In a surprising move, the West Hollywood City Council voted 3 to 2 Monday to proceed with plans to demolish the historically designated Great Hall / Long Hall buildings in Plummer Park .
The vote came as the council considered a proposal by Councilmember John D’Amico to perform emergency repairs to the buildings and reopen them for public use until a final decision could be made about their fate.
Instead the council directed the city manager to come back at its Jan. 21 meeting with a plan for demolishing Great Hall / Long Hall as well as the Tiny Tots pre-school building. At that meeting the council will take a final vote on the demolition.
Residents attending the meeting criticized the council for not giving the public notice that demolition of the building would be considered.
“You just voted on something that was not brought before us,” said Stephanie Harker, who heads a citizen group called Protect Plummer Park, during a public comment period following the vote. “The entire community has been left out.”
“This is a very strange process, one that you will have a very hard time explaining to your constituents,” said Steve Martin, a former council member. “You should be embarrassed.”
D’Amico was equally surprised by the turn of events.
“I don’t think it was our finest hour,” he told WEHOville after the meeting. “It shows how hostile some members of the council are to the community. The thing I’m most surprised about was how hostile it was. I’m really sad that the community process once again was aborted. I’m not sure why.”
About 20 residents spoke in favor of D’Amico’s proposal to reopen Great Hall / Long Hall, which was closed to the public in November 2011 in preparation for the city’s plan to build a 179-space underground parking garage in the center of the park as part of a $41 million park renovation. That redesign called for the demolition of Great Hall / Long Hall as well as the preschool building. The redevelopment plan also called for renovating the Spanish Colonial Revival-style Fiesta Hall as a performance center with futuristic architecture.
Under D’Amico’s proposal, the city would have used Great Hall / Long Hall as a rehearsal space for local non-profit theatre companies, as a meeting space for local community groups and as individual studio spaces for up to 10 artists with West Hollywood ties. D’Amico also proposed that an art gallery be created in the hall and that the city install a plaque on the 75-year-old building commemorating its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
The city’s redevelopment plan suffered a setback in February of last year when the State of California dissolved local redevelopment agencies, removing a source of funding that West Hollywood was counting on to help finance the project. The city planned to finance the Plummer Park renovations with $14 million in redevelopment money and $27 million in bond money. In March 2011, the city issued $30 million in bond for the project at an 8 percent interest rate to be paid back over 30 years ($3 million of that bond money was set aside for the cost of issuing the bonds and for repayment of the debt not covered by the redevelopment funds). The state Department of Finance in December denied an appeal by the city of the decision.
Council members John Duran and John Heilman and Mayor Abbe Land voted for the demolition on Monday night, saying the park needs more green space. Council members D’Amico and Jeffrey Prang voted against the demolition. During much of the discussion, the council members avoiding using the word “demolition,” instead saying they were in favor of proceeding with the creation of the “Great Lawn” proposed in the park master plan. That Great Lawn would be in the area where Great Hall / Long Hall now sits.
D’Amico pointed out what they meant. “To be clear, you’re talking about the demolition of the buildings,” he said.
In April, Heilman called for the immediate demolition of the buildings, saying they were decrepit, an embarrassment to the city and reeked of urine.
This story keeps getting stranger: If 3 council members are now all of a sudden determined to push this central part of their old plan forward immediately, then why didn’t they do it 2 years ago? At that time they would have had an extra whooping $12 million more to spend in state redevelopment funds that they are now crying about having ‘lost’. Yes, a large part of the community was opposed to their silly plan then, as it is now. So really no difference there. Back in early 2012 when the council said they would commission “alternate designs” and… Read more »
As few people have commented on one of the most used aspects of Plummer Park, it’s tennis courts, I would like to offer some thoughts. Through some quirk, the Plummer Park tennis courts in their beautiful park setting are a unique meeting place for keen tennis players. To replace then with bad courts on top of a parking lot, as was done so disastrously with the new Weho Library courts, which are all un-level, quite apart from the displeasure of playing so far above ground (the parking-lot courts at La Cienega are better and more functional, but still not a… Read more »
It is also my understanding that while John D’Amico may have a degree(s) in architecture he is a Project Manager.
One of the notable and most baffling aspects of the design process for Plummer Park was the absence of any architect or firm skilled in classical vernacular or more specifically the Spanish Colonial Revival period determined after personally reviewing the list of all the submissions There are some highly skilled architects recognized on a national level for their sensitive restoration and adaptive reuse right in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. To simply be informed, the city should have sought a consultation with or a proposal from one of the many firms. Such an inquiry simply tells one what there is… Read more »
wise words, JenL and Chloe, I agree and couldn’t have said it better. i would add that the trust in the process has once again been severely violated with this 180 motion to demolish immediately in spite of all the assurances 2 years ago that any amended plan would have real stakeholder input this time! had there been a real and transparent process with any public participation, then I agree with Larry Block: whatever the majority of the community favors would be the legitimate approach. what we got instead was another lowly stealth move from above, seemingly coordinated in advance,… Read more »
Yes Chloe, agree with you. We are adults having a serious discussion about a clear and present danger. Some people have perfected the art of the temper tantrum, but I’m not going to shut up and go away because of it. The council members making these decisions about the park are all in their fifties or close, so the age divide thing doesn’t cut it. As for being mired in the past, hardly. The Weho library is lovely, but the Weho Park/ Library topic is tangential. I have never been averse to progress, but you can’t run roughshod over people… Read more »
It has come to my attention that comments I made regarding the licensed architect and the plan she created” were incorrect. I should have said she is a trained and degreed architect but has not obtained her license in the state of California yet and the plan I made reference to was not an alternative plan for the park. I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.
For those who think Plummer needs better policing – why not install a community sheriff’s office in one of the “halls”. The fact is that two tenants of the WPA buildings were evicted – not sure why – which make it very inconvenient for the patrons of the Russian Library to drop by – they use the park everyday. The Audubon Society was also given its walking papers with some promise they could come back. So that is two uses of hte buildings that were good for the local community that loves this park. I think Cathy makes a great… Read more »
The idea is not to hit a nerve – but some nerves beg to be hit. Nothing about WeHo Park is what I would term “fantastic”. Mediocre is better and mediocre is not bad for the mediocre. And since mediocrity is so easily attained – I can understand the voices who praise WeHo Park and dismiss the desire for something meaningful and important to keeping standing thoroughly. Why ask for more when it is far simpler to settle for less. Over two thousand people spoke in favor of the historic buildings in Plummer Park. The gain of green space can… Read more »
@ wehoan….my comment is just this, as far as weho park, well it really should be considered our civic center…. and a venue and that is great at that location. But why should Plummer park which has been and always will be, a neighborhood park have to be turned into a mini weho park? YES! It does need work. Yes, it does need more open space but ALL Protect Plummer Park has been asking for is to allow the people who unlike yourself, spend most of the time at this park to really have a chance to have meaningful input.… Read more »
@Cathy Hey thanks! And thanks to the two thousand plus people who care enough to raise a voice in concern.
The lack of a discourse with the city council before the demolition motion was introduced disturbs me.
Everything goes when everything’s gone.