The Cultural Heritage Commission presented a commendation at its meeting last week to the city’s chief preservationist, Linda Dishman, in recognition of her 31 years of leadership at the Los Angeles Conservancy. Dishman will retire at the end of the year as president and CEO of the nation’s largest historic preservation organization.
During her tenure, Dishman was instrumental in leading the Conservancy’s successful efforts to save numerous important city landmarks including the Bullocks Wilshire/Southwestern Law School, the Cinerama Dome, Chase Knolls Garden Apartments, the Century Plaza Hotel, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and the Broadway Historic Theatre and Commercial District. She was also responsible for championing the city’s Adaptive Reuse Ordinance, which saved numerous buildings from destruction and added nearly 14,000 housing units in the Historic Core of downtown as part of the Conservancy’s Broadway Initiative.
Dishman started her career at the Conservancy in 1992. During her tenure, she expanded the Conservancy’s efforts to preserve places with a broader and more diverse community including the Hung Sa Dahn and legendary African American architect Paul Revere Williams’ House, likely to have been demolished without the Conservancy’s intervention. The city’s 88 Historic Preservation Overlay Zones (HPOZs) were established, engaging hundreds of community volunteers and inspiring neighborhoods to preserve their local architecture. And tools like SurveyLA, the largest and most comprehensive survey ever completed by an American city, were completed. The project covered 880,000 land parcels and 500 square miles documenting LA’s historic resources including apartment buildings, religious buildings, coffee shops, air raid sirens, theatres, bridges, and more. The project gave residents invaluable tools to learn about the significant places in their neighborhoods.
In a recent interview with The Planning Report, Dishman said historic preservation “is a tremendous way of bringing people together. You look at the Mar Vista Tract, which is now an HPOZ. There were all these young families moving into a community with great architecture and planning. Each is a very specific neighborhood or community and people love them. Neighbors become friends for life. That happens in all the well-preserved buildings and neighborhoods in Los Angeles; it’s a way for people to come together, to find a way to make a connection.”
Dishman thanked the commission for their work in supporting preservation efforts in the city and said she hoped they would continue to build more neighborhoods.
In October, the Conservancy announced that after an extensive search, Adrian Scott Fine was selected to take Dishman’s place effective January 1, 2024. Fine has led the Conservancy’s advocacy team for thirteen years. The preservation community was delighted to hear that Fine was selected and will continue the work preserving the historic places and cultural heritage of Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Conservancy began as a volunteer group in 1978. It is a member-supported nonprofit organization with nearly 5,000 members that works through education and advocacy to recognize, preserve, and revitalize the historic architectural and cultural resources of Los Angeles County.