The La Cienega Water Treatment Plant in Beverly Hills, marked for demolition, has been given a reprieve by the City Council in response to a judge's order for an environmental impact report.
The council's decision to rescind the demolition order Tuesday night was a victory for the Friends of the Waterworks Committee, which has been fighting to block the razing of the 60-year-old building because of its historical value. The city has disputed the group's claim.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jerome K. Fields last month ordered the city to conduct an environmental impact report, ruling that the structure has historical significance. Another court hearing is scheduled for July 8.
The judge's ruling and the reprieve has provided the city with an opportunity to investigate other uses for the building, said Ruthann Lehrer, executive director of the Los Angeles Conservancy and a member of the Friends of the Waterworks Committee.
However, Councilman Robert Tanenbaum said the council rescinded the demolition order only to conduct the report. The decision does not mean that the city is changing its position, he said.
Once the report is finished, which could take several months, the council will vote again on whether to demolish the structure.
Tanenbaum and council members Donna Ellman and Maxwell Salter support the demolition because, they say, it would cost too much to renovate the building. Mayor Benjamin Stansbury and Councilwoman Charlotte Spadaro said they want to study alternative uses for the building.
The cost of renovation has been estimated by city building and engineering officials at between $5 million and $7 million.
"We realize that the city is a reluctant partner," said Lehrer, who asked the city to work with the committee to determine other uses for the building.
"Originally when we went before the City Council, they told us that the building has no value . . . ," Lehrer said. "Now that the courts have told them what their (the council's) responsibilities are, we want to (convert) that obligation into an opportunity to save the building."
She said the building could be used as a library, a YMCA, a senior citizens center or an art gallery.
Built in 1927, the La Cienega water treatment plant, 333 S. La Cienega Blvd., was Beverly Hills' first civic building. The facility once was used to filter well water, but it was damaged in the 1971 earthquake and has remained unused.
City officials had planned to raze the 12,000-square-foot building and plant grass on the site as part of a program to revamp 14-acre La Cienega Park.
The city may face another obstacle in its quest to demolish the building. Pamela P. Cvitan, deputy state attorney general, said at Tuesday's meeting that the state Office of Historic Preservations will want to review the findings of the environmental report. Under state law an environmental report is required if a building has historical significance.