Honey Circles the Hathaway Gated Community

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February 1, 2011 · Posted in Notes from Above Ground 

By Honey van Blossom

(Honey is a Belgian Marxist former strip-tease artiste.)

Garbutt House looms impressively on its summit over Silver Lake.

It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (1987) at 1809 Apex Ave. in Silver Lake.

Only 100 families and their visitors are allowed to get into the Hathaway Estate, so not that many people can see Garbutt House. Although the streets in it are owned by the City of Los Angeles, and the streets that lead into it are owned by the City of Los Angeles, the people of the City of Los Angeles aren’t allowed in.

I never noticed Garbutt house when I was a child because my family lived on West Silver Lake Drive: we saw trees, the glint of water, and the houses on the other side of the reservoir. This strikes me almost sixty years later as an example of myopia because – without doubt – if I had known the Hathaway Estate was up there, an Arcadian island on top of an urban landscape, I would have led my gang of hell-bent-on-trespass little girls up there.

In 2002, walking at night, I encountered McCollum Street on the side near Berkeley. Peculiarly, a sign near the top of its ascent indicated right turns only but there was no street to go down when I walked to the right. I walked to the left. The street ended in a wire fence. “`Twas brillig,” I said to myself, “and the slithy toves. Did gyre and gimble in the wabe.”

Our docile aged remarkably simple dog accompanied me then to Benton, which curved into a road with a swing metal gate. A sign on that gate used to read No Trespass, and it stated the streets had been withdrawn pursuant to Government Code section 37359. Someone, after I took that walk, tore down the sign, tromped on it, and spray painted it, so you can’t see the sign on Googlemaps.

The next day, I walked up Duane Street away from the dog park because our dear stupid dog was again with me, and he was easily distracted. Waterloo stopped at Duane Street but there was a municipal sign in front of an unusually wide driveway, which said the drive way was the continuation of Waterloo. The drive way did not end in a garage. It ended at a steep hill fronted by a fence, which is covered with green netting. “All mimsy,” I yelled, “were the borogoves, “And the mome raths outgrabe,” which outburst caused the dog to go around and around the street sign. Inasmuch as he never could walk backwards, it took a while to untangle his leash.

On McCollum near Duane, a swing gate with municipal refuse containers standing in front of it barred the way to an asphalt road partly overgrown with weeds. I snaked my aging body through the gate and walked to the end, which is closed off with a fence and a sign mandating I should not trespass, and which also states that the roads have been withdrawn from public use pursuant to Government Code §37359.

The middle Turetsky child Gene, now 63, lived in the Garbutt mansion when he was a nineteen-year old Hippie. He wrote today from his home in New Mexico about the cats that disappeared in the Hathaway estate in those years. The story has little to do with the Garbutt mansion, but it’s a nice story that mirrors the way things once were at the top of the Hathaway summit, so I’ll tell it to you.

“It occurs to me that the cats disappearing may well be attributed to the presence of either coyotes or OWLS. In New Mexico barn owls are the greatest enemy of cats. These are large barn owls, which have wingspans of 8 feet, and love high trees, like eucalyptus trees. The owls have no natural enemies, and usually eat all the cats around eventually. I was lucky enough to find a large owl whose talon was stuck in a thatched roof, and was able to show it to my 15-year-old cat. His neck shot out like a telescope when he saw it, and never walked out in the open again. Instead, he clung to the sides of houses.”

Gene used to drive up from Glendale Boulevard to what had been the front entrance to the Hathaway estate on Waterloo. The road then went up a steep incline to the back of the mansion.

He does not recall the low concrete barrier at the end of Duane Street, and I think it was not there because of an entirely different case of land use planning madness: CalTrans and the freeway stub we call “The Two.” The Route Two Terminus disgorges automobiles that move rapidly down Glendale Boulevard, and it swallows automobiles that move rapidly up Glendale Boulevard into its maw.

California Route 2 began as part of Route 66, and it fictitiously winds its way to the beach through Los Angeles, but not really. You will see signs telling you that you are on Route 2, but the streets look exactly like they would look if there were no Route 2.

