SAN PEDRO — Prompted by concerns over how Angels Gate Cultural Center has been managed, Los Angeles city officials are seeking proposals from organizations interested in operating the center.
The city Parks and Recreation Department has set a July 29 deadline for groups to submit proposals for the center, which sits on 64 prime acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It once was part of Ft. MacArthur. The department is seeking separate proposals for the operation of the Osgood-Farley Battery Historical Site, which is also maintained by the center's present operator, Angels Gate Cultural Center Inc.
"The department feels compelled to let the community know that the center is available for proposals," said Keith Fitzgerald, a department official. "We don't want to preclude ourselves from any opportunity."
Roberta MacFaden Miller, executive director of the nonprofit Angels Gate Cultural Center Inc., said her group will submit a proposal to continue its role. The center has operated at the park on a month-to-month basis since its three-year lease expired last August.
'May Best Person Win'
"We are the incumbent, but may the best person win," MacFaden Miller said. "If some magical person comes in with millions of dollars, the community will benefit."
Angels Gate Cultural Center Inc. signed a lease with the Parks and Recreation Department in 1982 allowing it to occupy nine former Army barracks in exchange for running an art gallery and conducting free arts programs for the community. The center also is involved in a myriad of other cultural activities, such as monthly poetry readings.
Barracks still stand in the park, which is littered with abandoned military hardware. The land was deeded to the city in 1978 by the federal government under the condition that the city develop it for recreation.
Los Angeles officials had originally planned to invest millions of dollars to build a culture and arts center including a 500-seat community theater, a senior-citizens complex and other amenities. But a lack of money and inquiries by the federal government about reclaiming a portion of the site for military housing have stalled the project, city officials said.
'An Excellent Job'
Angels Gate Cultural Center Inc., which has about 100 volunteers, has more than fulfilled the terms of its lease, according to Fitzgerald. "We don't have anything against the people in there right now," he said. "Roberta has done an excellent job."
Nevertheless, Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, who represents the San Pedro area, said a major reason the city decided to seek outside proposals instead of automatically renewing the group's lease was because of concerns over the way the center had been managed in the past by Angels Gate Cultural Center Inc.
Besides complaints over classes being canceled, the group at one time experienced a high turnover among its board of directors, the councilwoman said. Additionally, the group violated its lease with the city on several occasions when it served alcohol on the premises without obtaining approval and allowed a person to reside on the property, she said.
"It was my view if we went out for proposals, (Angels Gate Cultural Center Inc.) would come back with one and we could negotiate with them and make sure guidelines and contingencies were set," the councilwoman said.
No Complaints Recently
Flores added that there appears to have been a "turnaround" in management practices at the center, and she has not received complaints recently. "I really believe they have been more responsible than they were in the past. . . . If they can get their act together, there should not be any reason they can't get their lease renewed."
MacFaden Miller, who became director of the center in 1984, said she is unaware of instances in which the group violated its lease. She said the high turnover among board members came about because of the group's original bylaws, which stated that 50% of the board had to change annually. The bylaws have been amended to allow members to serve indefinitely, she said.
MacFaden Miller also said that she has changed her mind and no longer believes it is necessary for the group to obtain a long-term lease in order to attract the large private contributions necessary to develop the center in the way the city originally envisioned.
"We have a nice building process going on right now," MacFaden Miller said, referring to the arts programs and other projects the group has undertaken since 1982. "In terms of rebuilding the property, we couldn't be ready to do that for several years anyway."
During the past three years, MacFaden Miller said, the group has established an amphitheater, art gallery and small theater and turned the battery site into a military museum. Angles Gate Cultural Inc. expects to raise about $140,000 in contributions for the fiscal year ending next month--triple what the group raised the first year of its existence, she said.
Fitzgerald said that Angels Gate Cultural Center Inc. is the only group that has requested a proposal form. The only other inquiries have come from real estate developers interested in building housing on the land, he said.