The Beverly Hills City Council said this week that the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History can use Greystone Mansion as a satellite facility if a specific proposal can be worked out within 90 days.
A committee made up of two council members, a school board member, at least one city staff member, a member of the Greystone Foundation citizens' committee and representatives of the museum will meet to work out the details, which will be brought before the full council for final approval.
An agreement would allow a research facility and space for either a permanent or traveling exhibit at the 60-year-old, city-owned mansion.
Last month, City Council members said they were interested in the museum's general proposal but were not willing to make a preliminary commitment until the city staff studied it.
At a City Council study session Tuesday, the staff reported that museum officials had not provided adequate information to properly assess the proposal.
The report said the primary use of Greystone would be for research and educational programs, not for exhibitions. "Its benefit to the Beverly Hills residential community would appear to be limited," the report said.
City Manager Edward S. Kreins said in the report that because of the lack of information, the museum should no longer be pursued as a prospective tenant.
But James R. Gilson, the museum's attorney, said no additional information could be provided without a commitment from the City Council that the museum could lease the 55-room, 46,000-square-foot facility. The museum also sought exclusive negotiating rights for the Greystone lease for at least 90 days.
Gilson said a research center has always been a part of the museum's proposal, but that the museum was willing to make exhibition space as large or small as the city wanted.
"We recognize that the community and museum's desires with respect to the exhibition program may vary over time and that therefore flexibility to adapt to any such changes will be required of all parties," Gilson said.
The specific allocation of space will be decided by the committee, but both the City Council and museum officials suggested that the split would be about half, but probably no more than 60% of the space for exhibits.
The museum's proposal calls for 30 staff members and about 150 visitors weekly.
The museum still expects to spend about $2.5 million to remodel Greystone for its purposes. The city would still be responsible for bringing the mansion up to current building and safety codes at an estimated cost of $3.5 million.
Museum officials said they would have about $600,000 annually for operating costs, including research programs. They said they do not plan to operate a gift shop or restaurant.
The staff report also noted that with the museum as a tenant, the city could lose about $300,000 annually because it would be unable to rent Greystone for film productions.