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Council Having Trouble Taking Show on Road

Government: Outside of downtown, city owns few places big enough for meetings--and those are often booked up.

September 18, 1997|HUGO MARTIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles City Council is learning what it must be like to organize a Rolling Stones road show.

Council President John Ferraro's plan to hold regular meetings throughout the city is running into the same problem that big-name rock bands face: finding venues big enough for the events.

The quest is to find city-owned buildings that can hold the 15 lawmakers, their staff, a truckload of television and recording equipment and the 250 or so residents who typically attend meetings.

The idea behind Ferraro's plan to take government on the road was to make it more accessible, addressing the complaint that City Hall is too distant and inaccessible.

But in the vast expanse that is Los Angeles, the city has found that it owns few buildings that are underused and can hold more than 200 people.

Ironically, the few city-owned structures that fit the criteria are in downtown Los Angeles, only blocks from the city's regular council chambers.

"We are scrambling to find the locations because the locations are the hardest thing to find," said Pat Healy, the city clerk's executive officer, who is taking the role of the council's road manager.

At the request of Ferraro, several city departments have created a list of all city-owned meeting rooms. Although the list is long--it includes libraries, municipal buildings and auditoriums--many of the locations are within a few blocks of the existing council chamber or do not have adequate parking or access for the handicapped.

The city's Recreation and Parks Department has several auditoriums and recreation centers that can hold well over 300 people.

Those include the Lake View Terrace Recreation Center (capacity 600), the Westwood Recreation Complex (capacity 575) and the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro (capacity 270).

But to use those facilities, city recreation officials say, they may have to preempt regularly scheduled bingo games or line dancing for senior citizens.

For example, the Friendship Auditorium near Griffith Park can hold 450 people but is regularly rented.

City officials are also considering the use of high school and college auditoriums. Again, the problem is that the council would have to work around the schools' schedules.

Although Ferraro was the lead proponent of the idea, he says that spending too much on the meetings might defeat the purpose of holding them throughout the community.

"I don't think people will appreciate spending a lot of money to bring our dog and pony show to their neighborhood," he said.

This is not the first time the council has talked about holding regular meetings outside of City Hall. And it is not the first time the idea has run into problems.

Two years ago, the City Council quashed a plan to hold four meetings a year outside of downtown, saying that meetings in the past have been costly and poorly attended.

Since then, the council has had a handful of meetings outside of City Hall. But Ferraro believes the idea would be more successful if the council were to hold regular monthly community meetings that were advertised far in advanced and held at a permanent location.

The first meeting under this plan is tentatively scheduled for next month, somewhere near Hollywood--depending on the availability of a meeting site.

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