Chapter 7.68


7.68.010    Statement of policy and purpose.

7.68.020    Definitions.

7.68.030    Authority to designate a culturally significant landmark.

7.68.040    Procedures for designation of a culturally significant landmark.

7.68.050    Consequence of being designated as a culturally significant landmark.

7.68.060    Culturally significant landmarks.

7.68.010 Statement of policy and purpose.

It is declared that the recognition, preservation, protection, and use of cultural resources are necessary to the health, property, social and cultural enrichment and general welfare of the residents of the city of South Gate.

The purposes of this chapter are as follows:

(a)    To protect, enhance and perpetuate areas, streets, places, buildings, structures, outdoor works of art, natural features and other similar objects which are reminders of past eras, events, and persons important in local, state or national history, or which provide significant examples of architectural styles of the past or are landmarks in the history of architecture, or which are unique and irreplaceable assets to the city of South Gate and its neighborhoods, or which provide for this and future generations significant examples of the physical surroundings in which past generations lived;

(b)    To develop and maintain appropriate settings and environments for these cultural resources;

(c)    To enhance the economic and financial benefits to the city and its inhabitants by promoting the city’s tourist trade and interest and thereby stimulating community business and industry;

(d)    To intensify the visual and aesthetic character and diversity of the city and thus enhance its identity through the preservation of varied architectural styles which reflect the city’s cultural, social, economic, political and architectural history;

(e)    To encourage public understanding and appreciation of the unique architectural and environmental heritage of the city through education programs;

(f)    To strengthen civic pride in the beauty and notable accomplishments of the city’s past, and thereby to encourage community involvement in the city’s future.

(Ord. 1576 § 1 (part), 8-8-83)

7.68.020 Definitions.

(a)    “Landmark” means any site or improvement, manmade or natural, which has special character or special historical, cultural, architectural, community or aesthetic value as part of the heritage of the city of South Gate, state of California, or the United States and which has been designated as a landmark pursuant to the provisions of this chapter.

(Ord. 1576 § 1 (part), 8-8-83)

7.68.030 Authority to designate a culturally significant landmark.

Upon application to the city council of the city of South Gate by any interested parties, the city council is empowered to designate same as a culturally significant landmark if it manifests one or more of the following criteria:

(a)    It possesses a significant character, interest or value attributable to the development, heritage or cultural characteristics of the city, the southern California region, the state of California or the United States of America or if it is associated with a person whose life is historically significant; or

(b)    It is the site of an historic event with a significant place in history; or

(c)    It exemplifies the cultural, political, economical, social or historical heritage of the community; or

(d)    It portrays the environment in an era of history characterized by a distinctive architectural style; or

(e)    It embodies those distinguishing characteristics of an architectural type or engineering specimen; or

(f)    It is the work of a person or persons whose work has significantly influenced the development of the city or the southern California region; or

(g)    It contains elements of design, detail, materials, or craftsmanship which represent a significant innovation; or

(h)    It is a part of or related to a distinctive area that is developed according to a specific historical, cultural or architectural motif; or

(i)    It represents an established and similar visual feature of a neighborhood or community due to its unique location or specific distinguishing characteristics; or

(j)    It is, or has been, a valuable information source important to the prehistory or history of the city of South Gate, the southern California region, the state of California or the United States of America.

(Ord. 1576 § 1 (part), 8-8-83)

7.68.040 Procedures for designation of a culturally significant landmark.

(a)    Any interested party who proposes a designated place, building, structure, work of art or other similar item to be designated as a culturally significant landmark shall prepare an application in a form as required by the director of community development which form shall, among other things, set forth, with specificity, the proposed landmark, and the reasons why and in what manner the proposed landmark meets the criteria hereinabove set forth and why it should be otherwise designated as a culturally significant landmark.

(b)    Upon filing the application with the city clerk, the city clerk shall notice a public hearing with regard to the application at a time mutually acceptable to the applicant and the director of community development not to exceed sixty days after filing the application. The public hearing shall be noticed by posting notice of same upon entrances to the city hall of the city of South Gate at least five days in advance of said public hearing and by notifying by mail the applicant and all newspapers requesting notice of same in advance which request for notice shall be kept on file by the city clerk.

