Frequently Asked Questions
Where are we at in the landmarking process?
We did it! As a result of our grassroots campaign, in August 2022 the City Council voted to designate Walker's Cafe as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.
What's going on at Walker's right now?
In mid-July 2022, we started hearing some concerned reports from community members who were witnessing ongoing construction at Walker's Cafe. A complaint was filed, and an inspector came out to investigate. According to the LADBS website, he found work being done without permits, and the investigation is ongoing.
It's against the law for any property owner to do major work without getting permits, but in the case of Walker's Cafe, the landmark designation means that no permits can even be obtained without the approval of the city's Office of Historic Resources (OHR). When the new owners purchased Walker's Cafe earlier this year and pledged to bring it back to its glory, we were all very excited. That's what everyone wants to see happen—but it has to be done the right way, by following the city's rules. We hope this is just a misunderstanding, and that moving forward the owners will be much more careful to abide by the restrictions that protect landmarks and potential landmarks. We all want things to go well, so that Walker's Cafe can reopen soon and again be a living treasure for the San Pedro community.
We are happy to see that the owners obtained several permits for repair work in early August: Permit and Inspection Report (lacity.org)
Why is doing work without permits bad?
The owners of a historic property have the benefit of free consultation with a preservation architect at the City's Office of Historic Resources who was waiting to hear from the new owners of Walker's, but they chose to go out on their own. The community and the city have invested a lot of time and energy in making sure Walker's gets a new lease on life. It's time for Prospect Group to come to the table and act in the same good faith. Landmarks don't just belong to the owners. They belong to all of us, and it's the community's love for Walker's Cafe that drew the new owners to it to begin with. They have a responsibility to the community to follow the rules and be transparent about what they're doing. We're hopeful that, going forward, they will keep the community up to date on where they're at.
Has Walker's Cafe been sold to new owners?
Yes. In March 2022, Walker’s Cafe was acquired by Prospect Group, as their Silva Harapetian told Random Lengths News. They have stated that they intend to lease out the cafe to a restaurateur. We are hopeful that this means Walker’s is on its way to reopening its doors. For more information, see the Random Lengths News article.
How can landmarking the building help save Walker's Cafe as a business?
If the landmark nomination is successful, it will make it easier for the cafe to successfully reopen, due to the many benefits that come with historic designation.
Can we really save Walker’s Café from being demolished?
Landmark status isn’t a guarantee, but having a property go through this process makes everything more public and transparent and allows the community to have a voice. Once the significance of a site has been officially recognized, it makes it much harder to justify any development being proposed in its place. In short, it will give Walker’s a real fighting chance.
Is it true that it's more expensive to restore a building after it's been landmarked?
Every building is different. Some people believe that landmarking brings a lot of bureaucratic red tape, but in fact certain exemptions apply to historic properties that mean it can be easier for owners to comply with regulations without having to make extensive and costly changes. There are also various grants and other incentives in place for owners of historic properties that make it easier and more financially viable for any necessary repairs to be made.
The people who take on these types of projects are committed to ensuring the building gets all the maintenance and upgrades it needs while being respectful of its historic integrity. They believe it's worth it, and so do we.
Does landmarking Walker's mean that nothing about it can ever be changed?
Sometimes people assume that landmarking a building more or less traps it in amber, or that a landmark must have the clock turned back to when it was new. None of that is true. When a building is declared a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument, it joins a set of around 1,200 properties throughout the city that have been recognized as having unique historical significance. This brings a number of benefits with it. Certain exemptions apply to historic properties that make it easier for owners to comply with regulations. Property owners may also be able to use the State of California building code rather than local ordinances for any renovation work they plan to undertake. In addition, under the Mills Act program they can achieve significant property tax savings.
These benefits counterbalance some of the responsibilities that historic status entails. Property owners need to get building permits from the City of LA’s Office of Historic Resources for any interior or exterior work. The restrictions under HCM status refer to physical appearance, not to structural issues. These restrictions are in place to make sure the property’s historic qualities are protected – in other words, that we don’t lose the very features that make it so special.
One helpful recent LA restaurant landmark example is Stanley Burke's/Corky's Restaurant and Sign (HCM #1215) in Van Nuys. When the restaurant was declared a landmark, it had a 1980s remodel. The actual ordinance calls out the original 1958 architectural features, some of which are hidden under the drop ceiling. Currently, a new tenant is working closely with architects, architectural historians and the city's Office of Historic Resources to update everything inside the walls, while adding an all-new period-appropriate drive-thru window, and protecting all the character-defining features that are spelled out in the landmark designation. When Stanley Burke's/Corky's reopens, it won't look exactly like it did at any time in the past, but it will be a beautiful, functional restaurant that honors LA's cultural history.