CIM’s Revised CDP

CIM have filed their revised Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) for review.  It is currently pending Staff review, before deciding if it is ready to then proceed on to Commission and City Council meetings.  If and when the CDP makes it’s way to the Commission and City Council meetings, Public Hearings will take place at each.  When we have more information on those meetings, we will be sure to pass that information along as well.  In the meantime, please take a look at the revisions that CIM has made to the previous CDP and let us know your thoughts.  We’d love to hear from everyone, regardless if your opinion is support of or opposed to the plan.  Below is also the official response from Save the Pickford-Fairbanks Studios when WeHoVille asked for a comment earlier this evening when they too received the Plan.

“The revised CDP submitted by CIM is definitely far better than the 2007 plan.  While it does keep the majority of the original buildings, the Courtyard Building will call for the demolition of the Commissary (formerly the Paint Shop, which had been built in the 1920’s) and the Administration Building.  To keep with the courtyard feel of the 1920s studio property, we additionally would like to see the open parking lot remain, as opposed to the multi-story Plaza Building going up in its place.  We do like the green life being brought back in to the property, as it has been missing since the late 50’s when the Goldwyns had most of it removed from the property.  And while it is not our ideal plan, it’s a vast improvement from the prior plans and look forward to hearing more about the historic restoration of the original buildings.”

2013 CIM Revised CDP_Pending

CIM Official Response (originally posted 31 March 2012 by Hala Pickford)

On the eve of our protest CIM sent out a public response to criticism of their management of Pickfair Studios.  It reads:

CIM Statement on The Lot Studio Campus


March 31, 2012 01:03 PM Eastern Daylight Time 

LOS ANGELES–(EON: Enhanced Online News)–The following is a statement by CIM Group:

CIM respects the history of The Lot, and we intend to honor it as part of a thriving studio campus. All buildings designated as historic will remain. The re-development of The Lot, as has been done successfully at many other Hollywood studios, is necessary for the studio campus to evolve and remain competitive.

The land use, building design, and historic preservation at The Lot, formerly known as the Pickfair Studio, is governed by the Comprehensive Development Plan and Development Agreement adopted by the City of West Hollywood into the city’s General Plan in 2007. Consistent with this plan, CIM is beginning the initial phase of the revitalization of The Lot’s 11-acre site by removing two non-historic buildings and constructing a new 93,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art media office building designed for production and media companies. This new building is located on the southern portion of the property along the Formosa Avenue perimeter. At every stage of planning and construction, great consideration has been given to not disrupt the sensitive production operations on the property.

Subsequent development phases have not been specifically designed or scheduled.


Casey & Sayre
Karen Diehl
310-473-8090 office
310-795-7149 cell

Our Response

CIM’s press release indicates that as feared Soundstage 7 and the Santa Monica West building set (dating back to 1919) will be removed and are first on the block.  The City of West Hollywood sent out a list several days before indicating all but the Pickford office and Fairbanks gym, as well as these two buildings, would be preserved.  But that’s just the problem: the demolition permits were intended for the Pickford office (which CIM has let deteriorate into being unusable after 20 years of neglect) and the Fairbanks gym.  These other two buildings (SMW set and Soundstage 7) were never really publicly announced, just kinda hinted at here and there as headed for the wrecking ball.

While we are extremely unhappy with the deterioration and West Hollywood approved demolition of Mary Pickford’s office and Douglas Fairbanks gym, we were resigned to the fact that legally, unless CIM decided not to or West Hollywood city council decided to stop them, CIM had legal right to demolish them.

However without the Santa Monica West (SMW for short) building set, the LA Conservancy noted in its environmental impact report that nothing on the entire studio lot would now qualify for any form of historic preservation.  Once they remove that set of offices (including offices used by the likes of Billy Wilder and other amazing artists) Pickfair Studios isn’t really Pickfair Studios anymore.

Without Soundstage 7, the SMW building set, Mary’s office and Doug’s gym…there IS no historic Pickfair.  Saying you will ‘preserve the historic buildings and totally respect culture and stuff’ means absolutely nothing when you have already said, even in your press release, you will tear anything of that nature down.

