Historic parts of Echo Park restaurant Taix will be wedged into a redevelopment

Taix On A New Meaning

Historic parts of Echo Park restaurant Taix will be wedged into a redevelopment

Taix has operated within the French Revival-style building since 1962 (Kent Kanouse)

Los Angeles has a complicated history with history. While the city often rids itself of architectural relics designed for the public (think of the Brown Derby Restaurant, or Parker Center, or even the original LACMA campus), a recent debate over a restaurant in Echo Park proves that there remain unexpected holdouts. The owners of Taix, an eatery serving “country French” cuisine on Sunset Boulevard since 1962, announced last May that they would demolish their French Revival-style building and integrate the restaurant into a six-story mixed-use complex on the site. Designed by local firm Togawa Smith Martin and developed by Holland Partner Group, the proposal unveiled as part of the announcement included 170 apartment units (24 of which are reserved for very low-income residents) and 13,000 square feet of commercial space.

Despite the building’s debatable architectural significance and the city’s housing crisis, the news was met with unforeseen resistance. While some had critiqued the low number of affordable housing units and the proposal’s outsized presence in the neighborhood, others had seen the redevelopment as a threat to the neighborhood’s historic character. The Los Angeles Conservancy, a local historic preservation advocacy organization, spoke for many Angelenos in a call for a far less transformative version of the plan, in which the restaurant would maintain its presence in the foreground of the development, and suggested that an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) would be necessary prior to demolition.

“The Conservancy does not think it’s an either/or scenario, such as provide housing or preserve this legacy business building,” the organization’s official statement argues. “Through creative design and compromise both are possible to achieve a result that everyone can celebrate. The proposal to bring the Taix business back and include it as part of the new development is appreciated, though it is not the same as preserving the existing historic place. It will be a new Taix experience and loss of the current, historic place.”

rendering of a new housing block
An aerial view of the proposed redevelopment bears little-to-no resemblance to its predecessor (Courtesy Togawa Smith Martin)

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles City Council (LACC) came to an unprecedented decision following months of back-and-forth between preservationists and the restaurant’s owners: Taix will be designated as a historic monument, but only three of its original building elements—a neon “Cocktails” advertisement, exterior signage advertising Taix, and a cherry wood bar top—would be preserved in the redevelopment. The most recent set of renderings for the project reveals the 60-year-old Taix sign perched atop the roofline of the tepidly designed complex.

The compromise was proposed by Echo Park Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, who had first outlined the proposal in early May. “The Taix family has informed the City that the revenues of the restaurant can no longer support the overhead associated with its current property, over-sized building, and aged and outdated infrastructure,” O’Farrell wrote in a statement to the Planning and Land Use Management committee. “Accordingly, preservation of the Taix French Restaurant as a historic-cultural resource and legacy business requires that it be able to respond to economic and social challenges that compel changes in its current physical premises.” His remarks were supported by an inspection conducted by the Cultural Heritage Commission, which noted that a number of renovations beginning in the 1980s had altered the structure far beyond the point of its original design. “The restaurant’s continental-themed interior appointments, such as carpeted floors, drapery, acoustic drop ceilings, upholstered booths, chandeliers, large mirrored panels, and painted wall murals date from the last 25 years and are not historically significant,” O’Farrell added.

While the architects may agree to incorporate those few original building elements, local preservationists have shown little approval of the latest update. The neighborhood’s residents voiced their concerns at a recent Echo Park Neighborhood Council (EPNC) meeting, at which they noted the redesign of the complex was less contextually sensitive than its predecessor, despite its incorporation of Taix’s signage. “The renderings are modern and typical, and there is no consideration for the neighborhood,” said EPNC board member David Bond, according to the Los Feliz Ledger. “Twenty-four affordable units is a small amount, especially if we think about the housing crisis. It looks like we are not trying to help our homeless community members.”

The resolution approved by LACC hardly reflects the midpoint between preservationists, Echo Park’s residents, and the site’s developers, yet it reflects a rare attempt to strike a balance between the city’s novel architectural history and its developer-happy present. A construction timeline has not yet been announced, giving ample time for a fundraiser to help pay to build momentum for a Historic-Cultural Monument nomination.