I am so sorry to tell you that we lost the battle, although we may still win the war. Everyone will have to clear out at the end of December, so if you haven't already begun to search for a new home in January, you should start as soon as possible.
I am very optimistic that the building will be declared a 'landmark.' At that time, which will probably be in February or March, there will be a meeting of the Cultural Heritage Commission, which will decide whether this building has landmark status or not. As soon as we know the date and time of the commission hearing, we will be contacting you, because we will need you to express your support for The Complex and continuing theatre in the building at that hearing.
Once landmark status is granted, it's hard to imagine what else they could use the building for. They will have an empty building consisting of five empty theaters, five empty rehearsal studios and three offices, and very harsh restrictions to renovations imposed by the Cultural Heritage Commission. It's also a building with no parking, and no elevator, both of which are grandfathered in because of how long theater has been going on here, but would be lost if there were any other use besides theater.
So I suspect that we will be back running a theater complex out of this building in March or April.
We'll see what happens.
Through this whole struggle, my affection and appreciation for all the tenants, and the staff, has continued to grow. This was a very, very special place that we had here, and, hopefully, it will be that way again.
With great fondness and affection,
All of you Complex supporters thank you for coming! If you missed the great rally we learned that Mitch O'Farrell, our City Councilman, has nominated The Complex for 'historic monument' status.
This is great news! Now, to get that status we have to have a hearing in front of the Cultural Heritage Commission. To help us with that, could you send a very short video saying something, like, "Save The Complex" or "I love the Complex' or "Complex Forever?" Something like that. Keep it short, keep it clean and make sure your camera is horizontal!
Click Here to upload your video: https://www.dropbox.com/request/e9JGBp9x0dBdzuBvqq6w
That link will take you to a dropbox where you can put your video. No worries if you're not a dropbox member it will still work just the same. We will prepare an amazing collage with that and clips from the Rally to present to the Cultural Heritage Commission. We are not just spinning our wheels here. This can really work. So please send us something, we would greatly appreciate it.
Here is another installment of ‘Saving The Complex,’ because saving The Complex, or any building, is a process. I want you to know what’s going on and I would like you to help us in two different ways if you can. One supporter of The Complex who read one of the earlier emails, works at the LAConservancy. She did a little research and informed me that our building is eligible for landmark historical status on the local, state and national level. Another friend discovered that the building is in the national registry. Being eligible does not mean that you automatically get the status. The building must be nominated and then there is a period of research and discovery and one or two hearings where the interests of The Complex are represented and the interests of the landlady and the realtor are represented as well. Our City Councilman, Mitch O’Farrell, has nominated our building and the process is well underway.
I know I’m supposed to make these messages succinct, but I think the following is so interesting that I’m going to risk losing your attention and tell you this: The reason the building qualifies historically has nothing to do with the theater that has been going on here for over forty years. The reason is that our building is a perfect example of a ‘streetcar building.’ In the 1920’s the city was having traffic problems similar, in a way, to the traffic problems that we are having in the 2020’s. There were too many cars on the streets and the city was attracting more and more people and they needed to find a way to house these newcomers without adding cars. In the same way that the city is now building high rises in the vicinity of subway stations on the assumption that the tenants of these high risers will commute using the subways; in the 1920’s streetcar buildings were built in the vicinity of streetcar terminals with no parking facilities, on the assumption that the tenants would use the streetcars and not even purchase their own cars. Our building was originally a rooming house with a common bathroom, tub and shower room on the second floor and retail and light manufacturing on the first floor. It is a perfect example of a streetcar building, within a block of a streetcar terminal on Santa Monica.
