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Public Just Can't Get Enough of the Getty

The arts: As crowds overwhelm the new center in Brentwood, officials rethink the admittance policy.

March 18, 1998|SUZANNE MUCHNIC | TIMES ART WRITER

Struggling to cope with the overwhelming popularity of the $1-billion Getty Center in Brentwood--and bracing for an even larger demand during the spring holiday period--the J. Paul Getty Trust has issued a warning that visitors who arrive at the center without parking reservations may encounter long lines and possibly not be admitted.

Before the center's Dec. 16 opening, as an international media frenzy drew attention to the new cultural complex and whetted the public's appetite to see it, the Getty's estimates of inaugural year attendance escalated from 1 million to 1.5 million. But more than 500,000 people have visited during the first three months of operation, so the projected total has jumped to 2 million.

Parking reservations--which are required for all automobiles--are booked until October, except for a few slots late in the day, said Lori Starr, the Getty's director of public affairs. Most public programs are booked through March.

Visitors who couldn't obtain a reservation for one of the center's 1,200 parking spaces have been encouraged to take a bus, shuttle or taxi to the Getty. But those who use such alternative modes of transportation must wait until visitors with parking reservations are admitted. Many drop-in visitors have experienced significant delays, particularly on weekends.

On days when the Getty reaches capacity, public bus, taxi and shuttle companies and hotel concierges will be asked to inform their patrons that no additional visitors can be accommodated, Starr said. Parking is restricted in surrounding neighborhoods; passengers who are dropped off at the center must be driven onto the premises and will be subject to delays.

Public interest in the Getty has so exceeded expectations that trust officials are considering alternative reservation systems to ensure access and reduce waiting periods. Using a major commercial ticketing agency is one possibility, but no decision has been made, Starr said.

The trust is exploring possibilities, and if it instates a new system, will honor all existing reservations.

The Getty's 24-hour information and parking reservation line is (310) 440-7300.

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