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CBS Television City given historical status

LOS ANGELES — CBS Television City, the legendary and still-functioning studio where such iconic series as “The Carol Burnett Show” and “All in the Family” were filmed, was granted historic-cultural monument status by the Los Angeles City Council June 26, although the designation is limited mostly to the exterior of the main building.

The application for monument status was filed by the nonprofit Los Angeles Conservancy last year amid reports that the sprawling complex may be put up for sale by CBS.

“Today, we were able to preserve a piece of Los Angeles history and a vital part of our local economy,” Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu said. “CBS Television City doesn’t just house a storied past, but working sound stages that are crucial to our local economy.”

He added, “The most recent figures show sound stage occupancy rate at around 96 percent. Keeping Television City’s sound stages intact keeps Los Angeles jobs intact. This is an example of how saving Los Angeles’ history secures Los Angeles’ future. Now, we can ensure the same sound stages which once held ‘I Love Lucy’ and ‘The Carol Burnett Show’ will keep serving the film and television industry for years to come.”

The sprawling 25-acre facility was opened in 1952, but many secondary buildings have been constructed over the years among its three parcels, and the interiors having been significantly altered as 166 television shows have been filmed and taped there, according to CBS.

CBS deemed the original application as too broad and the network worked with the Los Angeles Conservancy to amend the application in an effort to allow the site the flexibility it needs to be a working, active entertainment studio.

Amy Forbes of the law firm Gibson Dunn, which is representing CBS, told the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission last month that CBS was concerned that a historical designation for the entire facility, including the interiors, would limit its ability to be a working studio that needs to constantly remodel to meet the needs of new productions and the latest technology.

“That ability to continually respond to market conditions is one of the main drivers in making this nomination workable,” Forbes said. “It would be an ironic outcome if the very act of designating it is what makes this building no longer functional and drives it to a different use ultimately.”

Adrian Scott Fine of the Los Angeles Conservancy told City News Service in May that with a monument designation, any changes to the exterior of the main building would need to go through a review process, any demolition plans would be delayed for a year, and the developers would have to prove that all preservation options had been considered.

Fine also said that because there are three parcels of land at the site, and the designation only protects the main building — which is actually two connected structures — on one parcel, development of the site could take place while also preserving the main building.

The Los Angeles Times reported in 2017 that real estate developers have been eyeing the complex, which could fetch an estimated $500 million to $900 million.

CBS said in a letter to the Cultural Heritage Commission that “there is no pending project at the property.” But Fine told City News Service that “in terms of our conversations, we aren’t sure what they’re doing, in terms of whether they sell or not.”

Former Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky has voiced support for preserving the facility, which has been home for many famed shows.

“Los Angeles should not let developers turn the historic studio complex into a mini Century City,” Yaroslavsky wrote in an op-ed in The Times.

The staff of the Cultural Heritage Commission recommended that the site be designated as a monument for several reasons, including the fact that it’s a notable work of master architects William Pereira and Charles Luckman.

Staff also found the site noteworthy for its numerous connections to important historical figures, its association with the television industry and its significant role in the economic development of Los Angeles.

Broadcasting pioneer William S. Paley built Television City at 7800-7860 W. Beverly Blvd. as the first large-scale facility designed specifically for television production. CBS has moved most of its operations to the CBS Studio Center in Studio City and is now more of a landlord at Television City, renting out most of the available studios to non-CBS shows such as HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher” and ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.”

Some programs that air on CBS still shoot there, including “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful,” but only one program owned by CBS, “The Late, Late Show With James Corden,” shoots at Television City, which could be part of the network’s motivation to consider a sale, according to The Times.

 

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