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Debate on Auditorium Resumes : Council Weighs Building's Fate

March 05, 1987|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | Times Staff Writer

After two formal studies and years of indecision, the Glendale City Council this week renewed debate over what to do with the city's 49-year-old Civic Auditorium.

Council members have been divided for years--and remain so--over whether to save the cavernous and deteriorating building or to replace it with a new convention center.

The studies show that the building is structurally sound but in need of extensive repairs and changes.

A third report on the auditorium site was presented this week by the city's Parks Department. It proposed alternatives for renovating or replacing the facility. Estimated costs were $3.8 million to renovate the auditorium alone; a minimum of $5 million to both renovate and build some new facilities, and up to $20 million to construct a new convention center and parking garage.

Need Seen for Input

Council members Tuesday said they need more input from residents before deciding the fate of the complex--officially listed as a historical monument by the city and the popular home of antique shows, weddings, beauty pageants and high-school dances.

"We need to get some direction from the community as to whether to retain the old or bring in the new," said Councilman Carl Raggio. In a rare move, the council scheduled a special meeting for April 16 at 7 p.m. to hear public comments on the issue.

Hearings in the past have drawn little participation from residents other than cries that the auditorium be preserved because of its historical role as the social center of Glendale.

Only two residents spoke at the council meeting this week. Both recalled events at the huge auditorium and urged the council to preserve the facility.

Mayor Favors New Complex

But Mayor Larry Zarian on Tuesday said he favors replacing the old building with a new auditorium complex. Zarian, who grew up in Glendale, said, "I am not in favor of tearing down a historical building, but that building has served its purpose."

Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg, however, said she is "totally and unalterably opposed to chopping down the Civic Auditorium."

Other council members said they need to weigh the costs and the impact of traffic that could result from the various proposals.

The city also is considering whether it ought to develop an arts and crafts center at the auditorium site--at Verdugo Road and Mountain Street--or build an arts center elsewhere in the city, such as in the downtown redevelopment area.

The auditorium and its adjoining swim stadium--built as public works projects in 1938--were earmarked for demolition more than two years ago because of growing annual operational deficits and increasing decay.

City officials concede that the now-closed pool, which is severely cracked and was little-used in recent years, is no longer needed. But the council has repeatedly postponed action on the auditorium in search of alternatives.

Alternatives Proposed

The two earlier studies by independent consultants proposed alternatives ranging from $1 million for minimal renovation of the building to $33 million to demolish the building and develop a new convention center and theater on the city-owned site.

Lost in indecision, the city last year commissioned the local architectural firm of Clair Earl and Associates to develop schematic plans for the alternatives and to more clearly define the costs.

Henry Agonia, city parks and recreation director, Tuesday presented the council with four alternatives, ranging from the $5-million to the $20-million proposals. Council members also discussed other plans, which combined features of the various proposals.

A central issue to the cost is whether the city should build additional parking at the site, which adjoins the popular, city-owned Verdugo Park and nearby Glendale College.

Students Use Lots

The auditorium parking lots are heavily used by students at the college, which has little of its own parking. City officials have proposed increasing parking at the auditorium, which has 732 spaces, to more than 1,500 spaces, by building a parking garage in conjunction with new development. Agonia on Tuesday said a garage would cost the city about $8.5 million to build.

Several council members said they oppose the idea of using city funds to build parking facilities for the college. Bremberg has long accused the college of ignoring its parking woes while relying on the city to meet its needs.

Zarian, however, said he is willing to cooperate with college trustees to resolve parking problems while developing new facilities at the auditorium site that could be used in the college instructional program, such as classroom kitchens and an arts and crafts center.

"Let's make a deal with the college," Zarian said.

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