Council Gives Nod to Ice Arena Designation
July 31, 2014
After a lengthy session featuring more than a dozen speakers and a detailed historical presentation, the City Council on July 28 made supporters of the Culver City Ice Arena happy by designating it as a "cultural resource" at a "significant" level.
The Council's vote was 5-0 in favor of the designation.
Jennifer Troteux, an associate with the firm, Architectural Resources Group, presented a report on the group's exhaustive research into the Culver Ice Arena and ice "palaces" in Los Angeles over the years. The city had hired ARG to research the structure and determine if it was eligible under federal, state, and local guidelines for historic building designation.
"There are three levels of designation," said Troteux. These are 1) a "landmark," a designation that may be made without the owner's consent, and which requires the placement of a plaque; 2) "significant" which must be made with the consent of the owner if residential but if non-residential, can be designated without the consent of the owner, and 3) "recognized" structures.
Criteria for landmarks and significant structures or districts vary from federal to state to local levels. Troteux listed a number of criteria, such as association with a significant historical or cultural event, association with a historical personage, and association with a famous architect or architectural style or design.
The Culver Ice Arena was in the planning stages in the early 1960s and opened in November 1962.
Architecturally, it is a "vernacular" structure, somewhat typical of similar buildings created for recreational purposes in the "postwar" (post World War II) era. Despite its familiar sign and some nice touches such as a faux rock pattern on an interior wall, the arena was not found to rise to a level of significance architecturally, nor was it designed by a "significant" architect. (The original design for the arena, abandoned for apparently financial reasons, resembled a design used for a no longer extant arena in Tarzana that had been designed by noted Los Angeles architect Carl Maston). The Culver Ice Arena's architect, for the record, was Carl Englebrecht.
Council members wondered about the arena's popular outdoor sign. Jim Clarke wanted to know if the sign could be designated separately. Troteux said that it was possible. However, the issue of the sign was not dealt with as a separate designation at the meeting.
The recommendation by ARG was that the arena be designated under two local criteria: as an example of indoor recreation in the postwar baby-boom era, and in association with the development of professional sports (figure skating, ice hockey).
The parade of speakers included some of the many enthusiasts of ice skating and hockey who had appeared at previous meetings with pleas to save the ice rink itself. Since the announcement in January of an impending sale of the building, the fate of an ice rink in Culver City has been murky. The ice was removed in late February and the rink has been dark ever since.
13 of the 14 speakers spoke in favor of designation. The sole opposing view was stated by former council member Steve Rose, who did not think the proponents of the arena were being realistic.
Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells had made her support for the ice arena known and she and fellow council member Mehaul O' Leary expressed the most enthusiasm for designation.
While designation may save the actual structure, it is not possible to "designate" a business as a landmark or significant feature of a community. Examples of "adaptive re-use" of buildings for purposes other than their original use abound in Los Angeles and local municipalities.
Michael Karagozian, owner of the property, was present at the meeting but did not speak.