According to Wikipedia, “(F)rom 1936 to 1964, U.S. Route 66 ran along Lincoln Boulevard from its junction with Alternate U. S. 101 (now California Route 1) and California Route 26 (now replaced by Interstate 10) to Santa Monica Boulevard and along Santa Monica Boulevard from Lincoln Boulevard to the Hollywood Freeway. US 66 turned southeast on the Hollywood Freeway with US 101. At that time, Route 2 began on Alvarado Street at the Hollywood Freeway. As is today, Route 2 traversed Alvarado Street and Glendale Boulevard to the Glendale Freeway. Route 2 continued on the Glendale Freeway to a temporary connection with Fletcher Drive at Avenue 38 in the Atwater district of Los Angeles,”

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

Some of us believe the CalTrans did not complete the freeway stub from Fletcher to the Terminus Maw until sometime after 1970 because of social unrest in the City of Beverly Hills where the Haves were aghast at the possibility of riff raff moving through their city towards the beaches. (Now, of course, if you live on the Westside and attempt to drive from the Westside to the Eastside at any time of the day along the surface streets referred to as Route 2, you will find that grievously disabled people walking with Zimmer frames pass your car, and the Haves are frozen in place back on the Westside, which makes it hard for the lawyers among them to travel to Superior Court downtown.)

The Selig-Polyscope silent film studio had been on the corner from Glendale Boulevard up to the Hathaway estate just at the exit from the 2 Terminus Maw. In 2002, an obelisk stood at that corner in front of a lot with a yellowish building on it. The obelisk was overgrown with brush but you could make out words that informed the reader that was the place where silent film comedy began in Southern California. (1909). It’s now an empty lot, and the obelisk is gone.

William Selig had been a magician and minstrel show operator on the west coast, and he adored L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz books. He produced the first film Wizard. He began the facility in a rented bungalow and quickly expanded, designing the studio’s front entrance after Mission San Gabriel.

In 1913, Selig gathered a large collection of animals for his films developed 32 acres of land in Lincoln Heights, where he opened a large public zoo. The first Tarzan movie (1918) was filmed in his zoo. Jackie, one of the zoo animals, is the MGM lion who roars at the beginning of the 1938 Wizard.

The story of how the Hathaway summit with its spectacular views became a gated enclave began on July 7, 1846, with the conquest of Monterey, the capital of Alta California. Two years later, under the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mexico ceded California and other territories to the United States. Under the provisions of the Treaty, residents of these areas were guaranteed property rights to land held under Mexican law, but nothing in the subsequent federal Land Act spoke to the issue of municipal lands, and it ended up confiscating many of the privately owned lands.

The City of Los Angeles inherited that hillside as part of its legacy of four-square leagues (about 17,000 square acres) of municipally owned lands from the pueblo of Los Angeles. (W. W. Robinson, Land in California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1948), 34-40.) The American settlers viewed undeveloped hills as “barren and repulsive to the eye” and sold or gave away much of its legacy. (See, Phyl Diri, “Where the Fern Brake and the Willow Find a Home,” a history of Elysian Park published in the California Historic Society Journal in October 1983.) The Mayor gave away the hill above Silver Lake where the estate now is as one of the City’s “Donation Lots.

Mr. Witzel recorded the first deed to the estate in 1868,

Ozro W. Childs owned the property in 1890. Mr. Childs helped build the City’s first aqueduct, and the City thanked him by giving him all the land between Sixth and Eleventh Streets between Figueroa and Main. (Silver Lake Residents Association Newsletter, November 1, 1974)

Mr. Donegan – who lived with his family in the “the Castle” on Bunker Hill – subsequently owned the Estate. A piece of neighborhood lore involved Donegan attempting to clear a nearby rat infested property by offering local children 25 cents for each cat brought to him, to be used as four footed exterminators. Residents were soon irked when their feline pets began to disappear. By 1902, the Donegans moved, I presume to Silver Lake. http://www.onbunkerhill.org/castle

Frank A. Garbutt, an inventor, industrialist and movie pioneer, was one of the most prominent citizens of Los Angeles in the late 19th and early 20th Century. He also played a role in the founding of Famous Players-Lasky (later Paramount Studios), Union Oil Company and the Automobile Club of Southern California.

