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Nolan Balks at Use of Landmark for La Canada Offices : Officials See Historic Lanterman House Doubling as Museum and City Hall

October 08, 1987|ESTHER SCHRADER | Times Staff Writer

An assemblyman who helped secure state funds to refurbish the historic Lanterman house in La Canada Flintridge says he is dismayed that the city is considering moving its offices into the landmark rather than preserving it solely as a museum.

Assemblyman Pat Nolan (R-Glendale) inserted a $500,000 allocation to restore the 73-year-old California Craftsman-style house into a bill signed by Gov. George Deukmejian last week.

Nolan, who is traveling in Europe, said through a spokeswoman that city officials never discussed plans to place offices in the Lanterman home when they approached his staff about the refurbishing.

No Mention of Offices

"We supported the allocation of the money on the basis that it would be used solely as a historical monument," Nolan spokeswoman Anne Richards said. "The whole point of the funding is that the house would be a museum and not that it would be city offices. That was never brought up before."

La Canada Flintridge City Manager Don Otterman lobbied both the assemblyman's local office and his staff in Sacramento to gain inclusion of funds to rehabilitate the house in a revenue-sharing bill. In spite of Nolan's opposition, Otterman said, city officials remain enthusiastic about the use of the Lanterman home as a City Hall.

The $500,000 state grant to rehabilitate the house is not related to plans to locate city offices in the structure, he said.

Two Sources of Money

"There's always the alternative of using their money to restore the museum part of it," he said, "and using our money to put in the city offices."

Otterman said that using the house for city offices is one of many options being considering to relieve crowding in its administrative quarters. The city rents two adjacent offices in a Foothill Boulevard office building for about $65,000 a year.

A legislative aide who worked on the bill said that placing city offices in the Lanterman home would be an inappropriate, but not illegal, use of the state funds. The grant, designated to go to the city via the state Department of Parks and Recreation, is part of a bill that splits about $24 million in revenue from oil drilling on state tidelands. Richards said 80% of the funds are earmarked for park projects statewide.

La Canada Flintridge employs 10 full-time staff people who work in the Foothill Boulevard offices. The City Council holds its meetings at a building in Descanso Gardens.

"Sometime down the road the city does need new offices," Otterman said. "We're really bursting at the seams. We've got to do something."

Fund Use Restricted

Otterman said the city plans to use the state grant to refurbish only the part of to be used as a museum, using city-generated funds to remodel the upstairs ballroom as offices.

In August, an architect hired by the city to study the feasibility of renovating the home as a City Hall and museum endorsed the proposal after a six-month study. The architect, Jim Spencer of the Pasadena firm Spencer & Arroyan, estimated that bringing the building up to code would cost the city about $1 million.

To raise the other $500,000 needed for improvements not met by the state grant, the city would form a private, nonprofit corporation to issue bonds, at an estimated cost to the city of $140,000 a year. Otterman said the money saved on rent could be used to finance part of the restoration.

Adequate rental space is limited in buildings along Foothill and the city lacks the funds to construct a City Hall, Otterman said. Those factors may make the Lanterman house the most viable alternative for La Canada's expanding city government, he said.

City officials have been evaluating the cost of building a new City Hall and the cost of rehabilitating the Lanterman home for use as a museum only, while keeping the rented city offices. They are also considering moving some, but not all, city offices into the home.

The city's plans to renovate the house as City Hall surfaced early this year when former owner Lloyd Lanterman willed his family's historic home to the city, stipulating that it be used for civic or community purposes. The house is the one-time residence of late Republican Assemblyman and La Canada patriarch, Frank Lanterman, Lloyd's brother.

City officials have filed an application for a conditional-use permit to allow use of the house for city offices. The city has also hired a consulting firm to prepare an environmental impact report. The report will be discussed at a public meeting Oct. 15.

The city's plans met immediate opposition from neighbors, who said that a City Hall would introduce traffic, noise and disruption into a residential neighborhood.

Quiet Neighborhood

The Lanterman home, on 1.3 acres in the 4400 block of Encinas Drive, is in a quiet neighborhood of narrow, tree-lined streets about a block from Foothill Boulevard.

Otterman said city officials will await results of the environmental impact report to determine if putting City Hall in the residential-zoned neighborhood will adversely affect the community.

"I hope that we can come up with a compromise that's going to restore a historic old building and that will allow the city to use it for city offices with the blessings of the neighbors," Otterman said.

"The setting is great. It's a beautiful, historic structure. It could be rehabilitated to be really attractive."

Walking through the dusty landmark last week, Otterman stopped for a moment in a downstairs bedroom and looked around. "It would be nice," he said, "to have an office with a fireplace and a whole history to go with it."

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