Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Torrance Icon Day and Night

The Torrance City Council presented a Proclamation to those involved in rehabilitating the bridge.  Pictured from left, front row:  Jamie Ruth Watson (President, Torrance Historical Society), Shane Swerdlow (Associate, Chattel, Inc.), Pat Furey (Mayor, City of Torrance), Elizabeth Overstreet (Engineering Manager, City of Torrance, Department of Public Works), and Andy Perez (Director, Port Affairs, Union Pacific Railroad).
On December 2, 2014, the Torrance City Council kicked off its weekly meeting with an official lighting ceremony for the 1913, Irving Gill-designed Pacific Electric Railway - El Prado Bridge. Chattel Associate Shane Swerdlow spoke at the event, accepting a Proclamation from the City Council on behalf of the team involved in the bridge’s rehabilitation. Watch the Proclamation presentation and lighting ceremony.

Torrance Historical Society members gathered at the bridge while Mayor Pat Furey flipped a switch at City Council Chambers to officially illuminate the structure (source of photo:  Torrance CitiCABLE 3).
Chattel worked with structural engineer Krakower & Associates, concrete specialist Preservation Arts, and City of Torrance, Department of Public Works to develop a project that brought back the modern elegance of the arched, reinforced concrete bridge, which had suffered years of deferred maintenance. Work included removing paint, graffiti, and dense vines, patching damaged concrete, reconstructing wood guardrails, and adding clear anti-graffiti coating. Chattel also consulted with the Torrance Historical Society to come up with the official Pacific Electric Railway – El Prado Bridge name approved by the Torrance City Council—the structure was previously called “the bridge” and several other colloquial names. Read more about Chattel’s presentation to the City Council on the bridge’s name in the Torrance Tribune. Chattel also worked with City staff to develop the new lighting scheme, which consists of in-ground uplights accentuating the iconic arches.

Chattel worked with City staff to develop the new lighting scheme.  Pictured here is Lea Reis (Associate Engineer, City of Torrance, Department of Public Works) with a sample in-ground uplight.
Built in 1913 by the Pacific Electric Railway, the bridge originally served trains passing over tracks used by southern California's famous Red Cars. It is one of the first bridges to use arches purely for decoration, disguising an otherwise simple structure of concrete girders and beams. Southern Pacific Railroad later took over ownership of the bridge and donated it to the City of Torrance in 1986. The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. At a 100th birthday celebration on May 23rd, 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers presented a plaque commemorating the bridge as a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, joining the ranks of the Golden Gate and Brooklyn bridges. Today, it serves as Torrance’s eastern gateway and an icon of civic identity, prominently featured in logos and seals of City departments and organizations.

From top: bridge in 1913, soon after construction (Torrance Historical Society); 2012, before rehabilitation; 2013, after rehabilitation; and 2014, during lighting ceremony.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Banking on History: Five Incentives for Preservation Projects

CPF Workshop - Thursday, December 11th
Castle Green in Pasadena
Join Shane Swerdlow, Associate at Chattel, Inc. as he discusses the Mills Act at a special, day-long workshop on historic preservation financial incentives presented by the California Preservation Foundation at Pasadena’s historic Castle Green.

The Mills Act Program is California’s leading financial incentive for historic preservation, providing potential property tax reduction to owners of qualified historic buildings.  Owners must commit to a substantial scope of rehabilitation, restoration, and maintenance work described in a Mills Act Contract that is executed with a local city or county government. 

The workshop will also focus on Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives, easements, and a variety of grant programs.
Other speakers include: 


Other speakers include: 
  • Kevin Sanada, National Trust for Historic Preservation
  • Tara Hamacher, Founder and President, Historic Consultants, Inc.
  • Diana Letsinger, Partner, Novogradac & Company LLP
  • William Huang, Director of Housing, City of Pasadena
  • Jesse Lattig, Preservation Director, Pasadena Heritage
  • Shane Swerdlow, Associate, Chattel, Inc.
  • Kevin Johnson, City of Pasadena, Planning & Community Development Department
  • Patricia Johnson-Conner, Los Angeles County, Office of the Assessor
  • Charles Loveman, Executive Director, Heritage Housing Partners
  • Christopher Smith, Architectural Resources Group
  • John LoCascio, Senior Architect, AIA, Historic Resources Group

