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.
Walker's Cafe abruptly closed in late October 2021. At first the owners' plans were not known, but at the first landmarking hearing on January 20th, 2022 the owners' representative stated that they do not plan to reopen the business. You can listen to his statement here. The future of the site is still uncertain, and the landmark process is moving forward.
We want to obtain historic landmark status, or Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) designation, for the cafe in order to celebrate and protect this amazing community spot and pave the way for it to reopen under new ownership. The ideal outcome would be for new operators to come in and give the place a new lease on life, with love and respect for what it's been over many decades.
The support of the local community is vital to a successful landmarking application.
First, sign and share the petition. Thousands of people have done so already, but we need more.
Second, send this email to the Cultural Heritage Commission expressing your support for landmark designation.
Third, call into the upcoming hearing. At the first landmarking hearing, the Cultural Heritage Commission unanimously voted to advance Walker's to the next stage in the landmarking process. The second hearing is scheduled for Thursday, 17 March 2022 at 10 am. The hearing will be held on Zoom and will be open for public comment. YOUR voice is important!
If the landmark nomination is successful, it will make it easier for another operator to purchase the business and successfully reopen, due to the many benefits that come with historic designation.
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.
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.
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.