Iconic La Cienega Norms Safe from Demolition for at Least 75 More Days

LA to consider granting Flagship Norms Restaurant Historic-Cultural Monument Status
Norms restaurant on La Cienega Boulevard. Photo via Wikimedia Commons, by Minnaert

Norms restaurant on La Cienega Boulevard. Photo via Wikimedia Commons, by Minnaert

The LA Cultural Heritage Commission voted to consider Norms on La Cienega as a historic and cultural monument this past week, which will grant the landmark building a temporary reprieve from the threat of demolition.

After a recent change in ownership, a demolition permit for the building was issued earlier this month, triggering an outcry of support from both preservationists and long-time customers to save the restaurant.

Since Norms first opened in 1957, it has operated as a family-owned business until serial entrepreneur Jim Balis purchased the property late last year. In an effort to squelch demolition rumors, attorneys representing the Norms CEO maintain that he has no intention of tearing down the restaurant. According to a recent article in the LA Times, Attorney D.J. Moore testified at the Commission hearing that the demolition permit was obtained “as a matter of course, because there was a thought that there would be redevelopment there at some point.”

If the Commission ultimately decides to grant the Norms restaurant monument status, the building will receive additional protection under city ordinance.

In a statement to LA Weekly, the L.A. Conservancy stated that “CHC [the Cultural Heritage Commission] has 75 days to visit the site and hold a second hearing, at which they’ll vote on whether to recommend HCM designation to the City Council. Once receiving the nomination and report from the CHC, the City Council has 90 days to vote on the official designation.” A final vote is expected in March.

Meanwhile, it’s business as usual for the staff and patrons of the 24-hour La Cienega Norms. On a recent visit to the diner, LA Curbed reported that it was not only open for business, but relatively busy for a late weekday afternoon.
The angled lines and vaulted neon lights of Norms diner just south of where Melrose meets La Cienega are emblematic of the Southern California Googie design that came into prominence during the postwar years. The bold geometric style is characterized by dramatic curves and vaulted ceilings, pairing SoCal car culture with a dose of Las Vegas kitsch. Inside the restaurant, features such as a room-length dining counter and terrazzo floor are prime examples of the atomic-style decor that traditionally accompanies Googie architecture.

Many postwar buildings in the LA area face an increased threat of demolition, and the controversy surrounding the fate of Norms is far from an isolated case. Googie’s coffee shop in West Hollywood, from which the architectural style got its nickname, has long been torn down—and developers are increasingly pushing for increased demolition in an effort to create more efficient uses of the scarce property available in LA.

According to LA Weekly, the Conservancy reports that only two of the eight Googie restaurants once operated by Norms still stand in the area, including Norms on La Cienega and another in Huntington Park. Only eight Googie restaurants remain part of the LA landscape.

The Conservancy is urging preservationists and community members alike to join the fight to save Norms La Cienega. Here’s how you can help:

  • Contact City Councilmember Paul Koretz (District 5) and ask him to support the nomination of Norms La Cienega for Historic-Cultural Monument status.
    City Councilmember Paul Koretz
    200 North Spring Street, Suite 440
    Los Angeles, CA 90012
    213-473-7005 | paul.koretz@lacity.org
  • Sign the LA Conservancy petition urging the new property owner to vacate the active demolition permit.
  • Subscribe to the LA Conservancy Action Alert emails for updates and information on how you can help as the situation evolves.

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