … in Los Angeles, is someone famous lived somewhere at some time in their career pretty much everywhere.”