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Where's the Party?

The World's Biggest Cities Have Big Plans to Ring In 2000. What's Happening in the Capital of the Pacific Rim? We Asked Around, and the Answer Isn't Very Civic.

March 09, 1997|FRANCES ANDERTON

As the clock ticks toward the turn of the 21st century, the world is gearing up for a big celebration.

France, Germany, Great Britain, Australia and other countries and cities across the globe are well into their millennial plans; they're using 2000 as a deadline, or excuse, for a major civic renewal and display of national pride.

So what's going on here? Not a whole lot, a few hundred phone calls reveal.

In late 1995, an editor friend in my native country, England, asked me to keep tabs on millennium planning in Los Angeles. A year later, I reported in: no news. As he regaled me with the eye-popping schemes underway in the old country, I decided I hadn't been diligent enough. Surely this city of the future, over-the-top in everything it does, must have some secret plan in the works.

In December 1996, my first call is, naturally, to Mayor Richard Riordan's office. Press aides sound bemused by the notion that the mayor should be spearheading a millennial program. They will pass on my request but recommend that I "talk to the folks in city government or Cultural Affairs." After leaving a message for Al Nodal, general manager at the Department of Cultural Affairs, I call the Library Department, which tells me, "We're trying to get by tomorrow." They are starting their 125th anniversary and "haven't thought of anything else."

At the Department of Recreation and Parks, I call for the president of its Board of Commissioners, Steven Soboroff, but the staff suggests that I contact Griffith Observatory, which they think "might be doing something." There I find a glimmer of millennial consciousness. The director, Dr. Ed Krupp, tells me they have no firm plans yet, but that the "Griffith Observatory is presently engaged in renewal, expansion and upgrade of the building and planetarium theater and will be opening in the millennium season." In that way, he points out, "they are building for the next century" and celebrating the millennium in the sense of it "being a symbol of renewal," rather than "the end of the world."

If anyone should know anything, it would be the L.A. Convention Center and Visitors Bureau, wouldn't it? A spokesperson there tells me, however, that she knows of nothing special yet, but "we do great events, we will do something." On her recommendation, I leave a message for the director of Cultural Tourism. And I don't hear back.

What about the City Council? I call the president, Councilman John Ferraro--after all, he was instrumental in making the '84 Olympics happen. But his press secretary tells me, "You may be ahead of us; no one knows anything about any special activities planned so far."

To Los Angeles County then, and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. "Pathetic as this sounds," says his representative. "I'm not aware of anything that the county might be celebrating." He refers me to their "Office of Protocol," where I duly leave a message. I get a call back from Al Nodal at Cultural Affairs, who tells me there's nothing planned yet, but the folk arts division is starting up and, yes, there's something in the air. "We're in the planning stages now; we'll be having a conference about it in April."

From there to the city agencies, the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the Community Redevelopment Agency. John Molloy, administrator at the CRA, tells me that his agency has "talked about this a lot," particularly as it's having its 50th anniversary in 1998. Staff members are discussing the idea of making some of their ongoing projects the focus of celebration but are not yet sure how to frame it. The MTA simply says that "by the year 2000, we will have completed a major portion of the subway."

I decide to focus on the smaller communities and try the Southern California Assn. of Governments, where a spokesperson reminds me huffily, "You're early, the next century begins in 2001. People can't count from one to 10." He suggests that several cities--Pasadena, Redlands, Whittier and others--are currently more concerned with their own anniversaries of incorporation than with the millennium. Nonetheless, I contact some of the other cities--Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Inglewood, Pasadena, Long Beach--and come up with little, except assurances that they'll keep me posted. The Pasadena Tournament of Roses is slightly more advanced. We have "plans to make some great plans," declares Jack French, its cheery CEO. Even Johnny Grant, unofficial mayor of Hollywood, has nothing in the works, but he says he's going to a meeting with the Chamber of Commerce. "I'll pose the question and let you know."

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