Monday, December 1, 2014

Conserving Southern California's Modern Architecture

FREE Lecture at the Getty - Tuesday, December 9th at 7:00 PM

Stuart Company Building in Pasadena

Robert Chattel, AIA will highlight the preservation challenges and successes of his work on the Stuart Company Building at a FREE event sponsored by the Getty Conservation Institute's Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative, which seeks to advance the practice of conserving twentieth-century heritage. The presentation will be "Powered by PechaKucha," a simple presentation format in which speakers show 20 images, each for 20 seconds, making for a fast-paced and lively evening.

Please join us.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014
7:00 PM
Museum Lecture Hall, Getty Center

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Public Landscapes of Ralph Cornell

FREE Tour of Harvey Mudd College - Sunday, November 9th at 2:30pm
Harvey Mudd College Great Mall with new Center for Teaching and Learning at right.
As part of The Cultural Landscape Foundation's program What’s Out There Weekend Los Angeles - The Public Landscapes of Ralph Cornell, Robert Chattel, AIA will lead a tour of Harvey Mudd College in Claremont. Chattel evaluated the campus master plan amendment and identified a potential historic district with the period of significance 1957-1972. Chattel also reviewed a proposed replacement building by Portland-based Boora Architects, a center for teaching and learning, for conformance with the Secretary’s Standards.

Los Angeles-based landscape architect Ralph Cornell is known for his design restraint and thoughtful use of indigenous plantings. His work at Harvey Mudd College was in collaboration with landscape architect Thomas Church, and architects Earl Heitschmidt and Edward Durrell Stone. The upcoming What's Out There Weekend features free, expert-led tours of more than a dozen significant Cornell-designed landscapes in greater Los Angeles.

Monday, October 27, 2014

LA Conservancy Garden Apartment Tour

Saturday, November 1st; 10am to 4:30pm
Imagine living in a low-density, garden oasis like Chase Knolls (above) in the middle of America’s second-largest city.  Los Angeles has one of the largest collections of garden apartments in the nation, with nearly 40 built between the late 1930s and the mid-1950s.  Here’s a chance to see what life is like in historic garden apartments.

Robert Chattel, AIA will be available to discuss the careful analysis and development of a prioritized approach to phased rehabilitation of Chase Knolls buildings and landscape.  Join the LA Conservancy for this special one-time-only overview and tour of Village Green in Baldwin Hills (1941), Chase Knolls in Sherman Oaks (1948), and Lincoln Place in Venice (1951).

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

State Historic Tax Credit Act: What's Next?

Help AB 1999 cross the finish line! 

Put your coffee down and email Governor Jerry Brown and encourage him to sign the legislation for AB 1999. It’s simple, enter your name and email address, scroll down to AB 01999 and enter your email text, then press send.

Here’s sample email text.  It’s just a start, make it yours!
I'm writing to express my personal support for AB 1999, the state historic tax credit bill authored by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins. The bill is truly a landmark that was passed unanimously and with bipartisan support in both the Senate and Assembly. The proposed legislation will provide an incentive to rehabilitate historic commercial income-producing and owner-occupied residential properties in urban and rural areas across California. We need to encourage property owners to retain and reuse important touchstones of our history as older downtowns are revitalized, former military bases are reused and affordable housing is provided. The bill was co-sponsored by the California Preservation Foundation and California Council of the American Institute of Architects and supported by thoughtful cities, astute developers, preservation organizations and caring individuals like me statewide. I urge you to sign the bill into law and make California the 35th state to enact a state historic tax credit. Thank you for your consideration.

What will AB 1999 do?
The bill amends several sections of the state tax code to allow for a basic 20% or, in certain limited areas, 25% investment tax credit for qualified rehabilitation of income-producing commercial and owner-occupied residential properties. 

When would it take effect?
January 2015.

