The grassroots movement to save the Felix the Cat Showroom and Neon Sign is in the final stages. I noticed a meeting was scheduled for Thursday July 12 in Room 1060 at City Hall. As reported earlier in the year,the second of three steps toward gaining cultural landmark status is an on-site inspection. That was held March 15, 2007.
This third of the three steps needed to designate worthy candidates as an official Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument was to be during a May 3 meeting at the 32nd California Preservation Foundation Conference. The scheduled presentation was "bumped off the agenda" according to Jim Childs, who with Charles Fisher, heads the Ad Hoc committee that has worked several years on having the Felix Sign landmarked a monument by the City of LA.
Cat approaches it's 9th life: As the Figueroa Corridor grows, and competition between rival developers heats up, the cat is caught in the middle. It's seen as a speed bump from further developing the site where the sign and showroom is located across the street from the recently completed USC Galen Center.
The sign and showroom at Figueroa and Jefferson was owned by Nickolas Shammas until his death in 2003. The business was passed on to the Shammas Corporation currently under the direction of
son-in-law, Darryl Holter. He's since added
dealerships near Figueroa and Washington. Holter, who also chairs the Figueroa Corridor Partnership, has stated the land where the sign is would be more "beneficial to the community if it were used for student housing."
Since 2000, Holter has been planning University Gateway development where Felix now stands, and has since added Urban Partners to oversee the project. An added twist is Conquest Student Housing, a "housing provider" for students, have filed appeals and lawsuits against Urban Partners , CRA and the City citing items that range from parking variances or "botched" environmental reports.
Cat Caught in the Middle: The grassroots group hope to have the sign landmarked and protected. Once passed the building itself can be used for almost anything, according to Childs, who adds "Even if the sign and building are moved, it won't lose that cultural status. It keeps it from being demolished." He also notes this may sound like the Save the 76 Ball effort from 2006, except there is only one Felix The Cat sign.
Childs warns public speaking time at the July 12 hearing will be restrictive with the Felix item listed as the final one. "Anyone can help by writing a brief comment letter in support of the designation on behalf of their organization or themselves, or email it to Jan Perry or Lambert Giessinger' says Childs. "Your letter should be sent before close of business by Tuesday the 10th." After that, it goes to the Planning Use and Management Committee (PLUM), then City Council.
If it's passed, that is. With the cat in the cross-hairs of a changing downtown, the Felix the Cat Sign and Showroom could be gone before you can say "Righty-0."
Added July 12: LAO and CurbedLA readers may be interested in some of the letters sent to City Hall supporting the cat that I posted this morning.