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Loss of Facility, Higher Costs Feared : Critics Assail Plan to Raze Stables

December 03, 1987|LYNN STEINBERG | Times Staff Writer

More than 500 people filled the Lake View Terrace Recreation Center on Wednesday night to protest plans to raze the Hansen Dam Equestrian Center.

Los Angeles city officials want to entice a developer to spend from $400,000 to $800,000 on a new facility that would be built on the same 25-acre parcel. The facility would include show rings, a clubhouse and expanded boarding facilities. In return, the developer would win a 20-year contract with the city to run the center.

The existing stables, a fixture in Lake View Terrace for more than 35 years, are in a state of disrepair. Inspectors from the city's Department of Recreation and Parks have found inadequate electrical wiring, overflowing cesspools and broken bleachers.

Paint is peeling off the buildings, which have had no significant improvements since they were erected, and broken fences are held together with wire.

Some at the hearing were concerned about the time it would take to erect a new facility and the additional expense of using it. And some expressed fear that the stables would not be replaced once the property is cleared.

"We don't know what we're going to do without these stables," said Stacia Crane, leader of the Sunset Equestrian Team. "Please help us save these stables. Give us some place to keep our horses, something to keep us going."

Tom Petrique, an administrative assistant in the city parks department, said the existing facility eventually must be torn down. But he said city and federal officials will consider extending the lease of the current concessionaire.

Charles Walls, who has run the stables since 1970, was told in November that he had until Jan. 1 to vacate the facility. His 12-year contract with the city expired in 1982, and he has been on a month-to-month lease for five years while the city and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided what to do with the property.

The equestrian center, in the Hansen Dam flood control basin, is owned by the corps, which leases it to the parks department. The city, in turn, contracts with the concessionaire to operate and maintain the center.

Residents from Lake View Terrace and surrounding communities have acknowledged that the stables are an eyesore, but they have been critical of city officials for proceeding with demolition plans before there is a commitment from a developer to replace the existing facility.

"We don't object to building a new facility there," said Lew Snow, vice president of the East Valley Horse Owners Assn. "We would like a new facility. But only if and when there is a signed, sealed and delivered proposal to replace the current facility."

Two previous attempts by the city to attract proposals from developers failed. The first in 1985 was unsuccessful because developers were unable to secure liability insurance, said John Ward, assistant general manager for the Valley region of the parks department. The second attempt soured when the stock market recently plummeted.

Residents and members of equestrian groups have garnered support from several elected officials--including Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City), state Sen. Alan Robbins and Councilmen Ernani Bernardi and Joel Wachs--in their quest to save the stables. Representatives of those officials and the Corps of Engineers also attended the hearing.

About 70 horses are boarded at the stables, and their owners complain that it will be difficult to find similar accommodations elsewhere because other stables are more expensive. Petrique said his own informal survey showed that boarding a horse at Hansen Dam cost at least $70 a month less than at other, better-maintained stables in the area.

Among the services provided are lessons for members of the Sunset Equestrian Team, a nonprofit group. The group leases horses for $4 an hour--a fraction of what it would cost elsewhere.

"If you tear down the stables, you will be denying thousands of kids the chance to ride and compete in horse shows," Heather Deroo, 12, said at the hearing. "I think it would be a terrible tragedy."

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