The critics of the Angels Gate Cultural Center in San Pedro took their act uptown Thursday and staged a press conference. But the Boy Scouts ran away with the show.
The place: the Greater Los Angeles Press Club, where bartenders sling drinks while reporters and their subjects shuffle in and out of a dimly lighted auditorium, prodded by a manager who tries to keep each media event on schedule.
The topic: problems at the Angels Gate Cultural Center, a private, nonprofit corporation licensed by the City of Los Angeles to run arts programs and classes at Angels Gate Park.
The organizers: Anne Alberts and March Beagle, critics of the cultural center. They invited Loggie La Gatella, scoutmaster of Troop 1253, to join in their plea for the public to pay attention to what's going on at Angels Gate Park.
A Common Adversary
The Scouts have but one tenuous connection with the cultural center: their meeting house is in Angels Gate Park. But the Scouts and the cultural center critics share an adversary--the city Department of Recreation and Parks, which plans to raze the troop meeting house as part of its master plan for converting Angels Gate, a former military installation, into a landscaped city park.
Collectively, the critics and the Scouts call themselves the Committee to Return Angels Gate Park Land to the People.
The press conference was set for 10:30 a.m. TV was there. Radio was there. Print people were there. Representatives from Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores' office were invited but didn't come. Neither did anyone from Recreation and Parks, nor from the cultural center.
At 10:40 a.m., Alberts took her place on a dark stage behind a pod of microphones, flanked by Beagle, La Gatella, two harbor-area scouting officials and two Scouts, ages 8 and 11, dressed in uniform--hats and all.
The red lights of the cameras flicked on. Film rolled.
"Who are we?" Alberts asked into the microphone. "We are the nine-to-five workers and their children, the artists, joggers, painters, the community at large. We are not big business, land developers or yacht owners.
'Shuffled Out' of Park
"We are the little people who pay the biggest bite of city, state and federal taxes, and we are being shuffled out of Angels Gate Park land with no voice and no representation, by the biggest business of all--our elected city, state and federal government. . . .
"So we have turned to the voice and conscience of the people--the press."
Alberts, and then Beagle, aired their concerns about the cultural center--issues they have spent the last several months outlining in letters to various government officials. They charge that the recent election of cultural center board members was rigged because it was structured to ensure the reelection of all 13 incumbents. They said the center is mismanaged, and called for the executive director, Roberta McFaden Miller, to be replaced.
Cultural center officials say the center's bylaws governing elections are confusing and are now being revised, and insist that the election followed the "spirit" of the rules. As for Miller, board President George Beck said recently that the board stands by her and that she has done "a super job."
The Los Angeles city attorney's office, meanwhile, is reviewing what effect the challenged election will have on a new lease agreement pending between the city and the cultural center. Alberts and Beagle called for a decision soon.
Homeless Boy Scouts
Such complex issues, however, do not make for nearly as captivating a story as homeless Boy Scouts. When the Scouts took center stage, the big-city reporters sat up and took notice.
According to La Gatella, his troop had a deal with the Recreation and Parks Department: If the Scouts fixed up the World War II-era building on Angels Gate land, they could use it indefinitely. He said he had a vision for the building as a gathering place for Scouts throughout the harbor.
La Gatella said his troop and two Cub Scout packs, which began using the meeting house in January, spent $700 and 1,100 hours making improvements to the building. He said recreation officials have decided to raze the building out of "sheer spite" because they think the Boy Scouts are "troublemakers."
Recreation officials tell a different story. Diane Gill, harbor district recreation supervisor, said the Scouts' one-year permit expires Dec. 31 and that the building will be razed after that because it does not conform to health and safety standards. Eventually, she said, all the buildings at Angels Gate will come down to make way for a landscaped park. The meeting house, Gill said, is simply the first to go.