Faced with a stream of protests, the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission has abandoned plans to dig up the nationally acclaimed rose garden in Exposition Park to build a parking structure.
"In light of current expressions of concern regarding this (rose garden) site, we have decided to direct our energies to consideration of alternate locations to deal with the parking conditions within this area," commission President William R. Robertson said in a statement released Wednesday.
"I was never a proponent of that concept," Robertson said in an interview Wednesday evening. "My position was that whatever you plan to do with the rose garden, people would be opposed."
He said the commission faced a public uproar six years ago when someone suggested allowing the Los Angeles Raiders to convert the garden into a practice field.
"The rose garden was only one of a number of sites being considered to help alleviate the severe parking conditions that currently exist within the park," Robertson's statement said. "The plans never proposed the elimination of the rose garden."
The commission had approved a proposal to dig up the garden and build a two-story underground parking lot on the seven-acre site. While adopting that proposal, the commissioners emphasized that many of the bushes would be saved by moving them while construction took place and then replanting them on top of the parking structure.
Parking has long been a serious problem in the area, with thousands of people attending events at the Coliseum and Sports Arena being forced to park on neighborhood streets and yards.
Critics, however, argued that replanting the roses would change the entire character of the garden.
'A Different Feeling'
"It won't be a tranquil, beautiful garden like it is now," said Robert Harris, dean of USC's school of architecture. "It will be a place full of activity and cars and people coming and going . . . a different feeling altogether."
After hearing Robertson's statement Wednesday, Harris said he was happy that the garden would be spared.
The sunken garden was laid out in 1911 when local farmers started holding agricultural exhibits at the park. Sitting on state-owned land which is leased to the city, the garden is graced with gazebos, benches and a fountain. More than a million visitors a year use it for picnics, weddings and quiet reflection.