When Melissa Michelson moved to Alhambra nine years ago, she was excited to learn more about the city's historic architecture. Her interest led her to the Alhambra Preservation Group, where she became a board member and has now started an Advocacy and Action Committee, where its members lobby in front of the city government against the demolition of historic buildings.
"[I slowly saw] how the Alhambra City Council overdeveloped Alhambra, and doesn’t seem to be interested in preserving and reusing what’s existed, and tearing things down and making things big," she said.
Alhambra's architectural diversity has been threatened in recent years, with the Los Angeles Conservancy giving the city an F in preservation in 2014. The Alhambra Preservation Group has tried to raise awareness of architectural preservation, with initiatives such as the Heritage Home Awards, to recognize homeowners who take steps to maintain their homes' original architecture. With the Advocacy and Action Committee, the APG is getting even more involved in the politics of promoting preservation.
Michelson and her team attend the city's Design Review Board and Planning Commission meetings to advocate for saving buildings whose historic architecture might be threatened. Their first initiative is to save a mid-century medical building at 1237 E Main St., which also has a two-story house on-site. According to the Aug. 9 Design Review Board meeting minutes, the architect asked this advisory committee for approval to build a new medical building where the current one stands. That, to Michelson, is a shame.
“They’re going to tear down the whole thing, even though the brick — the exterior materials — are reflected in the neighboring materials of neighboring buildings,” she said. “And it’s pretty continuous in that little area, in that enclave of Alhambra, where there’s office buildings and they’re brick and they’re gonna rip that out."
The Advocacy and Action Committee also has their eye on other historic buildings.
One is a "dilapidated" Victorian house and an empty lot at 318 and 322 Fremont Ave. The applicant, Jack Wu, wants to build two new houses on both sides, which means the Victorian house would have to go. Specifically, according to the Design Review Board's Aug. 23 meeting agenda, Wu wanted to build a Craftsman-style house on one lot, and a Mediterranean-style house on another. The Design Review Board approved this application, pending Planning Commission approval.
Another is a "significant" Victorian-style house at 403 S Garfield Ave, which currently bears a large for-sale sign, suggesting a medical office or condominiums. Michelson is concerned that this property might also be in danger of demolition.
With all these architectural treasures possibly going away, the Alhambra Preservation Group's Advocacy and Action Committee has its work cut out for them. "I think we will be very busy," Michelson said.