Mary’s office would probably need extensive renovation that CIM has never shown any inkling towards providing.  Doug’s gym is said to be in usable condition but could also use improvements.  The Santa Monica West buildings and offices are currently in use and rented out to creative talent…though CIM has let repairs like broken windows and other such things slip.  Soundstage 7 has been the scene of many historic recording sessions including some very important Frank Sinatra sessions.  According to the filmmakers on our facebook page the Soundstage is just fine, in need of a few touch ups.

CIM took the issue to tear down Mary and Doug’s buildings to West Hollywood and through one way or another, despite objections of fans, workers and West Hollywood residents, got the city council of West Hollywood to agree with them (the same city council declaring Sunday 4/1/12, the day we protest, ‘Kardashian day’).  The issue of the soundstage and SMW set was barely touched upon and until this moment has never been confirmed.

Are want remains the same: we will not stop our protest and campaign until CIM and the city of West Hollywood saves these buildings, gives them real historic designation and protection (monument status means nothing), restores them and promises to never do something so idiotic again.

Help us and join the fight to save Pickfair Studios!

What We Want (originally posted 29 March 2012 by Hala Pickford)

So CIM group, who owns the Pickfair Studios, petitioned (amongst other things) West Hollywood’s City Council in 2007 and received approval to tear down two buildings: Mary Pickford’s office and Douglas Fairbank’s gym.  LA Conservancy and Hollywood Heritage fought them hard but West Hollywood did eminent domain and there wasn’t much that could be done.  The conservancy did an environmental report which paved the way for a demolition of these buildings you can read it here:

However something is fishy at CIM.  Our source was told they were tearing down more than this and they originally planned to do it quietly with no one including the Conservancy and Hollywood Heritage, alerted.  The original demolition was set for the third week of April, then when our campaign began they put it at a week…and once the pressure was really on they put a memo out to employees saying demolition would begin ‘imminently’.

Despite some clarification after several days of protest we still have some concerns.

What We Want

On the list of ‘saved’ buildings CIM agreed to and West Hollywood sent out to concerned Pickfair Committee members, soundstage 7 where Frank Sinatra recorded and the Santa Monica West buildings block were not included.  Without those buildings, which we will not refer to as SMW, the Conservancy found Pickfair Studios would not qualify for any cultural or historic protection.  Both Soundstage 7 and SMW seem to be in limbo…if they were saved or thrown under the bus in the mediation is not clear.  Despite repeated attempts to contact planner Degrazia who seems to be in charge of this, we have received no official replies from anyone.  West Hollywood and CIM are doing their best to be vague about what’s going and what’s staying.

CIM has very little oversight, with a small office in West Hollywood being responsible for keeping an eye on them.  Many developers tear down buildings first, ask questions later.  That is our biggest fear here.  We would like an onsite person separate of CIM and West Hollywood to confirm that only the buildings stated are the ones torn down.  We also would like to know and vet who is in charge of observing the renovations and construction to make sure no further damage is done.

We would also like a promise from CIM and West Hollywood that Soundstage 7 and SMW will remain untouched.  West Hollywood does not have its own landmark set, though it has declared the Pickfair Studios as a West Hollywood monument…which means little to nothing.  We would like the remaining historic buildings to be declared a real landmark with real protections, which could be done through the California Historic Registry.  However even if that moves fast it will undo nothing, all current plans will stand.  But it could prevent further destruction.

What We Want (originally posted 27 March 2012 by Hala Pickford)

After receiving much press attention for our campaign (our petition signatures are at 1500!) we’ve finally managed to elicit some responses that try to explain what’s going on.  Below will be those pieces, our thoughts and what this means:

On March 26th a poster on the Vintage LA facebook posted on a thread about the destuction of Pickfair Studios this claimed email from John D’Amico, a West Hollywood City Council Member:
I just received this email from John D’Amico:

The planned development at the LOT, approved long before I joined the city council, will selectively remove a few of the older non-historic buildings to update the lot and its functionality. The older historic buildings will be renovated and put back into use as part of the development agreement. The LA TIMES story was a little loose with the facts.

This project had an historic resources review and an EIR that contemplated the effect this development might have on the existing buildings. As I said this was approved before I was elected and now they are acting on their development agreement.

