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Pan Pacific's Fate Cloudy as Development Plans Collapse

May 31, 1987|MATHIS CHAZANOV | Times Staff Writer

Plans to develop the Pan Pacific Auditorium in the Fairfax district as a hotel and film center have fallen through, and the fate of the sea-green structure, famed for its bold, curving facade, will have to be reconsidered, Los Angeles County Supervisor Ed Edelman said Thursday.

"We're going to have to make some critical decisions as to whether we're going to go ahead and try to start the process again, so as to save the outside of the building, or to say we've tried all these years and we can't get a development to make it financially viable as well as preserve the historical aspect," he said.

In the latter case, the county may have to "just take it down and save what we can, so as not to get in trouble with the historical preservation people, and put some green space in there," Edelman said.

Financing Not Obtained

The decision came after the Somerset Group, a hotel development company, failed to secure the financing needed to proceed with the $30-million project, despite lengthy extensions, Edelman said.

Spokesmen for Somerset were not available for comment, but Don Zerfas, a partner in the firm, said in January, 1986, that design and financing of the project were turning out to be "much more complicated than we originally anticipated."

Although Edelman said Somerset did valuable work in preparing plans that could be used by another developer, he said he was disappointed that nothing came of a project that he hoped would save an architecturally significant building and help upgrade the neighborhood.

The building, abandoned for years, was painted in 1986 to eliminate graffiti and spray-can drawings by underground artists lured to the site by its broad walls and visibility from Beverly Boulevard.

Graffiti Reappears

However, the graffiti have reappeared in recent weeks, leading neighbors to complain to county officials.

Edelman said the complex process of winning state approval for the project was also a factor in the collapse of plans for the project, which was first unveiled in January, 1985. The land belongs to the state.

"By the time things get through the process, sometimes the financial situations change," Edelman said in an interview.

Under an agreement worked out among various government agencies after the purchase of the property from the estate of the automobile magnate Errett Lobban Cord for $10.45 million in 1979, the county administers the auditorium and an adjacent park, which doubles as a flood-control basin.

The auditorium, built as a temporary structure to house an appliance show in 1935, is located off Beverly Boulevard in a neighborhood of shops, small apartment houses and single-family homes between Fairfax Avenue and La Brea Boulevard.

It was used for hockey games and political conventions and was the venue for Elvis Presley's West Coast premiere in 1957. Designed by architects Walter Wurdeman and Welton Becket, the wooden structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and its facade has been listed as a city historical-cultural monument, according to Ruthann Lehrer, executive director of the Los Angeles Conservancy, a preservationist group.

Lehrer said the historic designations offer some protection for the structure, "but not a lot."

Impact Review Required

Because of the federal listing, the county will have to order an environmental impact review if it decides to dismantle the building, she said.

"This provides an opportunity for community groups and pressure groups to get involved and challenge and what have you," she said.

The municipal listing means that the facade cannot be demolished or renovated without approval by Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission, but "no landmark designation ever protects a building in perpetuity," Lehrer said.

The delays in arranging financing for the project led Gary Essert, artistic director for American Cinematheque, to announce in Cannes, France, on May 14 that the planned film and video center will not be located in the Pan Pacific Auditorium, as originally planned.

According to a report in the Hollywood Reporter, he said that the offices of the cinematheque already have moved into the recently renovated Hollywood Roosevelt hotel.

He also said that negotiations were under way for the theaters, cafe, bookstore and exhibition gallery that will make up the cinematheque to be housed in an old Arthur Murray dance studio on Hollywood Boulevard.

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