One way I am asking you to contribute, if you can, is to let us know if you know if there were any people that attended acting, singing, or improv classes here, or performed here, or both, that subsequently rose to prominence. That information would be very impressive to the hearing panel and would strengthen our case for historical landmark status. People that came here when they were already prominent, not so much. Dr. Dre has rehearsed here for long periods. Quentin Tarantino rehearsed ‘The Hateful Eight’ here. The improvisations that led to the film ‘Dancing at the Blue Iguana’ all took place in what is now the MC Studio, which was converted to a strip club during this process. Steven Soderbergh’s film ‘Full Frontal’ was shot here, as was the cult film ‘Chuck and Buck.’ But these, for the most part, were with people that had already achieved notoriety. What they are more interested in are things like: Don Cheadle, before he was well known, directed and acted in shows here: Kent Bateman, the father of Justine and Justin Bateman, ran a theater company out of the Complex, for three years, to, among other things, show off the prodigious talents of his two wunderkind children. Axl Rose took all his singing lessons, two or three times a week, on the second floor in a little room which is now part of Bobby Gene’s Actor’s Clubhouse, an acting school for children. So if you know of people that studied at The Complex or performed at The Complex, while it was The Complex or even before it was The Complex, please let me know. Then we can show the Board that we are not only a streetcar building, but we are a building that gave a number of prominent people an opportunity to learn and develop their skills before they rose to prominence.
Also, you can contribute by showing up to a demonstration to ‘Save The Complex’ on October 22nd at noon. A large showing, especially if it attracts the media, will be very important to convince the Board that there is a lot of sentiment and love and attachment to this building, and a lot of people who would be upset, even heart broken, if The Complex, a place filled with countless, important, personal memories for thousands of people, were replaced by yet another impersonal high rise. But I will bother you one more time about the demonstration next week. Thanks for your time.
Dear Friends and Tenants of The Complex,
You probably know, at this point, that the building that houses the Complex is for sale, and the landlord's expectation is that everyone will vacate by December 31, 2022, in a few months. I have been on LAist and Larry Mantle pleading our case and three hundred people have written heartfelt letters to our landlady, asking her to let The Complex remain as The Complex. Mitch O'Farrell, our city councilman, has written a letter on behalf of the entire City Council, asking the Spivak family to allow the Complex to remain the beloved theatre center that it is. A number of potential buyers, committed to keeping this building as The Complex, have come forward. All of this has been going on as the landlady has enlisted a real estate company, Major Properties, to sell the building at an asking price of slightly over thirteen million dollars. What they are selling is not just this building, including the corner convenience store, but the warehouse building directly behind us, which is part of the same parcel and must be sold together.
There has been a new development a week ago. Someone who works at the LAConservancy and is a fan of The Complex, had our building checked out. It is a LANDMARK HISTORICAL building. It cannot be torn down. The astronomical asking price is based on the idea that someone can bulldoze both this building and the warehouse and build a high rise with underground parking. That cannot happen IF the building is nominated and agreed to be the landmark, historical building that it is qualified to be. We have the backing of the whole city council, of architects and historians. The nomination and acceptance is a shoo-in but it takes time. When that happens, or when Major Properties realizes that it is inevitably going to happen, they will be forced to substantially lower the selling price, which would make it feasible to be purchased by one of the several potential buyers that have already contacted me. Our job now is to make it happen, as expeditiously as possible.
On Saturday, October 22nd, starting at noon, in front of The Complex, we will be having a demonstration. This will be covered by the press and TV. We will have a podium where people can read their beautiful letters about the building, or just speak about their experience of The Complex. We will have well known speakers and just regular folks. We will have music. We will make it known that you, however much money you may have, cannot willy nilly destroy a building with such a cherished history, destroy what is the centerpiece of Theater Row and the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Please join us. If you are a teacher and want to continue teaching here, if you are a producer and want to continue producing here, if you want to continue doing whatever it is you are doing in the welcoming, comforting, reasonably priced environment of The Complex, then come to this demonstration. The more that people show up, the more people will take notice; the more the press and TV will take notice. We cannot let them passively dismantle our cherished home and workplace without a fight!
After years of assuring me that they would never sell The Complex, our landlords are now assuring me that they intend to do exactly that, and by December 31st of this year, 2022.
