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Parks Board Expected to Back Sepulveda Basin Arts Complex

October 31, 1986|DOUG SMITH | Times Staff Writer

In spite of some last-minute grousing, the Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Commission is expected to take a major step today to clear the way for development of an arts complex in the Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area.

Coming before the commission is a recommendation by the Recreation and Parks Department to lease 60 acres of the 2,150-acre recreational area to a nonprofit foundation for development of Arts Park L.A., consisting of a 2,500-seat theater, an outdoor performance glen, a museum and a restaurant.

Now, however, a leader of the organization that developed the plan said she is concerned that Valley arts groups could be squeezed out once the facilities are built.

Christine Glazier, executive director of the San Fernando Valley Arts Council, which created plans for Arts Park in the mid 1970s, said she feels it has lost its original intent to be a "a place for the community to come to see what their own community is creating."

The Arts Council, an organization of many Valley arts groups, has held informal rights to develop Arts Park for 10 years but has been unable to raise enough money.

The lease under consideration today will confer rights to develop and manage the arts complex to the San Fernando Valley Cultural Foundation, which is attempting to raise at least $72 million to build two arts complexes, the other in Warner Park in Woodland Hills.

Ed Landry, a board member of the foundation and its legal counsel, said the lease will clarify rights to develop Arts Park.

Plans for Arts Park began in 1976, when City Council said the Arts Council could use of the northwest corner of Sepulveda Basin to build the center if it could raise the money.

Warner Park Complex

At the same time, another group, the Valley Cultural Center, was attempting to finance a theater complex in Warner Park, which was donated to the city by developer Harry Warner for a cultural facility.

Neither group was successful and, in 1980, they jointly formed the Cultural Foundation as the fund-raising arm for both projects. In recent years, however, the Arts Council's influence on the foundation board has waned, Glazier said.

The foundation has put together a high-powered board of directors, consisting of many of the Valley's prominent business leaders and is preparing to launch a capital campaign. Foundation leaders have billed Arts Park as a "world-class" facility that would attract internationally known works and performers.

To clarify its rights as developer of the two projects, the foundation has negotiated agreements with both the Arts Council and Valley Cultural Center.

Rights Transferred

In the agreements, the two organizations gave all development rights for Sepulveda Basin and Warner Park to the foundation. They also allowed the foundation to be the primary booking agent for the two arts complexes. In return, they received limited rights to book the facilities for their own programs, at favorable, though unspecified, rates.

The Valley Cultural Center appears satisfied with the agreement, but Glazier of the Arts Council said it deserved more control over bookings and lacked the power to resist.

"We have given up our rights to Arts Park," Glazier said. "We have said we now have no part of Arts Park except that we are now allowed a few dates to book some events in there."

Landry, the foundation's counsel, said the agreement with the Arts Council was merely a formality, "just to make sure everything was clear." He said the foundation could have proceeded without guaranteeing anything to the Arts Council.

Unification Sought

"Everything that was done was an attempt to be conciliatory with all the groups so the Valley could rally around one organization that had a chance to put it together," he said.

Landry said the lease under consideration today will be the first thorough and binding agreement for the development of Arts Park.

It calls for the foundation to lease the site for 30 years rent-free. The foundation would be responsible for developing "an outdoor performance glen with seating for approximately 2,000 people, artists' workshop buildings, an exhibit building, a plaza and concession area to include a restaurant, performing arts theater with seating for approximately 2,500 people" and parking facilities, according to the contract.

Foundation to Pay Costs

All development costs would be borne by the foundation. Any surplus income remaining after each five-year period would be remitted to the Army Corps of Engineers, which owns the flood control basin and leases it to the Recreation and Parks Department.

The agreement allows the foundation to hold up to 20 private fund-raising functions a year in the Arts Park, "at which the consumption of alcoholic beverages would be permitted."

The agreement must be approved the Los Angeles City Council, Mayor Tom Bradley and the Corps of Engineers.

The cultural complex will be situated around a 26-acre lake to be built on land now leased for farming southeast of Balboa and Victory boulevards. Congress recently provided $7.4 million to dig the 26-acre lake and to provide landscaping, parking and picnic tables in the surrounding 165 acres, to be known as Bull Creek Park.

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