[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he West Hollywood City Council will be asked at its meeting Tuesday to approve a $120,000 contract for the demolition of Great Hall / Long Hall, the WPA-era building in Plummer Park whose proposed destruction has provoked outrage among many neighbors of the park and other West Hollywood residents.
The Council is likely to approve the demolition, given its three to two vote on Dec. 2 asking City Manager Paul Arevalo to return on Jan. 21 with a plan for demolishing the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. That vote was a response to a proposal by Councilmember John D’Amico to repair Great Hall / Long Hall and reopen it for public use until the city decided its fate. Councilmember Jeffrey Prang joined D’Amico in voting against the demolition plan.
A request for bids from private contractors posted on the city’s website on Dec. 26 specified that the demolition must be completed within 20 days after the city approves a bid. If the Council approves the bid from Interior Demolition Inc., the 77-year-old building could be gone by the second week of February.
The proposal from the city planning staff also asks the Council to approve replacement of the existing preschool building in the park and renovation of the interior of Fiesta Hall and calls for considering options for new materials and colors for Fiesta Hall’s exterior, all called for in the city’s original development plan, which was approved in 2010. The proposal states that none of the trees around Great Hall / Long Hall will be removed and explicitly removes the previously proposed construction of an underground parking garage from the plan the Council will be asked to approve. It does, however, call for construction of an underground parking garage where the parking lot on the south end of Plummer Park currently is located.
In addition to the $120,000 contract for demolition of Great Hall / Long Hall, the Council will be asked to approve:
- A $2.2 million contract with Brooks + Scarpa Architects to refine the park plan to accommodate elimination of the proposed underground parking garage, revisions to plans for the new preschool building and the Fiesta Hall renovation required by changes in building codes and to conduct additional engineering studies.
- A $2.5 million contract with Heery International Inc. to manage the park project,
- A $75,000 contract with PMC World http://www.pmcworld.com/ to promote the project to the community,
- And a $70,000 contract with Mariposa Landscapes Inc. to landscape what the city is calling the “Great Lawn,” the area where Great Hall / Long Hall now sits.
The staff report estimates the total cost of the project at $29 million, with the Fiesta Hall work accounting for $13.4 million of that, the overall site development accounting for $9.6 million, the replacement of the preschool building accounting for $5 million and redevelopment of the lawn under Great Hall / Long Hall costing $875,000.
The report also recommends extending the time required to complete the project from 34 months to 50 months. That extension, the report says, will allow the city to avoid closing major facilities in the park at once so that users of some elements can be moved to others while construction proceeds.
The longer time period has another major advantage — it gives the city more time to lobby for restoration of $26 million that once was in a so-called “community development fund” that it intended to use for the project. The state eliminated the community development funds, reallocating money from them to the state budget. West Hollywood and a number of other California cities are lobbying the state legislature to have that money restored. Extending the project gives the city the option to not implement some aspects of the redevelopment plan if the money isn’t returned by the state. Without the community development money, the city will have to use money from its general reserve fund or borrow money to pay for the project.
The staff report, which numbers 512 pages, includes 416 letters from members of Restore Plummer Park, a recently formed group lobbying in support of the demolition of Great Hall / Long Hall. Those letters, only 28 of which are from residents of West Hollywood, are from cities and states across the country, including small towns in Alaska, Alabama, North Carolina, Minnesota and Montana. They appear to have been derived from the group’s petition on Change.org, which has nearly 500 signers. Protect Plummer Park, an organization of local residents that has lobbied against destruction of Great Hall / Long Hall, launched its own petition drive on Change.org that has attracted more than 2,400 signatures, with approximately 900 of them from West Hollywood residents.