Members of the West Hollywood Historic Preservation Commission, presented with nine options for relocating Plummer Park’s Great Hall / Long Hall, agreed tonight that they would like to see the city also consider the cost of renovating the historic building and leaving it in place.
The options were presented by Historic Resources Group of Pasadena, a consulting firm. They range from moving the Great Hall and Long Hall buildings along with the cloister framed by the two buildings and a separate toilet building — at a cost of $1,867,000 — to simply cutting the roof, walls and wood-framed floors of the Great Hall and Long Hall buildings and trucking them to a warehouse for storage, which would cost an estimated $712,000.
Historic Resources Group (HRG) said the first option is the one most likely to allow the buildings to remain on the National Register of Historic Places. It will preserve the design, material, workmanship and feeling of the building. That alternative calls for the buildings to be relocated west of the current location toward North Vista Street, which is on the west side of Plummer Park.
West Hollywood preservation advocates attending the meeting objected that restoring the buildings and keeping them in place wasn’t an option considered by the consultant.
David Reid noted that the buildings, erected in the Spanish Colonial style during the WPA era, were historically significant in many ways. Reid said they were where early meetings of the Coalition for Economic Justice took place to help plan the campaign for West Hollywood to become a city rather than merely an area of Los Angeles County. Reid also noted that early meetings of Act-Up, the HIV/AIDS activist group, took place at Great Hall Long Hall, as did those of many 12 Step groups.
Lauren Meister, a former member of the city’s Planning Commission and a candidate in the race for a seat on the City Council next year, echoed Reid’s argument. “Contrary to popular belief, there was life before 1984 in this city and we have to acknowledge that and preserve it,” she said. “The option with the most integrity for historic preservation is for those buildings to remain in place.”
Others arguing that leaving Great Hall / Long Hall in place was the best option included Jen Dunbar, president of the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance; Cole Ettman, a Council candidate and a member of the city’s Public Facilities Commission, which will take up the issue at a meeting Wednesday, and Cathy Blaivas and Stephanie Harker, major activists in the Protect Plummer Park movement.
The only speaker in opposition was Michael Dolan, who said an option that the consultant should have considered was to proceed with the Plummer Park master plan, which called for demolishing the buildings to provide more open green space.
Edward Levin, a member of the Historic Preservation Commission, noted that the City Council has asked the consultant only to consider moving the buildings and that preserving them in place had not been an option.
Brad Torgan, another commission member, also noted that leaving the building in place wasn’t an option before the commission. But Torgan said he would recommend that the scope of the HRG study be expanded to include restoring the buildings where they are. Torgan said he hopes the city’s Public Facilities Commission will reach a similar conclusion.
His recommendation was echoed by Commissioners Levin, Danny Castro, Yawar Charlie, Paul Rice and Allegra Allison. Commissioner Gail Ostergren was not present at tonight’s meeting.
Historic Preservation Commission members did not vote to make a recommendation to the City Council. But commission members noted that their comments, which all included a recommendation that restoration of the buildings where they are be considered, would be sent to the Council for review.
The Council voted in January to engage HRG to consider moving them as an option. It previously had decided, in a three-to-two vote, to seek proposals from outside contractors for demolishing the buildings. Mayor John D’Amico and Councilmember Jeffrey Prang voted against the demolition plan.