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Elks to Ask That Lodge Be Taken Off Historic List

November 21, 1985|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | Times Staff Writer

Despite opposition from Glendale Elks Lodge members, their leader today will ask the city's Historic Preservation Commission to recommend that the lodge building be removed from a list of historic places, clearing the way for demolition of the 67-year-old building.

The proposal is the first such request since the Glendale City Council adopted an ordinance in July prohibiting alteration or demolition of buildings and sites considered to be significant.

Two factions of the club have argued about the fate of the building before the preservation commission. Last month, the panel continued a public hearing on the issue until today, asking the club to reach some sort of unified decision.

"We are a little confused over who's on first," said Vonnie Rossman, commission president.

Leader to Speak

Paul Wright, exalted ruler of the Elks, said he will speak for his entire membership today when he appears before the commission to "ask that the lodge be taken off the list."

At previous commission meetings, Dan Molinari, chairman of the Elks board of trustees, told city officials that many members want the building preserved. He said alternative proposals have been made to renovate the building and rent out part of it. Molinari could not be reached this week to comment on whether he will appear today before the commission.

In an interview, Wright said more than 20% of the lodge's members who want the building preserved withheld their dues this fall in protest. But, he said, he considers demolition to be "a matter of practicality" in view of rising maintenance costs, deteriorating facilities, a rapid drop in membership and falling revenues.

The three-story brick building at 120 E. Colorado Blvd. is one of the largest Elks facilities in the nation, with a 750-seat meeting hall, a separate auditorium, two dining rooms, two kitchens, a gymnasium, two taverns, an indoor shooting range and an emergency shelter. The facilities are frequently rented by local organizations.

"I happen to love the lodge myself," Wright said. "But I have to be practical. The members don't want to see the lodge go. I don't want to see it go. But there's a difference between sentimentality and practicality. It's just not feasible to maintain."

He said that, in the past 15 years, membership has dropped from 1,900 to about 740. During the last few years, income has decreased more than 30%, while costs have increased. Wright attributed the membership drop to a lack of interest in the lodge among younger people in the city. The average age of current members is 63.

Roy F. Stokes, a former lodge official, said that the facility "is barely breaking even" and that members are unable to raise the $1 million or more needed for renovation. He said no formal estimate has been made on the renovation cost.

The top two floors of the building have been unoccupied for almost 40 years, said George Lawson, chairman of the club's building committee. Wiring and plumbing for the 22 bachelor apartments on the upper floors are outdated and considered unsafe, city officials have said, and the basement and ground floors need extensive renovation to meet city code standards.

The lodge is among 33 buildings and sites designated by the city in a 1977 study as worthy of preservation because of their historic significance. When the preservation ordinance was adopted, the Elks petitioned the city to remove their building from the list, saying they plan to sell part of the site to raise money for a new, smaller lodge on the remaining land.

Wright said the decision to sell the lodge was made last year in a vote of the membership. However, fewer than 100 members attended the meeting at which the vote was taken and only two-thirds of those voting favored the sale, he said.

Sale Fell Through

Wright said the Elks agreed last fall to sell the lodge to Dorn/Platz developers of Glendale for $2.5 million. The sale was contingent upon the Elks' finding a new site for a lodge, Wright said, but none has been found. He said Dorn/Platz withdrew from the agreement when the city adopted the historic preservation ordinance, blocking demolition.

A new proposal to sell part of the site and retain the rest for a new lodge was developed by the club's building committee last summer. However, the building cannot be demolished unless the city commission determines that preservation of the building creates an undue hardship on the Elks. A recommendation by the commission will be presented to the City Council for final action.

Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg told commission members earlier that "members of the Elks club were on their knees begging" for the lodge to be included on the historical preservation list when it was adopted in 1977. "Why they wish it to be removed now is beyond me," she said.

Members of the Glendale Historical Society also have urged the commission to preserve the lodge, saying there are alternatives to tearing it down.

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