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Autry Museum by Zoo Wins Council Support

October 02, 1986|RICH SIMON | Times Staff Writer

Construction of a Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum in Griffith Park appears certain, following the Los Angeles City Council's approval of the project Wednesday.

The council, by an 11-0 vote, tentatively approved a 50-year lease, at $1 a year, for construction of the 139,436-square-foot museum on 2 1/2 acres in the Pine Meadows area of the park between the Golden State Freeway and the Greater Los Angeles Zoo parking lot.

Because 12 votes are required for approval of a measure on first reading, final approval was delayed for one week. Only eight votes are required for approval on second reading.

If the council passes the measure, it will go to Mayor Tom Bradley, who supports the museum, according to his office.

The project had been opposed originally by the city Recreation and Parks Department and more recently by the League of Women Voters and a number of environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, all of which objected to the loss of scarce, flat parkland.

The Autry Foundation, created by Autry's first wife, Ina Mae, who died in 1980, and now run by the former cowboy star's second wife, Jackie, plans to house Western artifacts in the museum, including a 10,000-piece collection acquired last year from the Frontier Museum in Temecula in Riverside County.

Exhibits will include artworks by such artists as Frederic Remington and Charles Russell, firearms, saddles and memorabilia from some of the best-known movie cowboys, including John Wayne and, of course, Autry. A 250-seat theater also is planned for the showing of Western movies.

Supporters of the project argued that it would take up only a small, little-used part of the 4,043-acre park. They also argued that a museum is "part of the total recreational experience," pointing to the existence of museums in San Diego's Balboa Park and San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

The foundation previously had tried to build the museum on parkland in Burbank but abandoned that proposal in the face of strong opposition from environmentalists and neighbors.

Ground breaking for the museum will be Nov. 12. The two-story, Spanish-style building with a bell tower will open in June, 1988, said Joanne Hale, the museum's executive director.

A foundation official said Tuesday that construction is expected to cost $25 million, considerably higher than earlier estimates.

The project was supported by Councilman John Ferraro, who gained Griffith Park as part of his district under the council's recent reapportionment. Councilman Joel Wachs, who previously represented the area, also has endorsed the museum.

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