In 1923, Garbutt acquired the 37-acre hilltop site overlooking the Silver Lake reservoir with views of the Pacific Ocean, the Santa Monica and Verdugo Mountains and the downtown skyline. Garbutt and his family built three houses on the site, which came to be known as the Garbutt-Hathaway Estate. Garbutt himself lived in the 20-room mansion built between 1926 and 1928 that came to be known as Garbutt House. The house has nearly 15,000 square feet of space, rises 228 feet to its crest and was built like a citadel out of concrete to survive earthquakes, floods and fires. His daughter Melodile later recalled that the entire first floor was poured in one pouring that took two days and one night of steady pouring with three shifts of workers. Due to an intense fear of fire, Garbutt even had the roof and walls built of concrete, installed steel-reinforced doors and allowed no fireplaces in the home. (Cecilia Rasmussen (1996-07-08). “Garbutt’s Legacy Lives on in Landmarks.” Los Angeles Times.)

In 1975, Los Angeles Times architecture critic John Pastier noted that the estate’s “arcadian acreage” was 99% undeveloped and “looks like a park.” According to the Silver Lake Residents Association Newsletter (infra), the summit was wooded, and landscaped extensively with rare plants. “The lights at the top of the summit through the trees are part of many residents’ (of Silver Lake) lives.”

Local residents urged that the City purchase the estate to use the buildings to show works by Silver Lake architects: Lautner, Ain, Neutra, Schindler and Soriano, and as a museum of the silent film industry that began on Glendale Avenue. (See, Barbara Bestor, Bohemian Modern Living in Silver Lake (2006).

In 1978, a developer tore down two of the houses on the estate for a 100-home development, but spared the Garbutt House.

According to Los Angeles City Council File: 84-0785, City councilmember Robert Stevenson moved that the public streets within Hathaway Hill subdivision be withdrawn from public use, and, on August 31, 194, the Council Public Works Committee report that McCollum and other cul de sac streets be withdrawn from public use (McCollum, Aaron, Benton Way, Branden Street, and Apex.) The Planning department issued a negative declaration. I guess the report adoption thing is the same as a motion to withdraw the streets because there are no other related motions in the Council file, and yet the City did withdraw those streets.

According to wikimapia, the Garbutt house is now the home of Dov Charney, the founder of American Apparel.

A Court of Appeals held, in Citizens Against Gated Enclaves v. Whitley Heights Civic Assn. (1994) 23 Cal.App.4th 812 , 28 Cal.Rptr.2d 451, (Review denied by the California Supreme Court) that the City of Los Angeles cannot withdraw publicly owned streets pursuant to Government Code §§37359 and 37361 to allow some members of the public to use the City property and not others, largely because Vehicle Code 21101.6 prohibited it. The California Supreme Court denied the City’s request for review of that case.

§37359 states that, “(un)nless otherwise provided by law, the legislative body having control of any property owned or controlled by the city may at any time withdraw the property from the personal access and use of members of the public, or limit the access or use in area or time or in any other reasonable manner deemed necessary. Any person thereafter using the property without permission or in a manner other than that prescribed is a trespasser. This section does not limit or restrict any person from access or use who has a private right in the property.”

(§37361 has to do with property acquired for an historic landmark and has no evident connection to do with anything in that case.)

Vehicle Code 21101.6 states that, “….local authorities may not place gates or other selective devices on any street which deny or restrict the access of certain members of the public to the street, while permitting others unrestricted access to the street.”

Los Angeles is a charter city so it can design some of its own laws so long as those laws don’t interfere with the State’s business. To determine if a matter is a municipal affair, a court will ask whether there are good reasons, grounded on statewide interests, for the state law to preempt a local law Johnson v. Bradley, 4 Cal. 4th 389, 399 (1992). Traffic is an area of statewide concern, so California law on traffic matters trumps the City’s decisions. Helbach v. City of Long Beach, 50 Cal. App. 2d 242, 247 (1942).

Whoever is gating the municipal streets into the Hathaway Estate is continuing a public nuisance. The City has an obligation to remove those gates.

The Citizens Enclave case did not examine §37359 itself. §37359 states that anyone on the withdrawn property will be a trespasser except for those who have a private right in the property.

The property the City owns is an easement. No one has a private right in that easement. There are only the public rights to it. In order for the City to have withdrawn the Hathaway streets back in 1984, it had to prevent everyone in the subdivision from using the easement (the “dominant tenement” or “dominant estate” over the “servient” tenement of whoever owned the whole property. If a street is “vacated” by the City, it returns to whoever owned the servient tenement.

Back in 1984, someone cleverly obscured property rights law in order to give a real estate developer the opportunity to make more money by creating a gated community. The City Council adopted no findings, so it had no verifiable health and safety reason for doing this.



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