Almost eight years after putting renovations on hold, West Hollywood’s City Council voted unanimously on Monday night to start new discussions for a remodeling Plummer Park.
With this vote, the Council approved creating a new Plummer Park Design Steering Committee to develop a plan for revamping the park. The makeup for that steering committee hasn’t yet been determined, but likely each of the five council members will appoint three or four people to create a 15-to-20-person committee..
The city will also do extensive community outreach to get residents input, perhaps in the form of visioning workshops and facilitated discussions. Along with that, the city will conduct a feasibility study for what renovations can be done and the costs associated with them.
“All ideas are on the table,” said principal planner Joanna Hankamer who has been overseeing new Plummer Park redesign.
“What’s important is that we have a park that serves the residents on the Eastside and is generated by their ideas,” said Mayor John D’Amico.
Fueling this renewed willingness to renovate the park is an April 2021 deadline to spend $9.25 million on the park, or risk losing the money to the state. That $9.25 million is part of the $30 million bond for park renovations the city issued in 2011. However, during a state budget crisis in 2011-12, then Governor Jerry Brown seized redevelopment money from the cities, including the money West Hollywood had earmarked for Plummer Park. After the budget crisis ended, Sacramento agreed to let the cities have some of that money back.
Whatever the final plans for the park end up being, that makeover will likely cost much more than $9.25 million. However, to meet the April 2021 deadline, Hankamer advised the park redesign be done in phases. She suggested the city could start on something small such as a Plummer Park dog park, which Eastside residents have long wanted.
Bigger items such as renovations to Fiesta Hall, or building a gymnasium or swimming pool (if that is what is ultimately decided upon) would come in another phase. Where the money for those other phases will come from has not yet been determined.
Back in 2011, Plummer Park was slated for a $41 million redesign that included digging a 179-space underground parking garage in the center of the park,which necessitated demolishing Great Hall-Long Hall and cutting down the mature, old growth trees in the park center. The plan also included a modern makeover for Fiesta Hall and building a new Tiny Tots preschool, plus adding a large water fountain in the center of the park.
Construction was scheduled to begin in early 2012, but in the last few months prior to groundbreaking, residents began strongly protesting the plan. Just weeks before the scheduled start of construction, the City Council agreed to delay construction. Shortly after that, the state seized the redevelopment money. and the park renovations were put on hold.
That history all came into play Monday night as Councilmember John Heilman indicated a reluctance to start the process anew since a Plummer Park redesign Master Plan, created in 1994 and updated in 2004, already exists. The 2012 construction plans were based on that Master Plan.
However, during the public comment period, residents spoke against returning to that 1994 Master Plan.
“The Master Plan that was created 25 years ago is so old . . . a lot has changed,” said resident Sepi Shyne. “The thing that hasn’t changed is residents’ love for this park.”
“I believe we need a new plan,” said resident Kimberly Copeland. “25 years is a quarter of a century. So much has changed. We’ve all changed . . . It would be nice to take a fresh new look at this.”
Others said the park needs some renovations but urged the city not to go too far since the park is vibrant and busy all day long.
“Plummer Park is probably one of the most successful parks you’re going to see in L.A. County; it does what it was meant to do,” said resident Steve Martin.
D’Amico and Councilmember Lauren Meister both favored scrapping the 1994 Master Plan entirely, while Councilmember John Duran said portions of the plan might be usable, but that too much about the Eastside demographics has changed (the Russian-speajing population is declining while more single women are moving to the Eastside) to rely entirely on that 1994 plan.
Meanwhile, Councilmember Lindsey Horvath emphasized that getting input from residents is essential.
“The important part right now is listening,” said Horvath. “We have to have a fair and open process and make sure people are heard through that open process in order to get to an outcome that the community can be supportive of.”
Critics of that 1994 Master Plan charge the city did not solicit much community input, that the plan was essentially thrust upon the residents.
“The previous Plummer Park outreach was from City Hall decision makers looking east . . . instead of from Plummer Park users sending information west,” said D’Amico, commenting the 1994 Master Plan included some “faulty” or bad ideas.
Horvath seemed to agree, saying, “The perception is [residents involved in park redesign discussions] were led down a path rather than being asked for their ideas.”
Although the city held over 100 meetings in the 1990s and 2000s where Plummer Park was on the agenda in some form or another, residents complained they were not notified of those meetings or were ignored when they spoke up. Likewise, some members of the city’s advisory boards and commissions said they were never given a chance to weigh in on park renovations, and that when the park was on an agenda, it was as a receive-and-file report rather than a request for their input. Indeed, members of the now disbanded Eastside PAC (Project Area Committee), which helped oversee redevelopment on the city’s Eastside, grumbled about never being given a chance to vote on the final plans for Plummer Park renovations.
