Yesterday the world experienced a tragedy at one of its greatest landmarks, Notre Dame burned and lost much of its roof, and the full extent of the damage is unknown, it surely will be felt for all time. The damage to such a magnificent example of architecture, community, art and the wonder that mankind can create, is tremendous and while it remains to be seen if it was an accident or arson, in either case, the emotional, intellectual and religious loss is profound.

When I was last in Paris, I was working and we didn’t have time to visit many of the wonders of that city. I will forever mourn the loss of being able to visit such a gem in its former glory.

We wake today to a world that is culturally poorer, and the grandeur that was, will only be available in memories and pictures. While the French firefighters were able to save it from total destruction, the damage was immense.

I’m sure that there will be reconstruction, but it will never be the same. Change is inevitable no matter how hard we fight it. Whether the destruction is planned, like the many buildings in Santa Monica that have come and gone, or unplanned and shocking like a fire that destroys a landmark.

As our city undergoes profound change and development we must learn to accept the new normal. I was speaking a few weeks back with an architect friend of mine and he said that the changes that are coming to the city are so much more than what we have already experienced, that it will be unrecognizable in five to ten years.

That broke my heart. For the last 20 years I’ve worked, loved and lived in this city and to see it change so dramatically so quickly is painful. It is unavoidable, as everything must change eventually, but the loss of our landmarks, our heart, seems especially poignant in light of the loss of Notre Dame. That loss appears to be a tragic mistake, an accident of the renovation.

For us, to lose our landmarks when we have the ability to preserve them, to protect our soul, seems ever more merciless. As I tour the city and see adorable little apartment communities that are slated for condemnation and replacement with some horrid box of white with green splotches, I mourn the loss of the community that lived there.

The boxes that are being raised to house people like so many rabbit warrens remind me of the factory farmed chickens that produce eggs for our breakfasts. I know the architect will defend his unimaginative and uninspired creation with a weak statement that he feels his latest retail/commercial/residential big box is “a timeless design for the ages” – but really no thinking person can agree with him. As we watched a truly timeless structure burn this week we were brought front and center to what is truly timeless.

No one can watch the images of Notre Dame burning and not feel the loss. Would anyone shed a single tear if the big boxes being built on Lincoln were destroyed in a fire? Oh the residents may cry for their lost belongings, but the building itself? I dare say no.

And that is the difference between a truly “timeless design” and the crap that the builders are putting up today, and that the pompous, arrogant, condescending, unimaginative architects try to defend.

We will go on. Notre Dame will be reconstructed in some fashion. The world will continue to seek beauty and art and some will persist in building and designing amazing works.

I’m reminded of Scarlett O’hara’s  tearful but resilient closing in Gone With The Wind, “After all, tomorrow is another day.”

David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist.  He welcomes your questions and comments.  He can be reached at or 310/664-9969.You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra

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