I hear that CIM will be responding to the article with a few corrections and some additional information about their plans…

No one from West Hollywood or CIM has contacted us so while this seems reliable we can’t say for sure it came from Mr. D’Amico.  Our source, when shown this purported email replied, ‘It’s BS.’

Hollywood Heritage meanwhile has sent out this email on the matter:

From Richard Adkins, President Hollywood Heritage re Pickford-Fairbanks Studio
The Latest on The Lot demo/construction –
Some buildings are being demolished, but not the whole site. The main historic buildings will be preserved. This was a preservation battle about 5-6 years ago, and the L.A. Conservancy worked hard with the owner to limit demolition. Yes, there will be a tall glass office tower. But the main buildings will still be standing. The Environmental Impact Report was certified some time ago, making it legal for the removal of buildings and the beginning of new construction.

Finally, in the most clarifying piece, the Los Angeles Conservancy launched this page:

Plans have long been under way to renovate the historic West Hollywood studio now known as the lot.

The site’s new owner, CIM Group, is nearing the first phase of construction in a development plan that has been approved since 2007. CIM must start construction by early 2013 in order to keep its entitlements.

The Conservancy, Hollywood Heritage, and some concerned citizens fought this plan back in 2007, but the West Hollywood City Council approved it nonetheless.

Read the Conservancy’s comments on the supplemental environmental impact report (PDF)

The first phase of construction entails the demolition of two buildings on Formosa Avenue, the Pickford Building and the Fairbanks Gym/Editorial Building. A historic survey identified the Pickford building as a “non-contributor” to the National Register-eligible historic district on the site; the Fairbanks building was identified as a “secondary contributor.”

This issue is complex and dates back more than twenty years, to when the site operated as Warner Hollywood Studios. The studio property extended east of Formosa Avenue into what is now the shopping complex anchored by Target.

In 1991, Warner Bros. proposed an expansion plan for Warner Hollywood Studios that included tearing down the historic Formosa Café (1925) on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Formosa Avenue.

Concerned citizens formed the Friends of the Formosa and launched a successful grassroots preservation effort. In 1993, following the preparation of an environmental impact report (EIR), the City of West Hollywood approved a compromise that saved the Formosa Café but allowed the demolition of five historic buildings on the main studio site.

Construction under this plan had still not started in 1999, when Warner Bros. sold the property—with its entitlements (development approvals)—to BA Studios. The next year, the City of West Hollywood launched eminent domain proceedings to acquire the 1.26-acre parcel east of Formosa Avenue (site of the Formosa Café), which was still part of the studio property.

BA Studios took legal action against the City that led to a settlement agreement. BA Studios agreed to sell the parcel to the City in exchange for the right to essentially transfer the density from the parcel to the main studio campus.

The revised development plan was outlined in a 2003 supplement to the original environmental impact report. The 1993 plan included a 145-foot-tall office tower. Based on newer market studies of what potential tenants preferred, the 2003 plan abandoned the tower in favor of “campus-style, low-rise, flexible office space.”

Although the new plan preserved several buildings slated for demolition in the 1993 plan, it called for the demolition of the Santa Monica West Building and partial demolition of the Formosa Building (not the Café). Built in 1919, Santa Monica West is one of only three buildings that date from the studio’s original development.

As mitigation for the loss of these two buildings, the SEIR proposed retaining their facades. Keeping only the façade of a historic building is not preservation.

In 2007, the Conservancy, along with Hollywood Heritage, urged the City of West Hollywood to require more preservation alternatives that would reduce the impact of the development on the studio’s historic resources— specifically in regard to the two buildings along Santa Monica Boulevard.

The Conservancy also urged officials to provide incentives to the owner to encourage more preservation of historic buildings on studio property. Several residents also expressed concern over the project’s scale, its impacts on the historic studio buildings, and the lack of review by the historic preservation commission.

The City of West Hollywood approved the new plan in May 2007 despite these objections.

So what does this all mean?

Despite the three letters above the ‘landmark’ status is still questionable and we have not received any confirmation it is an actual landmark.  Per the Conservancy and Hollywood Heritage permission has been given via petitioning West Hollywood City Council for CIM to tear down Mary’s office and Doug’s gym.  They can do this free and clear.