(c)    The city clerk shall also give a copy of the application to the director of building and to the director of community development.

(d)    The director of building, or his designee, and the director of community development, or his designee, shall review and investigate the application and shall make what recommendations with regard thereto as he deems appropriate to the city council. Prior to the hearing thereof, the city clerk shall mail a copy of the report and recommendations of the said director of building and director of community development to the applicant.

(e)    At said public hearing, after due consideration of evidence and comments made by the members of the public at large and the report and recommendations of the directors of building and community development, the city council shall evaluate the proposed landmark according to the criteria hereinabove set forth, and upon approval of a majority of same shall set forth by an ordinance amending this chapter, a new subsection identifying, among other things, the proposed landmark, the reasons that said landmark qualifies as a culturally significant landmark, and the designation of same as a culturally significant landmark. Said ordinance amending this chapter shall be codified in the municipal code of the city of South Gate and shall become a part hereof for the purpose of securing, for future generations, the cultural significance. of said landmark.

(Ord. 1576 § 1 (part), 8-8-83)

7.68.050 Consequence of being designated as a culturally significant landmark.

Before any activity is engaged in by the city which may have in any way an effect upon a duly designated culturally significant landmark which activity may include, but not be limited to:

(1)    Issuance of a permit involving a culturally significant landmark,

(2)    Sale of a site upon which contains culturally significant landmark,

(3)    An ordinance relating to zoning or land use affecting a land which has on it a culturally significant landmark, or

(4)    Any other activity which may in any way interfere with the permanent preservation of the landmark, the head of the department which proposes to take the activity shall notify the city clerk with regard to same. The city clerk shall thereafter set a public hearing before the city council for the purpose of determining whether the city activity which is proposed to be engaged in may have an impact on the preservation of the landmark within thirty days from the date of such notification.

In preparation for the hearing, the department of the city which proposes to take action with regard to a duly designated culturally significant landmark shall prepare a council agenda report with recommendations, and shall file same with the city clerk. At the time of filing said report and recommendations with the city clerk, the city clerk shall circulate copies thereof to the applicant, to newspapers requesting notice of same, to all other department heads and to the chief administrative officer of the city of South Gate.

At said public hearing, the city council shall receive the report of staff and further evidence from interested persons with regard to the impact that the proposed city activity shall have upon the preservation of the duly designated culturally significant landmark, and upon the conclusion of said public hearing, shall make a determination of the impact which the proposed city activity may have upon the landmark and may propose alternative ways of accomplishing the same result without substantially interfering with the preservation of the landmark. If the city has the discretion to engage or not engage in the proposed activity, the city council shall issue an order as to the course of action the city should take with regard to the landmark. If the city is involved in a series of activities that will involve a designated landmark, only one such approval need be obtained. The public hearing shall be noticed in the same manner as is set forth in Section 7.68.040.

(Ord. 1576 § 1 (part), 8-8-83)

7.68.060 Culturally significant landmarks.

(1)    Tile mosaic situated at the west entrance of the Civic Center Community Building located at 8680 California Avenue.

(A)    Description. The tile mosaic entitled “Evolution of Writing” was created by Stanton MacDonald-Wright during his employ with the Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA). Mr. Wright served as WPA Art Project Director for Southern California and later as technical advisor for seven western states. It was during his position as technical advisor (approximately 1938—1942) that the South Gate mosaic was created.

During his affiliation with the WPA (1935—1942), Mr. Wright became interested in new techniques for architectural decoration and designed murals and mosaics for several Southern California communities including South Gate in “Petrachrome,” a process he invented. In the Petrachrome process, aggregates of colored stones and coloring matter are added to Medusa cement, which is then cast on extruded metal lath in pictorial segments, polished and set in the wall.

