Beverly Hills Mayor Charlotte Spadaro has signed an order for the controversial demolition of the La Cienega Water Treatment Plant, but not before being pressured to resign by a fellow council member.
Councilman Maxwell Salter asked Spadaro at a Tuesday afternoon meeting if she would consider resigning as mayor to allow someone else to sign the order. Rather than step aside, Spadaro decided to sign at the beginning of the council meeting Tuesday evening.
"Because of the strong feelings of the council, I just felt I was obligated to do it," Spadaro said.
Salter said in an interview Wednesday that he and the other three council members were angry with Spadaro because "she has not been doing her proper job as mayor. And this time she had to be called on it. It reaches a point where you are running a city and you can't take the law into your own hands."
The mayor is required by city law to sign orders passed by a council majority, usually the day after the vote is taken, said Fred C. Cunningham, city public affairs director.
Spadaro, whose term expires in April, said that she did not like being in the position of signing the order because she is opposed to the demolition. She said the council could have chosen another member to sign it.
Someone else may sign the orders only if the mayor is out of town or incapacitated, Cunningham said.
"I was hoping they would designate someone else," Spadaro said. "I was hoping I wouldn't have to sign it. The old water treatment plant is the city's first civic building. I hoped I wouldn't have any part of it."
But she said she decided to sign the order rather than resign. "I would not renege on my duties. I still intend to serve."
Councilman Robert Tanenbaum, who favors demolishing the plant, said that the demolition order was delivered to the mayor's desk on March 4, but Spadaro refused to sign it until this week. He said he objected to the mayor's engaging in what he called a "pocket veto" of the demolition.
Tanenbaum said that had Spadaro not signed the order, he would have brought up the issue at the council meeting and may have called for a vote to dump her as mayor.
"The council can oust (the mayor) for good cause. She presented a good cause in my judgment," Tanenbaum said.
The council on March 3 chose a demolition firm to raze the 59-year-old structure.
But on March 13, a Superior Court Judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the demolition at the request of attorneys for the Friends of the Waterworks.
The preservationist group contends that the city violated state law by not ordering an environmental impact report. A report is required because of the building's historical significance, group members said.
A hearing on the restraining order is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Spadaro said that she did not want to sign the demolition order because of the restraining order. Tanenbaum said that the demolition order still had to be signed despite the court action.
Spadaro said during an interview that she was "very pleased" that the preservationists obtained the temporary restraining order.
The preservationists want the city to save the Spanish-style treatment facility at 333 La Cienega Blvd. for possible use as a cultural or recreation center. The city, in the process of revamping La Cienega Park, wants to tear the building down in favor of a grass field.
The plant was damaged in an earthquake in 1971 and has not been used since. Spadaro, Vice Mayor Benjamin H. Stansbury Jr. and preservationists want the city to renovate the structure.
Council members Salter, Tanenbaum and Donna Ellman said that the plant should be demolished because it would be too expensive to renovate. They also oppose an requiring environmental impact report.
By city estimates, it would cost $5 million to $7 million to renovate the plant, and a renovation study would cost $150,000. The citizens committee said it could provide a consultant who could do a study for $20,000, but the council majority refused to consider the offer.