Residents who have fought a developer's plan to build an apartment building near the 50-foot boulder from which Eagle Rock gets its name declared victory this week after drawing the support of Mayor Tom Bradley and City Councilman Richard Alatorre.
Beverly Hills Developer Kenneth Bank has filed plans to build a two-story building and a 43-space parking lot on land next to the rock.
At a city Planning Department hearing Tuesday to hear public testimony, Alatorre and an aide to the mayor pledged to find city funds or help raise private money to buy the 2.6-acre site on which the boulder stands for use as a city park.
"If that doesn't create victory in a democratic society I don't know what would," Eagle Rock resident Geraldine McMahon said. "We've got the entire citizenry and the mayor and the councilman behind us. I'd say we've probably won this one."
Alatorre and the mayor's aide also said they oppose a proposed zone change that Bank needs to build his apartment complex. They said they will ask the Parks and Recreation Department this week for funds to buy the boulder.
The hearing came a day after a boisterous rally at the site early Monday morning at which more than 100 residents applauded speakers pleading that the land be used for a park.
"Rock, rock, Eagle Rock, everybody let's save the rock," chanted 10 Eagle Rock High School cheerleaders and a 65-member drill team as the school's entire marching band played in the background and a man dressed as an eagle danced.
The next morning, about 50 residents took a chartered bus to Los Angeles City Hall and sat at the hearing waving placards which read "Save Our Eagle Rock."
"There are 22,000 people in Eagle Rock whose lives will be made worse by the granting of that variance, and only one life will be made better," McMahon said to cheering at the hearing. "That of the developer."
Bank wants to build near Eagle Rock View Drive and Patrician Way, southeast of the rock, where the boulder slopes gently down to a relatively flat area. A three-story, 46-unit apartment building and one single-family home sit on the parcel next to the disputed site.
The southwest portion of the rock is a sheer cliff which looms imposingly above the Ventura Freeway. The cliff has an indentation in its face which produces an eagle-shaped shadow in the afternoon. The entire rock formation was declared a historical monument in 1982 by the city's Cultural Heritage Board but was not acquired by the city.
Bank is in escrow to buy the property from owner Fred Heim for about $130,000 but will not close the sale unless the zone change is granted.
The City Planning Commission is scheduled to consider Bank's case on Aug. 4.
Bank and Heim said they hadn't been contacted by the city regarding an offer to buy the property.
"I think that's terrific, if it actually comes to pass," Bank said. "That would be great. But we haven't seen any offers. . . . If they put an offer on the table, well, then we'll talk about it."
Heim, who said he just came to the hearing out of curiosity and made no effort to speak publicly, declined comment on what he would do if the city made him an offer for the property.
"I'm not a real estate developer," he said. "I was sold this property and never told there was a rock on it. Nobody ever said anything about this being precious to the people here."
Bank said the apartment building, on slightly more than half an acre, would not block the view of the boulder, and has offered to give the city 65% of the rock itself, along with 1.5 acres of the property if the city grants him a zone change. Since the rock is a city landmark, any building plans must also be approved by the Cultural Heritage Commission.
"The development of this particular building in no way involves obstructing the rock from many vantage points," Bank said. "Approval of my request . . . will accomplish what many people, as well as a slew of councilmen and city officials, have been trying to accomplish. That is, to gain control of the rock formation known as the Eagle Rock for once and forever."
But residents at the hearing disagreed.
'It's an Absurdity'
"Saying that building would only obscure a portion of the Eagle Rock is the equivalent of someone only covering a portion of the Statue of Liberty," McMahon said. "It's an absurdity."
The local residents group, the Eagle Rock Assn., has been joined in its opposition to the development by at least four other homeowners associations and Federation of Hillside and Canyon Assns.. Those groups say they see the fight to prevent infringement on the property around the Eagle Rock as part of the battle to preserve open space citywide.
The rally Monday morning had the flavor of a town meeting or a block party, with Eagle Rock High School students singing their alma mater, which lauds the boulder, while residents exchanged stories about hiking to the top of the rock as children.
Residents of the suburban community said they are tired of Eagle Rock's label as "somewhere between Glendale and Pasadena."
"If we have to, we're going to raise the money and buy this rock ourselves," resident Katie Smith said. "This rock is our identity, and we don't want to lose it."