The tile mosaic “Evolution in Writing,” on the Civic Center Community Building (formerly the Los Angeles County Public Library, South Gate) was produced with unglazed floor tile accented with a very small quantity of glazed tile. “Evolution of Writing” is best described by Albert H. King in his book entitled “Mosaic and Allied Techniques” (1942):

“It is in the South Gate Public Library mosaic that one possibility of texturalization (here used arbitrarily as an enriching medium) is perhaps shown to best advantage. Precision steel dies, automatically controlled pressure presses, standardized glazes, and uniform firing conditions of the modern tunnel kiln have produced tile of such as unvarying accuracy that any considerable area of uniform scale and obvious arrangement lacks the subtle variations so requisite to the creation of any tactile or plastic richness. To alleviate this by tipping or sinking the individual units at various angles or depths (Italian mosaic) would result in a feeling of poor craftsmanship where the accuracy of the unit itself is so absolute. A square unit shape has little interest and its very nature prevents any great stimulation for the imagination, also a square unit has a very limited number of possible arrangement combinations.

In the South Gate mosaic this unit shape has on the whole been avoided and such other shapes either standard to the tile industry or capable of being produced by simple straight line cuts from them have been used. Some idea of the profound richness that can be injected into what would otherwise be a monotonous that expanse can be had from the texture pattern (designed by Mr. Merritt) used for the field of this mosaic.

In this mosaic, “The Evolution of Writing,” naturalistic texturalization is used only in a limited sense and patterns of tile are inserted for their decorative and “charm” value. This appears as pleasingly diversified and as delicately conceived as the cover of a Persian book.”

(B)    Reasons for Designation.

(i)    The tile mosaic is associated with a person whose life is historically significant;

(ii)    The tile mosaic contains elements of design, detail, material and craftsmanship which represent a significant innovation; and

(iii)    The tile mosaic is a valuable information source important to the history of the city of South Gate, the Southern California region, the state of California and the United States of America.

Pursuant to the provisions of Section 7.68.030 (a), (c), (g), and (i) of Chapter 7.68, Preservation of Cultural Heritage, of the South Gate Municipal Code, and for the reasons hereinabove stated, the tile mosaic entitled “Evolution of Writing” situated at the west entrance of the Civic Center Community Center building located at 8680 California Avenue is designated as a culturally significant landmark.

(2)    Glenn T. Seaborg Residence, currently located at 9237 San Antonio Avenue.

(A)    Description. The Seaborg House is a seven hundred thirty-one square foot, one-story, circa 1923 bungalow cottage with a symmetrical rectangular plan and jerkinhead gable roof. A small, centered front porch has an intersecting jerkinhead gable roof. The walls are finished with three and one-half inch novelty horizontal wood siding and the roof is currently covered with composition shingles. Original wood shingles still exist under the current roofing. The porch, completed in 1939, is decorated with a row of small dentils and two square, plain wood columns support the porch roof. The front windows are fixed with divided lights in the upper portion. The house was built in stages over a period of a few years.

The simple interior floor plan remains intact, including two bedrooms, a hall, living room, kitchen, bath and service porch. The kitchen contains the original built-in dining nook that seats ten at its trestle table and built-in benches. The original cabinetry is still intact, including a built-in buffet with tip-out flour bin, two cutting boards, with glass-doored cabinet above, and enclosed spice cabinet. A built-in California cooler, built-in ironing board cabinet, and the remainder of kitchen cabinets (upper and lower) are unaltered. Cabinet doors are flush doors with flat recessed panels or glass panels. Only the sink countertop has been replaced. The hall contains built-in upper and lower linen cabinets and the bathroom contains some original elements, although the lavatory and toilet have been replaced. The living room contains the original built-in storage window seat with glass-doored cabinet at one end and a secretary at the other.

(B)    Reasons for Designation.

(i)    It is associated with a person whose life is historically significant;

(ii)    It was built in a manner and style typical of the period and area. (It was built in what was then Home Gardens, a tract suburb of Los Angeles. The city of South Gate was later incorporated and annexed Home Gardens). Examples of this type of cottage are becoming more rare as neighborhoods change and buildings are replaced;

(iii)    The home has been donated to the city of South Gate by Dr. Seaborg, along with his personal papers, records and other items with which to begin a Seaborg Library.