So now it’s time to try to save the complex, not by convincing an intransigent landlady but by finding a new owner who would want to purchase this building and maintain it as a theatre complex. In fact, what I would really want is to maintain it in a way so that all the current tenants could continue doing the good work they are currently doing. And because so many of them are doing that goodly work, the purchase of The Complex, would not only be a move that would keep a whole theater district as a theater district, keep the Hollywood Fringe Festival in tact, keep it the home of the Pack Theatre that has five show nights a week each with four or five shows, the Christ Embassy Church that has three services here a week, the Theater of Arts, a full time degree granting acting conservatory, that uses all the studios of The Complex, Monday thru Friday from 9-5pm, dozens of acting teachers who teacher here from one to four nights a week, bustling rehearsals spaces, a bartending school and dozens of other community activities; but because of all this bustling activity, would be an excellent business investment as well.
If the purchase were mortgaged, the monthly rental income would far exceed the monthly mortgage payment as the value of the building accrues over time. And there is a whole corner store that used to be a liquor store, but could now be a cafe, which would support the theatre complex as the theatre complex would support the cafe. I know cafe owners waiting to get in. I also know excellent theater managers with many years of experience who would be eager to run the business, collect your rents, and still give you a monthly rental that would exceed your mortgage payment.
So if you know of anyone, if your aunt or uncle knows of anyone, if you have any wildly successful college friends who may be interested, or who are already in real estate investment, please contact them and have them call me, Matt, at The Complex, 323-465-0383, and we will see if we can make a little magic happen. Thanks.
This is not a plea for money. At this moment, it looks like the Complex will be closing its doors on December 31st, 2022. This building has been a center for theater and acting instruction for fifty years. In 1992 Theatre Row was formed in a series of meetings in the back office of The Complex, and was dedicated on June 1st, 2015, in a large celebration with Councilman Mitch O’Farrell and a number of television and movie stars who had performed or trained at The Complex or one of the other theatres and studios that make up Theatre Row; and permanent placards were placed on the traffic poles at the corners of Wilcox and Santa Monica Boulevard proclaiming that this is, in fact, ‘Theatre Row.’
The landlady is not planning to extend our lease nor the lease of the adjacent liquor store. This is not a done deal, however. I have a plan that would allow theatre to continue at The Complex and the conservatory in residence here, The Theatre of Arts, to stay in residence for a long time to come. I am too old to be doing the day to day running of The Complex and I will be leaving at the end of the year, but I have two excellent theatre managers with long track records of success and one extremely knowledgeable theatre person with lots of resources at his disposal, who would be anxious to take it over. The rent paid to the landlady could substantially increase without the rent to our patrons going up at all. I also have people ready to jump in and convert the liquor store into a cafe, which would be beneficial to the community and the theatre complex. Also, if the building remains a theatre complex, all the things that are not in compliance with current standards, and there are many, will continue to be grandfathered in. Change the usage and major, major changes would have to be made, all of them expensive and one of them, perhaps, impossible (Where would you put fifty dedicated parking spaces, where there is no parking lot?)
What I am asking of you is to please send an email to my landlady, Mrs. Spivak. You can address it to The Complex: firstname.lastname@example.org. I will forward these letters to the Spivaks, their lawyer and to Mitch O’Farrell’s office. Please avoid saying anything negative about the owner, since, just like me, you don’t really know her. Please write, as personally as you can, about what this building has meant to you, the important things that you have experienced here, your understanding of what The Complex contributes to the immediate neighborhood and to the theatre community at large; and how you imagine these theatres and studios would be missed if the building were no longer here.
The landlady is not an ogre. She, and her family are intelligent, sensitive people who have had a history of being supportive of theater. Your words will have an effect, if they are truthful, deeply felt and if there are enough of them. I don’t think she, the landlady, realizes the extent to which The Complex has become a home away from home, and a source of stability and comfort to many, many people feeling isolated and at sea in the Hollywood entertainment world.
Write a sentence, a paragraph or a book, but please write. In 2023, when you look up and see there is still a theatre here, that the Theatre of Arts Conservatory is still in residence, that Theatre Row is still a row of theatres, that this whole area is still a theater district, you will take pride in the fact that your words and experience had something to do with its survival. Thanks.
Owner, The Complex