In his 85 years on this earth, one thing Guenter Keunecke has learned is to never give up.
Keunecke, a native of Germany who has spent his life working in engineering, has lived in West Hollywood for more than a dozen years. As a volunteer with the Hollywood Bowl, it was Guenter who, annoyed by the sound of helicopters flying over the Hollywood Bowl while he was listening to a performance of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, began pushing for stronger regulation of helicopter traffic. U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff and Sen. Dianne Feinstein developed legislation in 2014 that required the FAA to tighten its rules regarding where helicopters could operate.
The West Knoll Drive resident’s activism in a variety of issues has resulted in his receiving the 2014 Hero of Assisted Housing award from the Pacific Southwest Regional Council of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials. In April, he will be honored as an L.A. County “Volunteer of the Year” at an event at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
For the past five years, Keunecke’s focus has been on that worn out clock hanging off the second floor of a 1924 brick building on the southwest corner of Fairfax Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard that is home to business such as MoCafe and Huener’s Jewelers. He has gotten the support of Arthur Goukasian, who owned Huener’s since 1986 and also wants to see it restored.
“It’s part of our city,” said Keunecke, who said it brings to mind the famous Big Ben in London. “It has historic value. Unfortunately, it’s been neglected for years.”
Keunecke has worked with the City of West Hollywood, which he said was willing to consider having the clock designated as a historic resource. But Keunecke said the owners of the building, members of the families of the late Marshall Gumbiner and Charles Gumbiner, didn’t want the historic designation. Such a designation can limit a property owner’s ability to make changes to a building. WEHOville has been unable to determine who initially created and installed the clock.
So Keunecke went looking for a contractor to do the work. He found Tony Baker, who has been working with him for two years now on plans to restore the clock to its old glory.
Keunecke said the restoration will cost $5,800. It will include cleaning the clock, installing a self-adjusting motor that will allow the clock to reset itself if the electricity goes out, and will include lighting the clock up at night, so that it calls out the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Fairfax over which it hangs. When, and if, such a restoration is complete, Keunecke said he wants to stage an “inauguration day” on the corner.
After his five-year campaign, Keunecke found himself on the edge of success last year when the owners of the building agreed to fund the restoration. But in an interview with WEHOville, Keunecke said he was frustrated that he still hadn’t received the signed agreement that he had expected by the end of January.
However, it appears that victory is around the corner. David Frank, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker who manages the property, told WEHOville that one of the owners has been in the hospital and will be released soon, at which point Frank said he expects the agreement to be signed and the restoration to begin.