Why The F@#$ is Catholic Charities Improperly Demolishing B'nai B'rith Lodge with NO Replacement Project or Demo Fencing Ahead of their Court Date?

C.C. de Vere

C.C. de Vere

· 4 min read
Image of a backlit plastic cross over a stained glass window at the former B'nai B'rith Lodge. The elaborate Batchelder tile facade is shown up close.

The International Order of B'nai B'rith commissioned S. Tilden Norton (architect behind several of LA's historic Jewish landmarks) to design a lodge building for their fraternal service organization, and he did exactly that. He did a beautiful job, in fact. Watch The ARTery's dronescape here.

846 South Union Avenue, empty for at least five years, is perhaps best known for its elaborate - and priceless - Batchelder tiled facade. It's also known for its tenure as a labor union building for many years after B'nai B'rith sold it and other fraternities came and went (read much, much more here). More recently, it served as a church.

Anyway, instead of doing the sensible thing and buying vacant land (did you know Los Angeles is the 6th-emptiest city in the USA and the emptiest on the West Coast?), Catholic Charities decided to buy B'nai B'rith Lodge and its ample parking lot (which takes up twice as much land as the building), with plans to tear it down.

The city's Planning Department denied the permit, since it is a historic building located inside the defunct Community Redevelopment Agency's Westlake redevelopment zone (which remains in effect until 2030).

A landmark application was submitted. City Planning sent a letter to Catholic Charities of Los Angeles stating that because the property may be owned by a religious institution, the City provides the owner with the opportunity to object to designation pursuant to Cal. Gov. Code §37361.

Catholic Charities, which is NOT affiliated with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, took advantage of this three days later. The application was denied on this basis.

Catholic Charities then petitioned for a writ of mandate to tear the building down anyway - not to clear space for Union Avenue Village, their proposed home for foster and at-risk boys - but to merely demolish the lodge building.

Catholic Charities has yet to file plans for a replacement project. There is NOTHING approved for construction on the site.

And here's the kicker: the existing building could be converted into a group home SO simply. It already has a large kitchen, showers, and other rooms that could be repurposed as dormitories, day rooms, study rooms, etc.

If more space is needed, well, it's already there. The remaining two-thirds of the parcel is a parking lot, and it's common sense to build above parking lots.

Long story short, Catholic Charities and the City Attorney were supposed to come to an agreement, which hasn't happened yet. Then PLUM was supposed to hear about it in a closed session two months ago. Then last month the City Council voted to approve the secret agreement and refused to hear public comment (how is any of this even legal?).

The next court date in this matter isn't until May 16, and the judge has NOT signed off on a settlement deal yet, but the demolition permit was issued on April 18 anyway.

The permit requires capping the sewer, using demolition fencing and canopy to control dust, and hand-wrecking the building (to save the priceless Batchelder tiles). There is NO fencing or canopy, the building is being machine-wrecked, and I very much doubt they bothered to cap the sewer. People who cut corners on one thing often cut corners elsewhere.

What I want to know is, why is Catholic Charities doing this? There's NO replacement project, they appear to be rushing to get rid of the building ahead of their next court date, and they're knowingly disobeying the permit requirements.

Something's VERY fishy here.

Want to give B'nai B'rith Lodge a fighting chance, or at least save its irreplaceable historic elements? Contact the LA Conservancy (advocacy@laconservancy.org; 213-623-2489), which just might have the pull to persuade a judge to halt this troubling demolition. My friends at Esotouric suggest the following request: “Please file a Writ of Mandate! Ask a judge to halt demolition until historic Batchelder tiles and other artifacts can be removed from B’nai B’rith, inside and out.”

846 S. Union Ave., Westlake.

Join the discussion!

C.C. de Vere

About C.C. de Vere

C.C. is a fourth-generation Angeleno and is horrified at what greed and hubris are doing to Los Angeles.

This website was built by her preservation pals at Esotouric.

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