The Los Angeles City Council unanimously decided on March 28 to abandon an effort to add a church in Westwood to the list of historic- cultural monuments, avoiding a possible ugly legal battle.
Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz introduced a motion in February that sought the designation for the Twenty-eighth Church of Christ, Scientist property at 1018 S. Hilgard Ave., which he said the congregation was seeking to sell.
Koretz claimed then that the church’s owners were making illegal maneuvers with the property, while representatives of the church contended the historical designation would be unlawful because religious institutions have the legal right to object to the application of local preservation laws if it would cause a financial hardship.
The church’s lawyer threatened a lawsuit if the city made the designation, and the Los Angeles City Council met recently behind closed doors with the city attorney to discuss the situation.
Koretz said the lawsuit threat was part of the reason for the council’s 14-0 vote to abandon the designation plan, but also because the church was negotiating with some organizations that could preserve the building.
“I think it’s an open legal question, but I think what we were really seeking was an opportunity to have the Christian Scientist church negotiate with organizations that are willing to preserve the property,” Koretz said. “And I think that motion generated that ability. And so I think good faith conversations are happening, and that’s all we can really ask. And in exchange for that, we agreed to withdraw the motion.”
Koretz said he does not plan to seek the designation even if the church
does not find a buyer that would preserve the property.
“They are already having those conversations in good faith. We know if those conversations don’t bear fruit, then that property is going to cease to exist,” he said. “We recognize that we’ll have fewer legal hassles over it, but we’ll have a chance to save the property.”