But they also have no further permission to tear anything else down.  However if the landmark status is so precarious, they could technically legally tear down whatever they wanted.  A big fear is that many developers ignore landmark status, knock down and ask questions later.

Another fear we are having is we are hearing its more than these buildings, which could give credence to the belief above.

According to our source the destruction of whatever they are taking down has been moved up to the end of next week (right before Mary Pickford’s birthday no less).

West Hollywood City Council has given no regards to the complaints before and they seem to be giving none now.  Our demand remain unchanged with all this information and we are planning some action in the next few days.

Previous, still relevant, update On March 23rd an anonymous source posted on My Historic LA that there were secret plans to raze all historic buildings on what has been called the Pickford-Fairbanks Studio aka Pickfair Studio, Goldwyn Studio and lastly The Lot.  Our group immediately created this website as we found the plans credible.  The studio was property of Warner Brothers until 1999 when they sold it to a group that had a company called Skye Partners manage it.  From 1999 to 2007 Skye Partners tried on several occasions to raze the historic buildings and put up ‘glass cube structures’ (you read more about this in the previous post below).

As we waited for confirmation the source promised an LA Times article which appeared in print Monday the 26th here (for those over the viewing limit we suggest using an IP blocker or clearing cookies to read.) Apparently, very quietly CIM Group, owners of places like Hollywood and Highland purchased the studio with all previous agreements ending at the end of March 2012.  If nothing is done the plan to destroy the buildings ‘begins in a few weeks’ mostly to accommodate the TV show True Blood.

CIM’s plans are as told to us by the source, that they will raze all historic buildings and put up glass cube buildings.  CIM refused to comment to the LA Times, but CIM is also the notorious company that wanted to tear down Graumman’s Chinese Theatre and build a ‘replica movie theatre’ attached to their mall.

As of now, the only thing we can do is fight.  There is no legal protection to the studio and unless some drastic measures are taken CIM will destroy one more piece of our history.

What We Want (updated)

On our own search we tried to verify if the Pickfair Studios was indeed a historical landmark as Hollywood Heritage believed (and they are very knowledgeable).  We were unable to find any proof of Pickfair Studios being a historic legal landmark other than a peculiar sign listed on one side of the studio.  The LA Times got further noting that though the studio has a plaque, it was ‘pending’ official status, i.e. its nothing as of right now, CIM can tear it down and have no repercussions.

West Hollywood is noted for its poor treatment of legal historic landmarks, so this sure as heck won’t make much a difference to them.  Many people misunderstand what a historical landmark even means: essentially, nothing.  It creates a lot of red tape and procedure an owner must follow before renovations or demolitions, but many owners rarely follow it, or tear down first and claim ignorance later.  Even in blatant cases of such action they rarely face any penalties what so ever other than a hole in our cultural heart.

What we want is this: we call on the city of West Hollywood to not make this another failed endeavor.  We call on them to intervene immediately and protect this historic landmark, now and forever.  We call on CIM to not embarrass itself and destroy another piece of Hollywood history in the name of ‘progress’.  We call on CIM to either of their own volition keep and restore these historic buildings to their former glory, or to sell to an owner who will.  We call on each and every person who can make their voice heard to do so.

What We Want: Updated (originally posted 23 March 2012 by Hala Pickford)

Our goal is to not hamper business or progress in any form or way.  We are firm believers that historic structures can be made modern and function just as well as any new facility.

Our facebook posters have reported working at the studio since 1999 and finding it to be in miserable condition for work.  What we believe and want is for Skye Partners to either restore and update the facilities so they are functional for work or to sell to some company who can make this guarantee and follow through.

The United States and Los Angeles in particular seems to have a fetish for killing our own history.  In Europe one may live in 700 year old apartments for drink at a never ceasing function 500 year old pub.  Los Angeles is a baby in terms of history, with its modern history starting in the late 1800s and its film history starting in about 1910.  That’s barely a hundred years.

When Mary Pickford traveled with D.W. Griffith, her brother Jack and the rest of the Biograph company for their first Los Angeles shoot in 1910 (most films were then shot in New York and New Jersey) it was extremely rural.  Mary noted ‘picking flowers at what is now Hollywood and Vine’.  Dirt roads, fruit trees, nothing for miles.  This is why well into the 1930s many stars preferred the East Coast: Hollywood was truly rural.

