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New Mayor Proposes Centers for Arts, Sports, Community


BEVERLY HILLS — During somewhat Spartan inauguration ceremonies Tuesday, Beverly Hills' new mayor and vice mayor unveiled an ambitious proposal for a public/private partnership to build a performing arts cultural center and a combined community center and sports complex.

Mayor Maxwell Salter and Vice Mayor Vicki Reynolds, who were installed at the ceremonies in council chambers, told an overflow crowd that although no city money would be spent toward building the projects, the city would offer land and its endorsement to the nonprofit groups that will raise funds for the facilities.

Salter said the city would offer city land in the industrial area to the Beverly Hills Family Y for a nominal charge of a $1 per year for a community center and sports complex. The Y has been looking for a place to build a replacement for its current facility on Santa Monica Boulevard, which opened in 1946.

The Y's new complex would house basketball, handball and squash courts, a pool and meeting rooms for community groups.

Reynolds said she is spearheading a proposal for a cultural center because the city needs to invest in cultural resources.

The city is "rich in many areas but not cultural resources," Reynolds said recently.

The proposal presented by Salter and Reynolds would not only offer the land to the YMCA in the industrial area but would endorse the use of the Crescent Drive Post Office as a cultural center. Reynolds said she would lead a private effort to make use of the space and that the city's arts and culture committee has already endorsed the concept.

Reynolds said during an interview Monday that the post office has moved most of its operations from the Crescent Drive station to the new Maple Drive office. Postal officials plan to maintain post office boxes and retail services at the Crescent station, but they are trying to determine what to do with the unused space, she said. The city also has an interest in the post office because the parking lots north and south of the building are city-owned.

This may be a "wonderful opportunity to bring a real cultural center to our residents," she said.

The building, which has served as the city's main post office since 1933, is already on the historic registry, Reynolds said. Features of the building include an entrance hall finished in marble, murals and a domed interior.

Reynolds said she and interested patrons envision a 700-to-900-seat performing arts center for performances of the Beverly Hills Symphony as well as dance, children's theater, plays and readings. The hall could host art exhibitions and an audio-visual display on the history of the city and its ties to the entertainment industry and role in California history.

Postmaster Koula Fuller told the council in March that although the post office has no intention of abandoning its lucrative retail service at the Crescent Drive station, it is conducting a study to determine how much space is actually needed for those services, with an eye to future uses.

Salter emphasized that no city money would be used for either project because of the city's financial woes. It is faced with a $5.2-million budget shortfall because of cutbacks in state allocations to cities. Salter said the council must determine how to cover the amount "so the city won't suffer a shortfall of services."

The mayor, who was selected based on the number of votes received in the last election, said, "The new reality is we simply have to do more with less."

To underscore the seriousness of the city's budget concerns, Salter limited this year's inauguration festivities to spring floral displays and a table laden with fruits, sweetbreads, gumdrops and batches of homemade cookies baked by Salter's wife. In years past, formal invitations were sent, and the affair was held under a tent with fancy desserts and chamber music.

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