Imagine whole galaxies brought to you through the courtesy of a large aerospace corporation, or a museum piece consisting of an entire Victorian mansion sponsored by an offshore drilling conglomerate. Sound strange? Not really. Under a Los Angeles city plan called LAndmarks '90, Southern California's business community will be able to fix up some of the area's favorite attractions while brightening its own image. Los Angeles' Department of Recreation and Parks is wooing large corporate residents to contribute funds to renovate and improve the Griffith Observatory, the Point Fermin Lighthouse and the Banning Residence, among other facilities. The program is expected to raise several million dollars in the next few years by putting an old scheme to work: asking corporate giants to give something back to the community. But now the scheme comes with a twist.
The city expects its invitations to be met enthusiastically because, instead of appealing for ever-dwindling philanthropic dollars, it will offer potential corporate sponsors something in return: access to the facilities that they help renovate on terms that will not reduce public access. In fact, in many places public access will improve as a result of LAndmarks '90 efforts. For instance, LAndmarks '90 hopes to open the Point Fermin Lighthouse to the public for the first time. In exchange, contributors can use their "adopted" landmarks for marketing, public relations or corporate functions.
The marriage of private dollars and public works is nothing new. But it's still nice when public and private interests mesh like this. There are probably many more opportunities like LAndmarks '90 that are waiting to be discovered. If the city handles these special facilities well, Landmarks '90 could serve as an example for many such joint ventures. Landmarks '90 recognizes a simple fact: Philanthropic funds, with no strings attached, are everybody's first choice, but cutting a deal with a corporation doesn't mean selling one's soul. Nor does it have to mean selling the rights to a cherished property. We hope for a warm reception to LAndmarks '90, both in the private community and in the public eye.