Resident Stephanie Harker, who spearhead the Protect Plummer Park movement that got the 2012 construction stopped, praised the city for letting the public know what’s going on now.
“There’s already been more outreach on this plan, I think, than the first plan,” said Harker, who indicated she will be happy with whatever is decided for park renovations as long as the residents have a say.
Heilman worried that people who had liked the 1994 Master Plan would be left out of the discussion of the renewed plan. None of those 1994 Master Plan supporters spoke during the public comment period on Monday night.
Heilman only agreed to support the new steering committee plan with the provision there be maximum outreach to all parties who use the park and that all ideas be on the table, even those that were a part of the 1994 Master Plan.
A sticking point for whatever is ultimately decided will probably be Great Hall-Long Hall, the conjoined buildings constructed in 1938. Critics argue its placement in the exact center of the park blocks clear sightlines, so some favor moving the building about 25 to 50 feet west to another location in the park. Others say Great Hall-Long Hall should remain in place, noting that it is now on the National Register of Historic Places, a designation bestowed in 2013.
Heilman, who has long advocated demolishing Great Hall-Long Hall, again voiced his dislike of the building.
“I think Great Hall and Long Hall should be moved. They are old, dilapidated buildings that smell like urine, that are not ADA compliant,” said Heilman.
However, during public comment, resident Cathy Blaivas pointed out that the city owns Great Hall-Long Hall, so proper upkeep and cleaning is the city’s responsibility.
While it will take many months to devise new plans for the park redesign, the council also approved some changes that will take effect quickly. Among those are repaving the southern parking lot (near Santa Monica Boulevard) with permeable asphalt as well as security upgrades to the bathrooms and the Community Center.
Every time I go to or through Plummer Park–which is often, I feel rejuvenated. It is a jewel in our City. It is a neighborhood park. WEHO Park is a facility for events and is well used and appreciated as such. I find that most of the people I talk to about Plummer Park, do not live over here. They want to fix something that is not a respite for them as it is for us. How many people in our City even know what a WPA building is? Not many. What is wrong with a bit of a History… Read more »
The park plan was 25 years old. John Heilman and John Duran continually talk about the good all days. Like Duran did the other night talking about Studio One. Well that’s the past and these two are waving at a parade that has long passed them by.
I pray that everyone involved last time –on both “sides”– has evolved regarding flexibility, acceptance, respect for the opinions of others, and letting go of things they’ve tied their egos to. This is (and was also before) supposed to be a positive thing, and the common goal of e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e should be to have a safe, improved, updated park. If this means finally letting the old buildings go in favor of better, smarter, safer buildings then that is what should happen. If it means that the parking lot trees should be kept until they die instead of replacing them now, then… Read more »
Well put. NIMBYs shouldn’t have rule, just because they have been there longer. Newer residents, who are developing roots in the area also have valid opinions, and those should be recognized. And it is their future, just as much as anyone who has been there a long time. Sometimes a longer future, considering the newer residents might be younger than the older residents. The city had a noble plan to improve an old park, to give back some of the enormous tax revenue and public funds to the community. And it was completely shot down. Maybe they screwed up with… Read more »
Throwing around a term like NIMBY will surely not help and only works to sabotage the process.
Saving the historic buildings and the trees was the whole point. The intention to demolish them is what caused the public outcry and killed the original plan. These two items are non-negotiable. Any new plan must start with the preservation of historic structures and trees as the baseline, after that anything goes.
this is exactly the problem… who are you (or any individual) to decide what is ‘non-negotiable”? the city owns the park. as someone else pointed out: if anything, new residents should have more of a say because their future is longer.
I will never understand the opposition to the last plan. I agree with Heilman. I don’t think these buildings have historical significance, and while I don’t like to see us lose trees, new ones could be planted. Not everything is sacred, or needs to be saved. For example, the old auditorium in West Hollywood Park, which is being replaced with a state-of-the-art athletic facility. Or the old library. People complained about those being torn down. It is called progress, people. One thing that is always certain: when the city tries to give something back to the residents, NIMBYs will come… Read more »
The city did figure out what to do with 1343 Laurel. The house would have been saved and restored for use by the community and at the back of the large property would have been 40 units for deserving seniors on two stories. That was the final plan for the site until the kibosh by protestors.
Developers and their lobbyists have peppered their arguments with the phrase NIMBY’s for years; name calling weakens your opinion.