But as Rudolph Valentino noted in 1925, Hollywood grew at a shocking rate.  In 1923 Hollywood was still dirt roads, by 1925 skyscrapers were being built.

When our film revolutionaries made their mark and made this town, they intended it to last.  They built grand buildings, grand studios and grand movie palaces.  But if you were pressed to find a pre 1960 building in much of Los Angeles, you’d be at a loss.  Since the 1950s we as a city have seemed to have an unquenching thirst for destroying our legacy and history.

Pickfair Studios is now located next to a shopping complex that includes Target and Starbucks.  This section of West Hollywood has become so crowded one would be pressed to find breathing room.  Thousands upon thousands of people come and go every second.  Compare that with a photo of the studio in 1922, when there was nothing all around it.

We are proud of the growth of Los Angeles and our film history, but we also believe its not worth destroying our legacy.  With so little space all we seem to do is tear down something beautiful and memorable, and put up another square box monstrosity.

Downtown Los Angeles, particularly along Spring and Broadway (where the Alexandria Hotel, built 1895 still stands) is breathing some new growth.  Buildings that were once decrepit and not even worth looking at are now thriving.  Yet some owners and investors will still like to raze the 1910 Clune (where Birth of a Nation premiered) and put up a strip mall.

What we want from Skye Partners is for them to drop all ideas, apparently the only idea they’ve had since 1999, about razing our cultural legacy.  We want them to seek ways to invest and reinvigorate their unique property.  If they wish to say this is impossible, then we would like to direct them down the street…across from a strip mall and a strip club, where Chaplin’s 1918 studio still stands.  Modern photos show the only missing pieces are one building and an infamous swimming pool, sold during Chaplin’s life (and now where a Ross sits).  The building was a record label and studio for several decades before coming under the ownership of the Jim Henson Company (or if you will, the Muppets).  Recent photos indicate that very little has changed….Chaplin’s office even made a cameo (along with other parts of the studio) in the 2011 Muppet film as Kermit’s old office.

Considering Skye Partners could go 4 blocks and find some answers on just how to do this, we feel they have no excuse in keeping the studio in moderate condition, while planning to destroy it when our eyes are turned.

Another thing we would like is for the City of West Hollywood, where Pickfair Studios barely is in the limits in, to respect their historical legacy.  West Hollywood or WeHo if you will, has been under scrutiny in the past 5 years for its seeming lust to abandoned its cultural landmarks when condos and developers are in their eyesight.  The LA Weekly covered many of these stories.

While the Pickfair Studios are a West Hollywood Historic Landmark (other posters dispute this saying its a ‘potential landmark’ which means even less, we are trying to verify that), many people don’t realize that means practically nothing.  Essentially it puts up red tape and roadblocks to stop full scale destruction, which many developers ignore or claim ignorance of.  Considering West Hollywood’s own track record this is even less consoling then it would usually be.

In short we want Pickfair Studio’s historic buildings saved as well as renovated as to be functional while preserving the historic integrity.  We want a promise that we will no longer have to go through this every 5 years when Skye Partners feels like its time to bring in the glass cubes and we want the City of West Hollywood and its residents to take notice and make some form of protection for this historic landmark that will not easily be ignored or diverted.

What We Want (originally posted 23 March 2012 by Hala Pickford)

This page was created the evening of March 23rd, 2012, hours after a post on My Historic LA alerted conversation buffs of the impending demolition.  We are still gathering a full report but what we do know is that Skye Partners (the current owners of ‘The Lot’ aka Pickfair Studio) have been trying to demolish the historic buildings and put up a glass cube like structure since the acquired the property in 1999.  Every few years the plan would pop up, then recede with promises of leaving historic structures alone.  Before this current threat, the last attempt was in 2007 and was subdued by work with Hollywood Heritage.

On our facebook page many posters have speculated the reason for the cube structures is to squeeze in more space (including office space) thus yielding more rents.  What is clear is since 1999 Skye Partners has made next to no attempt to restore the current facilities…every plan involves tearing down the historic buildings and putting up these stupid cubes.

We hope to have more detailed information available next week.  Please check back for constant updates.