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West Hollywood Park Site Suggested for Civic Center

April 09, 1987|STEPHEN BRAUN | Times Staff Writer

The West Hollywood Public Facilities Board has recommended that the City Council construct its long-planned civic center project at West Hollywood Park, one of the city's two recreational areas.

The board, which oversees the city's public buildings and facilities, selected the park over four other sites for the proposed civic center project, which is expected to house a new city hall building, fire station, library, auditorium and parking garage.

The selection of the parcel, on the city's west side, came after intense pressure for an alternate site on the city's eastern edge. The issue may flare up again when the City Council takes up the matter Monday night.

The Public Facilities Board's vote was 3 to 2 in favor of the West Hollywood Park site. Board members Bradford Crowe, Erich Burkhart and Joanne Combs were in favor of the site, while Richard Settle and James Ward Litz were opposed.

The park site is also favored by city consultants who are developing the early stages of the civic center project. Peter deBretteville, one of the executives of the consulting firm of deBretteville and Polyzoides, said the park site "had the most positive aspects in its favor."

The city already owns most of the property, deBretteville said, and the shape of the property is ideal for a civic center project. An added advantage, he said, is that the park is less than a block away from a Southern California Rapid Transit District bus depot.

"Even if you removed the financial consideration--which is obviously ideal for taxpayers--the West Hollywood park site gets the edge because it has a very long frontage and lots of depth, perfect for putting a civic center there," deBretteville said. "And we would be able to preserve all the recreational space we have there now and possibly even add to the park space."

The project is planned to take up at least 215,000 square feet. City officials have said they hoped to spend no more than $25 million on it, which was another factor in the the park site's favor.

Although deBretteville suggested that the city consider purchasing several small tracts next to the West Hollywood site "to even out the property," the park site itself would require no additional purchase costs.

In comparison, the consultants said that the city would have to pay at least $11 million to acquire a Santa Monica Boulevard shopping center on the city's east side, a site that came closest in appeal to the West Hollywood Park alternative.

Settle, a Public Facilities Board member who is also head of the West Hollywood Community Alliance, a business association representing commercial groups on the east side, said that although the Santa Monica Boulevard site may cost more now, it could end up costing less over time.

Settle said that if the city ever wanted to expand its civic center beyond West Hollywood Park, it would have to spend "many millions more" to acquire neighboring property.

Settle, who favors the Santa Monica Boulevard site because he believes it could stimulate business growth on the city's east side, said that the shopping center, which is larger than the park site, would be large enough to contain any expansion.

Thinking Ahead

"I'm thinking 20 or 30 years down the road," Settle said. "I don't think we want to box ourselves in."

Settle also said he worried about the effect of a civic center on rush-hour traffic on San Vicente Boulevard, which runs to the east of West Hollywood Park.

"If we have a fire station at that location, what happens if traffic is at gridlock and there is an emergency?" Settle asked.

However, deBretteville and a majority of board members insist that neither expansion nor traffic congestion would be insurmountable problems for a West Hollywood Park site.

"The (shopping center) site does have the best potential for expansion," deBretteville said, "but the program we envision for building the civic center is a generous one. It should handle any expansion needs."

No Traffic Problems

And Crowe, a board member who favors the park site, said he saw no impending traffic problems. "If anything, San Vicente is under-used," he said.

Crowe was skeptical about whether a civic center project could spur growth on the city's east side.

"I would question whether a civic center could anchor any redevelopment," he said. "Look at downtown Los Angeles. The L. A. City Hall hasn't done anything to help Skid Row."

Crowe and deBretteville said that the east side could be better aided by a board proposal that would build new social and recreational buildings and facilities in Plummer Park, near the city's eastern border with Hollywood.

"By having projects in both parks, we think we would end up aiding both sections of the city," deBretteville said.

Once the City Council makes the final decision on a site for the civic center, the city plans to hold an international design competition to plan the structure of the project. City officials hope to have the civic center built by 1991.

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