(C)    Background on Dr. Glenn Seaborg.

In 1923, 11-year old Glen Theodore Seaborg moved into the small home with his mother, father and sister. The interior was unfinished and it had no plumbing. It took a couple of years to complete the interior and install plumbing.

Soon after arriving in Southern California from Ishpeming, Michigan, Glen, on his own initiative, changed the spelling of his name to Glenn. He attended the North Wilmington Avenue Elementary School in Watts, then Home Gardens Elementary School and David Starr Jordan High School. He received his B.A. from UCLA and his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley. He lived in this home until he moved to Northern California to attend UC Berkeley.

While in residence in this house, he grew up, acquired his first lab experience, was inspired to choose his life’s work, and received his first college degree. His local high school science teacher inspired an interest in chemistry and physics, a job as lab assistant at the local Firestone Rubber Company provided early experience in the scientific workplace and his attendance at the then new Westwood campus of UCLA encouraged his decision for a career in nuclear chemistry.

He became a pioneering nuclear chemist whose work with isotopes and transuranium elements contributed importantly to development of nuclear technology in medicine, power and weapons. His discovery of several isotopes has revolutionized medical science, as seventy percent of all diagnosis and treatment in the U.S. currently employs nuclear techniques. Millions of people have benefitted and continue to benefit directly from his research, as well as his continued support of research and development through advanced diagnostic and therapeutic applications. He has served five United States presidents in establishing policy regarding the role of science and uses of atomic energy.

His accomplishments include the following:

Nobel Prize winning chemist.

Co-discoverer of plutonium and nine other transuranium elements, one of which (Seaborgium) is named for him.

Is the only human being ever to hold a patent on an element (he holds two).

Joined the Manhattan Project in 1940 and became Chief of Transuranium Elements Section in 1942.

Chaired the Atomic Energy Commission 1961-71 (first scientist to head it).

Was President Kennedy’s Chief Advisor on Atomic Affairs and U.S. delegate to international conferences on atomic energy.

Member of American delegation that signed the Limited Nuclear Test Ban in 1961.

Contributed to ratification of the Nonproliferation Treaty of 1970 by developing safeguards for handling nuclear materials and against illegal diversion of those products from medical and industrial products to weapons.

Served as chancellor of UC Berkeley 1958-61, a period of tremendous growth and development.

Chief architect of the Athletic Association of Western Universities (now known as the Pac Ten).

Contributed to national education reform, chairing the steering committee which created a new chemistry curriculum.

Served on National Committee on Excellence in Education.

Appointed in January 1998 to State panel to develop academic standards in science and other subjects for California schools; named to head the Standards Commission’s Science Committee. (Ord. 2058 § 1, 1-11-00)

(3)    South Gate Community Center (former library), 8680 California Avenue.

(A)    Description. Dedicated on July 19, 1939, this one-story vernacular colonial neo-classical revival building was designed by architect Richard C. Farrell. It has a gable-end dormer and paired attenuated columns creating a central simplified portico with an engaged pediment. Square engaged (false) columns adorn the corners leading into the recessed exterior entry which shelters a depression-era mosaic between two recessed wood paneled doors containing three small lights at the top of each door. The eight by eleven tile mosaic, entitled “Evolution of Writing,” was created by artist Stanton MacDonald-Wright (1890-1973), who served as the California State Director of the Federal Art Project and as the technical advisor to seven western states. The mosaic was produced with unglazed floor tile accented with a very small quantity of glazed tile. It has been generally recognized as a noteworthy art piece and is a previously designated South Gate culturally significant landmark. This west facade is the building’s main entrance and faces California Avenue.

The exterior is stucco with wood siding above window level and wood detail at the corners. It is currently approximately eight thousand, three hundred ninety-one square feet, including the courtyard. The west facade’s architectural detailing consists primarily of window and siding treatment. Wood siding creates a frieze under the eaves across the entire front of the building, broken by three windows each on the north and south wings. The windows, surrounded by wood siding which forms a frame around each of them, are early steel paired casement ten-light windows topped by a cornice with dentil course. Rectangular eight-light clerestory windows are set at plate line above the cornices. Gabled dormers with circular vents are set above each window, creating an architectural element as they break the eave. Raised planters built on the ground below each window complete the roof-to-ground window package.

