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La Cienega Water Plant to Face Wrecker's Ball

March 05, 1987|JEFF BURBANK | Times Staff Writer

The Beverly Hills City Council has decided to demolish the historic La Cienega Water Treatment Plant despite pleas from preservationists to save the 59-year old structure, the city's first civic building.

At its meeting Tuesday, the council selected an Anaheim demolition firm to tear down the treatment plant later this year to make way for an extension of La Cienega Park. The vote was 3 to 2 in favor of demolition, with Mayor Charlotte Spadaro and Councilman Benjamin H. Stansbury opposed.

Robert C. Cohen, spokesman for the Citizens Committee to Preserve Beverly Hills Landmarks, said the group will try to block the demolition and will seek the help of the state Office of Historical Preservation.

Cohen said that the state agency has told the city that an environmental impact report is required because of the building's importance to local architectural history.

No Adverse Environmental Impact

The council on Feb. 17 decided, with Spadaro and Stansbury opposed, that the demolition would not adversely affect the environment. Acting City Atty. John J. O'Connor has said that an environmental impact report is required only if a majority of council members believes one is needed.

Although the state says that the possible loss of an historically significant building is grounds for an environmental impact report, it is up to the city to decide whether the building is historically significant, O'Connor said.

Spadaro and Stansbury want a report done. But council members Donna Ellman, Robert Tanenbaum and Maxwell Salter voted against the study and said the building is not worth saving because it would cost too much to renovate it.

Estimates by city building and engineering officials have set renovation costs at $5 million to $7 million. The cost to fund a study on renovating the structure would be about $150,000, according to City Manager Edward S. Kreins.

Cohen said that he could provide a consultant who could conduct the study for about $20,000, which Spadaro and Stansbury favored considering. But Ellman, Tanenbaum and Salter stood firmly against further study of renovation.

'Knock It Down'

Stansbury and Cohen have suggested that the building be renovated to include a cultural or senior center or be used as a YMCA facility.

Salter said Tuesday that such suggestions "are ludicrous. My contention is to knock it down."

The council's order halts years of effort by preservation groups, architectural engineers and others to save the former water-treatment plant. The building is considered a historic landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Located at 333 S. La Cienega Blvd., the Spanish-style plant, once used to remove offensive odors from well water, has been vacant since being damaged by an earthquake in 1971. The city turned its attention to the building last summer while preparing plans to revamp the 14-acre La Cienega Park.

Park planners want to replace the 12,000-square-foot building site with grass. A plan to extend the park's tennis complex on the site has been shelved.

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