How can you learn more?
Visit the California Preservation Foundation website.

For those who care about our history and preservation of California’s rich and diverse built environment, the long-awaited State Historic Tax Credit is in the final stage of adoption. AB 1999 was just unanimously passed with bipartisan support in both the California Senate and Assembly and now heads to Governor Jerry Brown for signature.  The bill was authored by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), co-sponsored by the California Preservation Foundation and California Council of the American Institute of Architects, and supported by like-minded organizations statewide including the California Historical Society, Los Angeles Conservancy and San Francisco Heritage.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Neon Museum: A Mid-Century Case Study

FREE Webinar on September 9 at 12pm

Join Robert Chattel, AIA and Shane Swerdlow for a webinar about the trials and tribulations of saving the Mid-Century Modern La Concha Motel lobby from demolition, its move to a new site, and rehabilitation as the Visitor Center for Las Vegas’ highly successful Neon Museum. Learn how a team of advocates for its protection, a structural engineer, and a consulting preservation architect worked together to save the iconic structure. The webinar is the third and final part of a California Preservation Foundation (CPF) series on architecture and urbanism in the mid-twentieth century.

Robert Chattel, AIA, Historic Architect, will moderate the webinar. Other speakers will include Nancy Deaner, Director, City of Las Vegas, Office of Cultural Affairs; Mel Green, Structural Engineer, Melvyn Green & Associates, Inc.; Shane Swerdlow, Project Manager, Chattel, Inc.; Mara Jones, Architectural Historian, Nevada State Historic Preservation Office; and Danielle Kelly, Executive Director, The Neon Museum, Las Vegas.

Register for the webinar

Registration is free for members of CPF and partner organizations, including Restore Oregon, Nevada Preservation Foundation, Preserve Nevada, Nevada Architectural History Alliance, and The Neon Museum. $15 for Non-members.


Robert Chattel, AIA, Moderator
Robert Chattel, AIA is a licensed general contractor and architect in California with more than 30 years’ experience in historic preservation. He established Chattel, Inc. in 1994 and has been involved in achieving creative changes to diverse historic properties throughout the western United States, including a notable array of Modern buildings. For the 1958 Edward Durell Stone-designed Stuart Company Plant and Office Building in Pasadena, Robert consulted on design and construction of an adaptive reuse project integrating the historic New Formalist building within a compatible new apartment community and performing arts venue. He worked closely with public agencies and Los Angeles Conservancy Modern Committee when consulting on rehabilitation of the 1957 Googie-style Harvey’s Broiler, now Bob’s Big Boy, in Downey. As consulting historic preservation architect for the Neon Museum Visitor Center, he collaborated with Westar Architectural Group to develop plans for rehabilitation of the La Concha Motel lobby and a new addition housing museum support spaces. He serves as President Emeritus of the Board of Trustees of the San Francisco-based California Historical Society.

Shane Swerdlow, Speaker
Shane Swerdlow is a historic preservation planner at Chattel, Inc. involved in design collaboration and environmental review for projects involving historic resources. His work on Modern buildings includes a historic resource assessment of the 1955 National Register-eligible, Welton Becket and Associates-designed Schoenberg Hall at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), which houses the Herb Alpert School of Music, and consultation on design of a new addition. He also consulted on and monitored construction of stabilization and rehabilitation work at the 1913 National Register-listed Pacific Electric Railway – El Prado Bridge in Torrance, designed by Irving Gill, a pioneer in Modernism. For the Neon Museum Visitor Center, he managed implementation of National Scenic Byways Program grant funding and worked closely with the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office, Federal Highway Administration, and Nevada Department of Transportation to successfully complete Section 106 environmental review. He serves as Vice President of the University of Southern California (USC) Sol Price School of Public Policy Alumni Association Board of Directors and member of the Board and Planning and Land Use Committee of Los Angeles’ Mid City West Community Council. 

La Concha Motel Lobby disassembled at donor site before relocation in 2006.

Chattel consulted on design of the new addition housing offices and support spaces.

The Neon Boneyard is home to over 150 neon signs.