Protesters gathered outside Los Angeles Councilwoman Eunisses Hernandez’s field office in Glassell Park Monday and urged her to help preserve the residence of 20th century L.A. gay-rights pioneer Morris Kight.
The 1911 California bungalow home, located in the Westlake neighborhood, is listed on the California Register of Historical Resources. The protesters called for the site to be declared locally as a Historic Cultural Monument, but Hernandez’s office has said she would support a lesser “site of” designation, which would allow the owner to redevelop the site.
“Our team is actively and really excited to be moving forward a process that designates the land as a cultural historical monument where we do pay tribute and homage to Mr. Kight, who spent decades creating spaces for community and advocating for the LGBTQ community,” Hernandez told City News Service.
Hernandez said her office has had multiple conversations with stakeholders, including the property owner of Kight’s home. She wants to move forward in the “collective interests of all,” though she acknowledged there’s a “spectrum of how people feel.”
According to Hernandez’s office, the home has changed throughout the years, and as it is now, the single-family home is not available to the public.
Hernandez said the First District, which she represents and where Kight’s home is located, would better benefit from a community health center or affordable housing at the site that provides “access to the community” while uplifting Kight’s legacy.
The “site of” designation would mark the parcel of land as a Historic Cultural Monument, whereas preservation advocates want the home itself to be protected as well.
“They (the city) just want to be able to put up a little plaque up,” said Miki Jackson, a close friend of Kight’s and an AIDS Healthcare Foundation consultant who led the protest Tuesday morning. “We have so few monuments, less than 1%, in this whole city that have to with the LGBTQ population.”
The foundation is seeking a petition for Historic Cultural Monument status for the Kight residence, which will be heard Tuesday during the council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee.
“As Pride month begins, we call on civic-minded Angelenos and the public at-large to help save Morris Kight’s home, site of some of the earliest uncloseted LGBTQ history in Los Angeles,” Jackson said in a statement. “We urge city officials on the PLUM Committee to honor Morris’ remarkable and fearless legacy by approving full Historic Cultural Monument status for his Fourth Street residence.”
The Los Angeles Conservancy on its website states “Morris Kight (1919- 2003) is considered one of the founding fathers of the American LGBTQ civil rights movement.” His home was a “hub of LGBTQ social activity in the 20th century helped form the backdrop to his work as an activist and gay rights pioneer.”
Kight co-founded several “prominent” LGBTQ rights organizations, including the Committee for Homosexual Freedom, which became the Gay Liberation Front in 1969, and spearheaded the formation of the Gay Community Services Center, better known Monday at the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
In 1970, he co-founded the Christopher Street West gay pride parade in L.A., the first gay pride parade and festival in the world.
Jackson said Tuesday’s protest was “very successful” because the goal was to raise awareness and get the attention of the council.
“This is Pride month, and giving them (owner and developer) a license to tear down the very house where Pride was conceived — our Pride parade on the West Coast — is not the way to celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month,” Jackson said.
“Especially, when we’re threatened from all sides. There’s over 400 pieces of legislation going through states all over this country to diminish, take away and criminalize LGBTQ+ people.”
Jackson said the AIDS Healthcare Foundation will address council during Tuesday’s meeting and continue to urge the PLUM Committee to give Kight’s home the Historic Cultural Monument status to preserve LGBTQ+ history.