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Wreckers Work as Long Beach Votes to Hire Preservationist

July 14, 1988|ROXANA KOPETMAN | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — While a wrecking ball tears apart two of the city's most historic buildings, the City Council unanimously agreed this week to hire a neighborhood and historic preservation officer.

Commenting on the irony, preservationist Renee Simon said: "Every cloud has a silver lining."

Simon, chairwoman of the Coalition to Preserve Historic Long Beach, joined other preservationists in encouraging the council to create a city Office of Neighborhood and Historic Preservation.

"We think it's a big step forward that the city is taking," Simon said after Tuesday's City Council meeting.

Mayor's Brainchild

Among other things, the new preservation officer will coordinate the preservation efforts of various city departments, agencies and commissions; serve as a city staff member for the city's Cultural Heritage Commission, and offer "one-stop service" to owners and developers who need assistance and advice regarding the restoration and reuse of historic structures.

The new office is the brainchild of Mayor Ernie Kell, who proposed it during his election campaign earlier this year.

At first, some council members expressed concern that the office would be too expensive. City Manager James Hankla has estimated the cost of the new municipal office at $113,000 annually. Hankla had suggested that the job be staffed part time, with the same person overseeing the recently created Office of Education. But Kell, who also proposed the education office, wanted each to be staffed by a full-time employee, and the council agreed to go along with his plan.

Councilman Wallace Edgerton said after the meeting: "It's very clear that people want to preserve some of their old neighborhoods and older buildings. Anything that accomplishes that, people are for."

Meanwhile, two historic buildings are being torn down. The castle-like Pacific Coast Club and the ornate Jergins Building will both make way for newer developments on Ocean Boulevard.

Kell, who last year voted against a proposal that would have saved a part of the Pacific Coast Club, said "the time is appropriate" for the new officer since there are other buildings "that we must protect."

40 Preservationists at Meeting

The council has been criticized by preservationists and others concerned about the destruction of historic buildings. About 40 preservationists, some of whom said they had interpreted Hankla's suggestion for a part-time officer as an indication of his lack of support for the office, attended a council committee meeting last month to pressure council members to back the plan.

Other California cities that have preservation officers, or people in similar positions, include Oakland, Pasadena, Sacramento, San Francisco and Santa Monica, according to a city survey. The Long Beach position will pay a higher salary than those cities pay--$52,000 compared to a range of $30,000 to $45,000. In addition, Long Beach will offer its preservation officer benefits totaling $26,300.

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