Although State Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Van Nuys) is no longer proposing that the state build an $11-million museum to house relics unearthed at the "Lost Village of Encino," the museum proposal is far from dead, says a group of Encino residents with a proposal of its own.
The residents, led by Alan Insul, president-elect of the Encino Chamber of Commerce, want to build a multimillion-dollar cultural arts center and theater at Los Encinos State Park, across Ventura Boulevard from where the artifacts were uncovered last year.
Under the ambitious plan, the artifacts would be displayed in a museum featuring a simulated Indian environment. A full-time curator would be hired to acquire and oversee new collections, and the state park itself might be expanded by purchasing nearby residential and commercial property, Insul said.
To achieve its goals, the 3-week-old group is raising an endowment fund and has already received tentative offers of cash and property, Insul said. One man is interested in donating a turn-of-the century stagecoach house and paying for its renovation and restoration. Several homeowners might donate land next to the state park, he said, although he would not identify them. State and local elected officials also have expressed interest in the project, including Robbins and Los Angeles City Councilman Marvin Braude, Insul said.
A legislative aide to Robbins, Teri Burns, called the artifacts "our local heritage" and said the museum proposal is "something we want to get behind." Braude was not available for comment.
Unless his 15-member group can rally financial and political backing, Insul conceded, his proposal is nothing but a dream.
"It's not going to happen overnight," he said.
Until several weeks ago, Robbins supported a plan, somewhat similar to Insul's, calling for the state to buy land next to Los Encinos park and build a museum to house the artifacts. However, Robbins amended his proposal when the state Parks and Recreation Department tentatively agreed to earmark $175,000 to display the relics. The department questioned spending $11 million for a museum and is studying the archeological significance of the artifacts.
Under the amended bill, several thousand artifacts would be displayed in the Garnier House, a historic structure in the park whose second floor would be refurbished and reconstructed. An additional $20,000 would be earmarked to provide parking. The bill is making its way through the Legislature and passed the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee on Tuesday by an 8-0 vote, said Bob Hayes, a Robbins aide.
More Money Sought
Although Insul's group supports the bill, it sees the $175,000 as only a fraction of the money needed. "The ultimate would be to carry out the original proposal, acquiring the land and putting some buildings on it," said Sandra Dack, executive director of the Encino Chamber of Commerce.
Insul said plans for the cultural center began with a modest idea to raise money that would allow the Encino Chamber of Commerce to underwrite maintenance and staffing of the park's historical exhibits.
From there, it grew to include "more than just a mere museum, but a cultural arts center, a place for expression of ideas and live performances," Insul said.
The Lost Village of Encino is the remains of an Indian settlement, long sought by archeologists, that was first described in the writings of Father Juan Crespi, a missionary who accompanied Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola on an expedition that passed through the San Fernando Valley in 1769.
Archeologist Nancy A. Whitney-Desautels announced that she had uncovered the village in fall, 1984, when her crew of 100 excavated more than 2 million artifacts, including stone and glass beads, tools, arrowheads and human and animal bones. About 12.5% of the artifacts, or 250,000 items, are worth displaying, Desautels says.