Famed Koffee Pot Building Up For Destruction; Faces Uphill Fight with Long Beach Preservationists


A City worker boards up the Koffee Pot’s windows. Photos by Brian Addison.

It has been the home to many businesses and has a storied history, but the building at 957 East 4th Street—known as the Koffee Pot Café—may now be town down following a declaration from the City that the designated landmark is substandard.

At this past Monday’s meeting of the City’s Board of Examiners, Appeals, and Condemnation (BEAC) it was said that the Koffee Pot is “a public nuisance” and ordered the owner to “demolish or rehabilitate the structure.”

Built in 1932 and originally called Hot Cha, its architect is unknown but the building represents the last surviving example of what is known as “programmatic” or theme architecture in the city of Long Beach. Other examples in the Los Angeles area include North Hollywood’s 72-year-old Barrel Cafe and East LA’s The Tamale building.

Originally home to a coffeeshop, the octagonal structure has also embodied many other things, from a barber shop in the 1980s to its last home as a medical marijuana dispensary.

KoffeePot01Hot Cha is a designated city landmark, meaning it will have to travel through the Cultural Heritage Commission (CHC) in order to pass its demo permit—despite the fact that the City already hung a substandard sign on the building, alerting its owner, Nebojsa Stefanovic of Laguna Hills, that he has 30 days to respond to calls for repair or demolition.

“The city officials at Development Services say that they are trying to nudge the owner of the Hot Cha into restoring the property,” said Dr. Louise Ivers, author of Long Beach: A History Through Its Architecture and CHC commissioner. “They say that it will not be demolished without permission from the CHC.”

The Long Beach Development Services Department (LBDS) clarified at Monday’s BEAC meeting that approval with the CHC is required, despite having put up the notice.

“I understand the building is historic and it is substandard,” said LBDS Deputy Director Angela Reynolds. “The City has no interest in actually demolishing this building; however, we needed to be on the record about the substandard condition so we can work with the property owner to remedy.”

Ivers echoed more pointedly the desire to save the building from demolition.

“Various members of Long Beach Heritage have made our position known to Development Services,” Ivers said, “so hopefully the Hot Cha will not fall through the cracks. There’s importance to be found in this building.”

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