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Felix the Cat Sign Feels the Heat

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Thursday, July 26, 2007, at 11:13PM

Owner/operator of the Felix the Cat sign and Chevrolet Showroom Darryl Holter has an Op-Ed in today's LA Times taking a stance for property owners prevented from developing their own property, arguing that the Cultural Heritage Commission's lack of consideration for him may cost the family business a dealership, Los Angeles 200 jobs, and the city a loss of tax revenue of $450,000 a year.

Holter, who oversees multiple dealerships near Washington and Figueroa, also claims in the Op-Ed he never planned to demolish the sign. Yet, preservationists who want the designation hope to have the sign protected, in case Holter decides to sell the dealership or develop the property further.

The back and forth of this issue frames an interesting debate on what it means to preserve, and what role the City should take in private property. Even in the blogdowntown newsroom, opinions are split.

The dealership sits on important land, anchoring the northeast corner of the Figueroa and Jefferson intersection. Just to the south USC has built its new arena, the Galen Center. In just a few years the adjoining intersection of Flower and Jefferson will be a station on the Expo Line light rail. It would seem that the site is in line for a change in use, and the historic designation makes that a more complicated process.

Were the site to remain a dealership, Holter also warns that GM may insist any new owner conform to corporate branding standards, making it more difficult to offer the property for sale if the sign and showroom are landmarked. That in itself created urgency for those seeking landmark status for the historic neon sign and showroom.

In the Op-Ed, Holter stated that the hearing was based on a “few short months” of notice, and only 15 minutes of a hearing. Jim Childs, one of two preservationists heading the grassroots effort seeking landmark status, referred to as the “activist” in the opinion column, today claims preservation plans were known by November of 2006 and hearings were postponed twice on behalf of the property owners. "We wanted a forum to have a dialog about the Felix the Cat sign and Showroom," said Childs today, "We wanted to prevent it from being taken down without a discussion."

Both Cativist and Cat Owner have lobbied the city and commissions in person and by mail for close to a year.

The City Historical Cultural Commission's recommendation to make the sign and showroom a landmark is set to be heard next by the Planning, Land-Use Management Committee in September before moving on to council.

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