In another step in the seemingly inexorable march toward the demolition of Plummer Park’s Great Hall / Long Hall, the City of West Hollywood has posted a request for bids from contractors for tearing down the historic building.
The request, posted today, stipulates that prospective contractors must join city officials at Plummer Park at 8 a.m. Monday for a review of the site. The publicly posted request for bids doesn’t identify the building to be demolished, but Helen Collins, a senior administrative analyst with the city, confirmed to WEHOville that it is Great Hall / Long Hall.
Bids must be submitted to the City Clerk by 9 a.m. on Jan. 9, at which time they will be opened and read aloud. Once the city gives the approved contractor notice to proceed, the demolition must be completed within 20 days. That means Great Hall / Long Hall, built in the late 1930s as a federal Works Progress Administration project and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, may be gone by the end of next month.
The city’s proposal to demolish Great Hall / Long Hall, also known as the Community Center, as part of a redevelopment of Plummer Park has been a source of major controversy. Neighbors of the park and other West Hollywood residents have organized in a group called Protect Plummer Park to oppose the demolition. The group also has opposed the city’s plans to remove trees from the park, build a 179-space underground parking garage and make other changes to the historic Fiesta Hall.
Stephanie Harker, who heads the Protect Plummer Park group, criticized the city for posting the request for demolition bids the day after Christmas, when many residents are away on holiday or otherwise engaged. And she questioned the city’s request that prospective bidders show up at 8 a.m. Monday to tour Plummer Park — only two business days after the request for bids was published.
The city “is even more manipulative and vindictive than I thought,” Harker said about the posting of the request today. “If they don’t already have a bidder in their back pocket, and I know they do, how do they expect them to show up on Monday morning at 8 a.m.?”
Harker said she will try to organized local residents to show up at the park on Monday morning. “It is very, very difficult because people are out of town on holiday,” she said. “And we have to get everything translated into Russian so we can get the word out to all.” West Hollywood’s Russian-speaking community, largely congregated on the city’s East Side, is a major user of the park.
The city’s Plummer Park redevelopment project came to a halt in February of last year, when the State of California dissolved local redevelopment agencies, removing $14 million of the $41 million that West Hollywood was counting on to help finance the project. In March 2011, the city had borrowed $30 million at an 8 percent interest rate by issuing bonds that must 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). Fees from parking in the underground parking garage were a likely source of revenue for repaying the bonds.
The city has since said that it wants to demolish Great Hall / Long Hall to add more green space to the park but doesn’t intend to building the underground garage. Harker said she believes that after Great Hall / Long Hall is demolished, the city will again raise the idea of a parking garage.
“They are knocking this down so they can say then that they are going to put in the new parking,” she said. “The park be damned, the trees be damned. They want to build a garage.”
City Councilmember John D’Amico introduced a resolution on Dec. 2 that would have the city fix up Great Hall / Long Hall and use the space for cultural events while the discussion continued over what to do about Plummer Park. That resolution failed in a three to two vote, with only Councilmember Jeffrey Prang joining D’Amico in supporting repairs to Great Hall / Long Hall. The council surprised onlookers by directing City Manager Paul Arevalo to come back at its Jan. 21 meeting with a plan for demolishing Great Hall / Long Hall as well as the park’s Tiny Tots pre-school building. At that meeting the council will take a final vote on the demolition.
That decision has been a matter of debate since then, with speakers pro and con at a Dec. 16 City Council hearing and numerous comments on WEHOville.com