Windowed-dormers on the northeast wing allow light to enter interior spaces below. Dormers on the west facade have round exterior vents that do not interact with interior spaces.

The 4-1/2 / 12 pitch roof has gable ends and was originally covered in asbestos shingles which are now covered with composition shingles. North, south and east gables each contain a false round gable vent, with paired, engaged (false) columns at the corners of the north and south facades which create a pediment effect at the gable ends. Originally, the north and south gable ends contained tall recessed or flush bay windows. Currently only the south bay remains. The north bay window was replaced by a door and clerestory window during one of the remodeling projects. This change is reversible and the original window could be replicated.

A small rectangular cupola with windows sits atop the main roof ridge line at the central point, allowing light to enter the foyer. The cupola’s hipped roof is topped with an iron sailing ship weather vane.

Original drawings are not available, but it appears that the area between the southeast wing and the northeast wing was an addition made between 1948 and 1955.

The south exterior fountain court is enclosed on three sides by the southeast and southwest wings and the central core of the building. This small courtyard is highlighted by a tile wall fountain that reaches the ground in a small, half-circle pool and includes a lion’s head spout and Moorish/Saracen style tiles.

The interiors of the main room spaces (three main rooms and entry foyer) have open truss ceilings with exposed champhered and hand hewn beams, which have a soft, washed stain finish in a light beige color. Trusses are of the Howe or King Post type with the vertical elements being turned. The bottom chord, inclined top chords and diagonal braces are hand hewn. Other portions of the building have plastered ceilings. Wall plaster is sand textured; the walls probably were beige in color, through many are currently covered, have been painted or are suffering the effects of time. Temporary walls have been constructed in various locations to accommodate current uses but do not seriously impact original architectural elements.

Original book cases built into the walls of the northwest and southwest wings are still in place and are stained a walnut brown. Book cases in the northwest wing are five feet high, while book cases in the southwest wing are six feet eight inches high. This difference leads to the possibility that the northwest wing might have been the children’s wing. The reception check-out desk was located in the foyer between the two entrance doors. Behind-the-desk shelving is still recessed into the west wall. It is believed that the northeast wing may have been the location of the former library auditorium.

Early style fluorescent fixtures are mounted on the underside of truss members in the northeast and northwest wings. The fixtures have been partially removed from the southwest wing.

The southeast wing interiors contain kitchen and other utility rooms.

Due to the later modifications, it has been difficult to ascertain the location of the original librarian’s office, workroom or restrooms.

Of special note are three Depression-era murals. “Chinese Print Making” (six by ten) and “Egyptian Print Making” (six by ten) reside on the interior northwest wall. The third, wide mural in the foyer (five by nineteen) faces the entrance and is titled “Story of Printing.” The murals are titled, signed and dated. They were created by painter and muralist Suzanne Miller (1882-1980), who studied at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and with the foremost contemporary French muralist Jean Despujois in Fountainbleu and Paris. They are “teaching” murals, jointly titled “The History of Printing Through the Ages.” They were painted in tempera for the WPA’s Federal Art Project (FAP) in muted colors and depict the history of printing through definite time periods, guiding the viewer through printing’s complicated history. While she was in Los Angeles during the 1930s, Miller was awarded the New York Architectural League award. It is suspected that originally there may have been two more murals placed in the southwest wing, subsequently covered with black paint during that wing’s conversion to a little theater.

(B)    Building History. The first “library” was located in a small room in the old City Hall at Post and State Streets (a store front). In 1925 it was moved to a store building at 8475 State Street. On March 25, 1938, a building permit was approved to build the city’s first public building, its library. Designed by architect Richard C. Farrell in a style then considered to be both modern and classic, it served as the city’s public library for about 34 years. It also set the style and character for what would become the city’s current civic center.

