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Elks, City Lock Horns Over Proposed Lodge : Development: The structure, to replace a meeting hall lost to arson in 1986, is too industrial in appearance, a review board says.


GLENDALE — Seven years after the historic Elks Lodge was destroyed by arson, club officials are engaged in a scrappy fight with city officials to build a much smaller structure as a replacement.

The Elks earlier this year submitted a proposal for a one-story, tilt-up, fireproof concrete lodge that they say will serve just fine for their dwindling membership.

But city planners are unimpressed with the proposed $1-million structure, to be erected on a prominent downtown site at 120 E. Colorado St., where the old three-story Elks Lodge, built in 1917, went up in flames in January, 1986.

An appointed, volunteer design review board in May rejected the architectural plans for a new lodge as being too industrial in appearance and incompatible with the neighborhood, which is just outside the redevelopment zone and east of the Glendale Galleria.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday July 15, 1993 Home Edition Glendale Part J Page 2 Column 5 Zones Desk 3 inches; 84 words Type of Material: Correction
Elks lodge--A July 1 story on plans by the Glendale Elks to build a new lodge erroneously reported that the Elks have sued developers Howard-Platz for failing to meet terms of an earlier development agreement. While the agreement collapsed, the Elks have not filed formal legal action, said Kenneth L. Steelman, Elks president. He also said that while other members of the Elks board consider the proposed new lodge temporary, he sees it as permanent, and that although, as The Times reported, the Elks did receive an insurance settlement of $1.7 million, after legal costs that amounted to $1.1 million.

A hearing is scheduled July 14 before a city mediating panel, which will make suggestions and send the issue back to the design review board.

If the Elks and the board cannot strike an agreement, the Elks say they are prepared to appeal the case to the City Council.

"We do a lot of things for the city that people don't realize," said Kenneth L. Steelman, president of the Elks board of trustees, citing a litany of charitable deeds. He said members "are getting very sick and tired" of delays in the club's rebuilding plans.

Much of the delay was caused by the Elks' legal dispute with an insurance company, finally settled in March, 1992, when the Elks agreed to accept $1.7 million for the loss of their lodge.

Club membership has dwindled to about 420, almost half the number that belonged before the fire and far below a peak of 1,900 more than 20 years ago.

Members have been meeting for the past three years in rented quarters at the Elks Lodge in Pasadena.

"We want to get back in our town," Steelman said.

The club had planned to begin construction of its new headquarters last month, with completion expected in a year.

But the city's five-member design review board concluded that the Elks' new proposal doesn't "look like a community building."

Elks officials argue that it isn't supposed to be a community building.

"To me it's ridiculous," Steelman said. "I just don't understand why we are having troubles. We own the land."

Steelman said the proposed building might be only temporary and that the Elks might later build another facility. The $1-million price tag is the most the club would spend and includes the cost of all equipment and furnishings.

The club originally had grandiose plans in an agreement with a local developer to build a five-story hotel and lodge with underground parking on the prominent site. But those plans succumbed to the recession in early 1992. The Elks since have filed suit against developers Howard-Platz for failing to meet terms of the agreement.

The new plans call for a rectangular, 9,236-square-foot lodge on the rear portion of the lot. The building would include an assembly area, meeting room, recreation room, offices and kitchen. The assembly area would be large enough to accommodate 200 people for dining and dancing and could be used by community groups, said architect Joe Jordan of Burbank.

Surface parking would be provided for 129 vehicles on the front portion of the lot, which would be landscaped and protected with security fencing and gates.

Jordan said members are still considering using the front two-thirds of the lot someday for an office or hotel development, in which case underground parking would be built. He said design critics, who object to the proposed tilt-up construction and have called for incorporating more windows and other features into the architecture, are insensitive to the needs of a private lodge.

"There just isn't any other place to put windows," Jordan said. "And if we want a concrete, fireproof building, it should not make any difference how we achieve that."

The Elks have tangled with the city before. In 1985, just months before the fire, some members of the 125-year-old fraternal organization had complained that the dilapidated old lodge was too large and too expensive to maintain for the club's declining membership.

They had sought to have the lodge removed from the city's list of historic places so they could demolish the building and sell a portion of the site to raise money to build a new, smaller facility at the rear of the property.

Members of the Glendale Historical Society and other activists fought to save the building, which had a 750-seat meeting hall--one of the largest of any Elks facility in the nation--a separate auditorium, two dining rooms, two kitchens, a gymnasium, two taverns, an indoor shooting range and an emergency shelter.

The fire erupted before the City Council had a chance to rule on the Elks' request. No arrests were made.

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