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City Hall Rededicated Amid Calls to Keep L.A. Together

April 27, 2002|KENNETH REICH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles City Hall was formally rededicated Friday in an elaborate ceremony designed to make the seismically retrofitted structure a symbol of municipal unity just as the city faces a secession movement.

"This is the City Hall of Venice, of San Pedro and of Valley Village," Mayor James K. Hahn told a crowd of about 1,000. "This is the City Hall of a great, great city. Some want to break up this city, but I don't think we should allow that to happen."

Friday was the 74th anniversary of the original dedication of City Hall. After the $299-million modernization was completed last summer, an earlier rededication had been planned, but the terrorist attacks of Sept.11 inspired security precautions that caused a delay.

The new date allowed officials to plan a ceremony they hoped would prove a powerful argument for unity. They hung huge photographs of the first dedication from the west portico and retained actor Kent McCord to read the 1928 dedication address.

"This monument symbolizes the soul of struggling, fighting, building people, never knowing defeat and always climbing upward, until today it may be said of them: This is their city. They have created it; they have transformed it from a sleepy Spanish-California pueblo to one of the mightiest communities of a continent," he read.

Many believe the words of 1928 still apply, said Edward Avila, head of Project Restore, the nonprofit corporation that shepherded the renovation.

"This city, like City Hall, has changed dramatically, but the interests of its people are the same,'' Avila said after the ceremony. "It would be in the best interest of all of the citizens of Los Angeles to retain the city as it is today. That is the best way to retain all of the services we have today."

The project began during the Bradley administration after the 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake, which caused some damage at City Hall.

The project was subject to sharp debate after Richard Riordan replaced Tom Bradley as mayor. Riordan, stung by ever-growing cost estimates, wanted to restrict the work to seismic retrofitting and not a broad modernization of the building. A blue-ribbon panel appointed by Riordan and then-City Controller Rick Tuttle proposed a $165-million plan.

But the council opted instead for a broader plan, with an eventual price tag of $299 million, that included a refurbished City Council chamber, new council offices and conference rooms.

The renovated City Hall is now designed to be able to withstand an 8.1 magnitude earthquake on the San Andreas fault, 40 miles north of the city, and a 6.8 quake on the Elysian Park fault, which passes only a mile away.

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