During World War II the Rationing and OPA (Office of Price Administration) Boards were set up in the library’s auditorium and literature on rationing, nutrition and price control were distributed from here, along with applications for tires.

In 1973, having outgrown this space, the library was moved to a new building on Tweedy Blvd. between San Luis and San Miguel Avenues. The old library then became the South Gate Community Center. That same year the southwest wing became a venue for local little theater productions by the South Gate Theatre Guild, the northeast wing became the home of the South Gate Art Association and its gallery, and the northwest wing became the South Gate History Museum. As of 1999 the Art Association and Museum groups are still using the building, with other groups using some of the remaining space for meetings and senior food service.

(C)    Reasons for Designation.

(i)    It exemplifies the cultural, social and historical heritage of the community, as it was the first public building built by the City of South Gate.

(ii)    It portrays a distinctive architectural style which characterized an era in Southern California. This variation of colonial neoclassical revival architecture is portrayed in an especially Southern California vernacular which was seen here particularly between the 1930s and the 1950s. This building influenced the architecture of the other structures later designed and built in the City’s civic center.

(iii)    Through its distinctive character and WPA (Works Progress Administration) artwork, it portrays the artistic environment during an era of history and embodies the distinguishing characteristics of a specific American art form.

(iv)    The building’s title mosaic - “Evolution of Writing” by Stanton MacDonald Wright - has already been designated a South Gate culturally significant landmark in its own right.

(vi)    Three subtly tinted interior murals, created by award winning painter and muralist Suzanne Miller in 1938, are distinctively American style art pieces which can be easily identified with depression-era WPA projects.

This building still contains its important historical, architectural and artistic elements. Centrally located and a part of the city’s civic center, it continues to be a valuable and visible piece of the city’s history, surviving evidence of a distinctive Southern California architectural style, a canvas for four unique pieces of historic American art, and an integral part of the community and the civic center complex.

(4)    The United States Post Office building, located at 3270 Firestone Boulevard.

(A)    Description. During the New Deal era (1933-1936/43) the U.S. Government built approximately one thousand one hundred post offices across the United States. In addition to South Gate’s postal facility, post offices in Bell, Maywood, Huntington Park, Lynwood and Compton were also built during the New Deal era, the majority of which remain in use today.

(B)    Building History. As a group, the post offices represent an interesting period in the history of federal architecture. Smaller post offices, such as South Gate, were based on a stock design, with similar floor plan that was determined to be efficient and less costly to build. The design allowed the Treasury Department to locate them in a variety of smaller communities, which heretofore were ineligible for federal buildings. The building’s designs were intended to project a “simple government character in consonance with the region in which they were located and the surroundings of the specific site.” In compliance with the Department of Treasury’s mandate, the South Gate/Firestone post office is a simple and symmetrical design emulating a moderne style. Though small in size, the federal government’s intention with the architecture was to convey the dignity and formality of the larger government buildings. The flagpole is intended to communicate its federal function. The elevated steps leading up to the main entrance and the American eagle over the front door are thought to create a ceremonial entrance. The simple exterior details such as the metal windows and lighting fixtures were intended to allow the buildings to be customized to harmonize with their surroundings and give them an individual character. The eagle over the front door was designed to meet the “new preferred style” and features outstretched wings versus the upright wings favored up to this point in time. The upright winged eagle fell from favor due to its resemblance to the Nazi eagle.

(C)    Reasons for Designation. In July 26 and 27, 2011, the U.S. Postal Service released two lists of post offices under study for closure. The federal government is reviewing a total of four thousand three hundred eighty post offices for possible closure. Of the one thousand seven hundred ten post offices in California, one hundred thirty-eight or eight percent are being considered for closure. Among them are the Firestone and Hollydale post offices. In an effort to preserve one of the best examples of federal architecture within the city of South Gate this designation would preserve the integrity of the building in spite of new uses that may be proposed should the federal government choose to close this particular branch.

(Ord. 2295 § 2, 6-12-12; Ord. 2058 § 1, 1-11-00; Ord. 1583 § 1, 11-14-83: Ord. 1576 § 1 (part), 8-8-83)