Decline and despair over the Ruin of Ravenswood

| March 3, 2022 | 0 Comments

Driving down Rossmore Avenue on any given night I often feel transported into a film noir movie as I pass the faded grandeur of the Ravenswood Apartments, its great neon sign with bright red letters, some dark, others flickering, hovering over the great concrete hulk which was once the haunt of stars and artists. Today, while its Art Deco detailing is still prominent, the Ravenswood’s 96 apartments are largely rent-controlled and home to a loyal coterie of entertainment professionals ­— some who have resided in the building for decades, but in recent years have witnessed with growing distress the neglect and slow dilapidation which plague the building.

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While many histories claim the Ravenswood was built by Paramount Studios, it was actually financier Maurice Feigenbaum who obtained the permit for the apartments at 570 N. Rossmore Ave. He hired Max Maltzman, one of the few Jewish architects practicing in Los Angeles at the time, who would also design for Feigenbaum the ill-fated “Beverly-Rossmore” at 410 N. Rossmore Ave. Maltzman’s Ravenswood soon attracted a sophisticated clientele drawn to the lavish apartments, commissary, subterranean garage, sumptuous lounges and tennis courts.

ALONG ROSSMORE AVENUE, Ravenswood Apartments are north of the El Royale.

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Hollywood soon followed, with the likes of “Queen of Vaudeville” Eva Tanguay, actor Clark Gable, bandleader Paul Whiteman and director George Sidney all residing at the Ravenswood.

Mae West
It was, however, Mae West who would become the Ravenswood’s most famous resident. West moved into the apartments following the signing of her contract with Paramount Studios in 1932. Paramount even decorated the apartment of its treasured sex symbol in a style that her biographer described as “early French candy box.” West bought the Ravens-wood outright following an argument with management about allowing visits from William “Gorilla” Jones, a Black boxer with whom it was rumored she was having an affair. Mae West would remain at the Ravenswood until her death in 1980.

THE RAVENSWOOD has remained a draw to Hollywood creatives including those relocating from New York.

The Ravenswood has remained a draw to Hollywood creatives including those relocating from New York. Patrick Kilpatrick, actor, producer and director, moved to the building in 1998. He said, “The building has many attributes: it is historic, charming and centrally located. Being rent controlled, it also allowed me to send my kids to good colleges.”

But, following the building’s purchase in 2005 by Talmadge LLC, a subsidiary of Commercial Property Management run by President David Soufer of Brentwood, Kilpatrick noticed a precipitous decline in maintenance and living standards.

Complaints Filed
A look through the 100 complaints filed with Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) shows persistent heating and plumbing issues, broken elevators, fire safety and lack of security. The tenants have even offered to fix things such as the pool heater, only to receive no response from management.

Mills Act

What really galls Kilpatrick is the fact that the owners of the building collect a significant tax abatement through a Mills Act Contract (the Ravenswood was declared Historic Cultural Monument #768 in 2003). “The Ravenswood deserves owners that revere the history, honor the legacy, rise to stewardship – rather than year after year bilking the citizens of the City of Los Angeles of millions from a tax incentive for renovation and maintenance never carried out,” says Kilpatrick.

OWNERS OF THE BUILDING collect a significant tax abatement through a Mills Act Contract (the Ravenswood was declared Historic Cultural Monument #768 in 2003).

Heidi Bright, a more recent tenant, says that the community of creatives who make up the heart of the Ravenswood’s tenants are at their wits’ end. “I was first introduced to the Ravenswood building about nine years ago when I fell in love with my husband … So I associate romance with the building, and its history of occupants (like Mae West) resounds with the romance of Old Hollywood. … The owners’ neglect baffled, saddened and eventually angered me.” She and other tenants are “exhausted by pursuing every avenue of communication regarding the maintenance, restoration and preservation of The Ravenswood with Talmadge LLC, to no avail. Talmadge refuses to even communicate back.”

Kilpatrick and other tenants have made phone calls, written letters, filed complaints and even appealed to the Office of Historic Resources. But it was the tenants’ working with the staff previously at CD4, together with LADBS, that seems to have prodded management into minimal action.

During a recent tour of the property, I saw that all of the lobby furniture had been removed (presumably for reupholstery), dead trees were being cut down in the pool area and the carpets had recently been cleaned. However, an air of general neglect pervades the atmosphere, with dark handprints on the public room walls, broken doors, a garbage-strewn and dirty garage and a forlorn garden and pool.

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“The community of Ravenswood tenants deserves landlords that don’t ignore well-meaning pleas, petitions and genial offers of collaboration,” says Kilpatrick.

Let’s hope that the tenants’ efforts and perhaps working with new staff at CD5 will get Talmadge LLC’s attention and halt the decline of this treasured icon of our neighborhood.

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Category: Real Estate

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