LOS FELIZ—A request to tear down two 100-year-old bungalows in Los Feliz near the intersection of Russell Ave and Hillhurst Avenue was denied on July 30 by the city.

The request for demolition was submitted by Gohar Afifi, the owner of the local business Celebrity Cleaners, which is adjacent to the bungalows. Afifi bought the two houses for $600,000 in 2012, and planned to tear them down to create a 14-space parking lot. The lot would also provide parking for a newly relocated Citibank branch, which is under construction and set to open in September.

Gohar Afifi, also known as George A. Photo from Celebrity Cleaners on Yelp.
Gohar Afifi, also known as George A. Photo from Celebrity Cleaners on Yelp.

The construction of a parking lot would require a zoning change on the land from residential to commercial. Residents have been speaking against the zoning change at neighborhood council meetings as far back as November 2014, according to the Los Feliz Ledger. At a June 9 zoning administration hearing, a representative of Afifi said that the houses have no historical or architectural importance, and presented a petition signed by 652 people supportive of the demolition plans.

Randy Myer of the Los Feliz Improvement Association claimed that the majority of signatures were by Celebrity Cleaners customers who were not informed as to what they were signing.

The houses were built in 1911 and 1920. One of them was once owned by the late Forrest Ackerman, a writer known as the “father of science fiction.” A Change.org petition advocating against the demolition, created anonymously by someone under the name of “Concerned Citizens of Los Feliz,” has collected over 600 signatures in the past three months. The petition claims that Afifi and Citibank “are evicting a single mother of two so they can demolish the historic home of Forrest Ackerman” and argues that “if these developers are allowed to do this, it will set a precedent paving the way for any Los Feliz business to knock down homes and put in parking lots.”

The reasons given for the denial of the request to re-zone the land include that it would disturb residents, create traffic, and would not enhance the neighborhood. Afifi has the option of appealing the zoning administrator’s decision until August 14.