L. Hemsley, I call it as I see it. NIMBYs are opposed to change. They had an opportunity for a nice upgrade to their park and fought it all the way, until the $$ became no longer available. I use the word NIMBY because I’m sick of people who are opposed to almost any and all change, which is pretty much the definition. I think it is actually selfish. They could have had a beautifully upgraded park with modern facilities, but they were too busy hanging on to these decrepit, unremarkable buildings, and some old trees, which would have been… Read more »
The two great failures of local activism in West Hollywood, Plummer Park and 1343 Laurel.
@Manny, you’re hilarious!
Well, it was’t meant to be “hilarious”. But if you think it’s funny, alright.
It was sarcasm.
Was it?…..I think it was more than that.
John Heilman’s comments were typical of a discredited era when City Hall knew best and when City Hall manipulated supposedly open public processes toward a predetermined goal. On the other hand John D’Amico”s comments reflected more mature sense of how to move forward in an inclusive and open manner. Fortunately the majority of the City Council appears willing to follow the mayor’s lead to wipe the slate clean and let all good ideas have a fair hearing.
There were residents involved in the 1994 plan, they just aren’t around anymore… which means its been too long. It also had big flaws, like the underground parking. Good they are getting fresh input. Getting a diverse group of nearby residents for that committee will be key to a good process, can’t just be one or two loud voices bullying the rest.
Also, the real reason the previous plan did not go forward was not community protest, it was Gov. Brown, who canceled the funding for it and many projects state wide to balance the budget.
and maybe the guy the city sent out last time who bullied residents with HIS loud voice has grown up. we’re also hoping for a good process this time. last time was awful.
If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Just improve it. Most people go to parks for NATURE, PEACE and SPACE. You add too many amenities and it no longer becomes a park. It becomes a recreation center like a YMCA. The current park has some history and character to it. I’m assuming the older buildings will remain. The workout area is very popular. It could be improved or expanded but again, keep the wide open spaces for running, walking, events, etc. If it’s overdone, it becomes something else. Of course if there was more land I’d advocate for more buildings… Read more »
This will never happen. Barring a few updates such as a dog park and maybe some new flower beds, Stephanie and her crew will cry, yell and scream like they did before and ultimately City Council will put it on hold, again losing out on valuable funds already assigned to this project. Those of us involved previously are too tired to go through this charade again. And anyone who thinks this is one of the best parks in LA doesn’t get out very often. Not that walking through a dusty parking lots isn’t a joy. Good luck y’all, but save… Read more »
Did you read the article? They are going to repave the parking lot – they are not waiting on that part. “Stephanie and her crew” are trying to save the trees in the park. That is what parks are for – nature. We in the neighborhood don’t want another West Hollywood Park for our part of town – a blank lawn with big swatches of concrete and buildings. That is not a park. We have a lovely park now. We just want some improvements to it and save our buildings with some improvements that the City has neglected to maintain.
You get it. Yes, more nature. Trees, landscaping, lighting, perhaps a waterfall. It should feel like you’re on vacation. Almost like visiting a botanical gardens. I think that should be the focus and less on pools (we already have an enormous, expensive pool being built at WeHo Park). Some areas could be more open, others could be landscaped more extensively for shading with areas for privacy, etc. But overall keep it as is. People like it.
Here we go again.
What the article failed to mention is what Councilmember John Heilman said about some of the people who showed up last night to defend the park. Sitting with his arms crossed, he said he sees the same old people speaking that spoke to this issue eight years ago. Is he not self-aware that he is also one of those same old people who spoke eight years ago, still in office by the will of the people…and developers’ money? If that wasn’t bad enough, he went on and on and on about this park issue into an already late night. He… Read more »
I think you hit on an important topic here in limiting the time that councilmembers can blather and bloviate about any issue. For the ones who are trying out for another legislative body where such rules are imposed and debate limited, she’d do well to learn that lesson while still on the West Hollywood Student Council.
I have yet to watch last night’s meeting, but I cannot agree with this one. Like it or not, or how it happened, all of the Councilmembers were voted into office to be decision-makers. As such, and as representatives of the people of the city, they deserve more time to discuss these issues than non-elected people (some of which, aren’t residents). They were literally hired to do such a thing.
Great insight. The vast majority of Eastside residents opposed the former master plan; that is why you did not see anyone bemoaning the suggestion to consign that master plan to the dustbin of history.
It’s ALWAYS been his way or the highway. The city neglected Great Hall / Long Hall for decades. They are charming historic buildings that should be kept and repurposed. The neighborhood is beautiful and I hope the city protects that charm from the Councils developer cronies and their bulldozers.
John Heilman would never, and didn’t sit “with his arms crossed”. But i’m sure most of the audience did.