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Councilman's Swing Vote to OK Demolition of Civic

December 03, 1987|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | Times Staff Writer

A Glendale city councilman who will cast the tie-breaking vote that will determine the fate of the historic Civic Auditorium said he has decided in favor of demolishing the 49-year-old building, a popular home to antique shows, beauty pageants and high school dances.

Councilman John F. Day said in an interview Tuesday that he made the decision after he was booed, hissed and heckled at a "Save the Civic" rally held Monday at the auditorium.

The council for years has been unable to agree on whether to remodel and expand the structure or replace it with a new auditorium, convention center and meeting rooms.

Until now, Day has not taken a public stance, and the other four council members are evenly divided.

Richard Cross, president of the Royal Canyon Property Owners Assn., which sponsored the meeting, said many longtime residents want to see the auditorium preserved because it is an integral part of their lives in Glendale.

He said the building is structurally strong and is "historic simply because it is old."

Representatives of a dozen other homeowner and civic groups in addition to city and Glendale Community College officials participated in the meeting.

Day left the rally after a heckler yelled that his allotted speech time was up and others booed and hissed.

"I will not bore you any further with my comments . . . nor my presence as well," Day said as the audience applauded his departure.

On Tuesday, Day said the attitude of the audience "certainly helped in my reaching the conclusion that the Civic Auditorium ought to be torn down."

He added: "I was frankly appalled at the tone of that meeting. I didn't go there to be abused or ridiculed, and that was precisely what happened. If they intended to change anyone's mind, they failed miserably."

Concerned About Traffic, Parking

The reaction came after Day told the audience that he was concerned about traffic and parking problems at the auditorium, where parking lots are used by students who attend Glendale Community College across the street.

Many residents said they fear traffic will worsen if a new auditorium is built to replace the Civic.

Day told the rally that he was undecided about preserving the auditorium, but said, "However it comes down, don't run me out of the neighborhood if I don't happen to be on the same side as you."

Day was not the only council member to come under fire at the rally.

Mayor Ginger Bremberg, a staunch supporter of preserving the building, was sharply criticized by a resident for giving "feeble excuses" when Bremberg said she does not know the details of a study, still under way, of traffic problems at the auditorium and college.

"I did not come here to be abused," Bremberg answered angrily.

Councilman Larry Zarian said he "was surprised at the disruption and disrespect that was shown to council members."

While he said only a small number in the audience participated in the display, he added, "It is not a good thing to allow people to get out of hand."

Day's decision gives the council the three-fifths vote necessary to approve construction of a new auditorium.

Bremberg said she expects the council to vote on the issue in January.

Bremberg and Councilman Carl Raggio have said they favor renovating the Civic and adding convention facilities for meeting halls and banquets, which would cost about $5 million.

Zarian said he favors a plan to build a convention facility--at a cost of about $13 million--because the current auditorium is inadequate and the expense to replace it will be exorbitant.

Councilman Jerold Milner also favors construction of a new civic center, phased in over a period of 15 years or more.

Formal studies on improving the auditorium complex have been conducted for years, and new studies are under way.

However, council members said the immediate decision is to determine if the old auditorium should be preserved or demolished.

Many of those at Monday's rally insisted that the Spanish colonial-style structure, built as a public works project in 1938, has historic value.

They reminisced about attending dances in their youth and the role of the auditorium in community celebrations, such as the annual Mayor's Prayer Breakfast.

"I'm 50 years old, and I don't want to be torn down," said one woman, who did not identify herself. "I'd like to be renovated."

Mary Ann Prelock, a leader in the "Save the Civic" campaign, told council members: "The Civic is a landmark. It would be a tragedy to destroy a living piece of this community."

Others, however, said the auditorium has outlived its usefulness.

Earl Williams, a local resident, said: "I do not consider this building qualifies in any sense of the word as historic. It should be torn down and a new facility built."

Robert Winter, a historian at Occidental College who has written a guide to architecturally significant buildings in Los Angeles, said in an interview that he purposefully omitted the Glendale Civic from his list of outstanding buildings.

"I hate to ever see anything old go," he said, "but the Glendale Civic is not terribly exciting."

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