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Five Years of the Getty

Legal dispute dogs Villa expansion

December 15, 2002|Christopher Reynolds

It was scheduled to open long before the Getty's fifth birthday. Now an expanded and renovated Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades may make its debut in 2005.

The villa, a reproduction of a 1st century Roman country house, was the original Getty Museum (from 1974 to 1997). Its once and future task is to display the collection's core holdings in Greek and Roman antiquities, 50,000 sculptures and other objects from the 3rd century or earlier.

The plan: Build a new entrance, including a 450-seat amphitheater, and a new restaurant to replace the site's old tea room, expand the bookstore, renovate museum galleries to increase light and display possibilities, relocate an auditorium, construct an administration building and a central plant building (including heating and cooling systems) and two parking structures.

The complex will grow from 134,000 to 210,000 square feet, and from 291 to 560 parking spaces.

Getty officials say some of the project is already complete, including work on the 64-acre property's ranch house, which will house a library and curatorial and conservation offices, among other tasks.

Renovation of the museum building is about 80% done, and construction of the central plant is in early stages.

The cost: An estimated $275 million, which marks a $125-million increase from estimates four years ago and matches the estimated construction cost of Walt Disney Concert Hall downtown.

The delay: In 2000, the villa's neighbors, concerned about noise and traffic issues, prevailed in a Superior Court lawsuit to halt much of the expansion work. Previous disputes with neighbors had resulted in a conditional-use permit that limited the facility's operations, including a ceiling on guest traffic, which in the mid-'90s was estimated at 400,000 visitors yearly.

This year, in late October, a state appellate court reversed the Superior Court decision. This month the neighbors appealed the case to the state Supreme Court, which typically has 90 days to accept a case for consideration or deny it.

A court spokeswoman said the justices accept 3% to 5% of the appeals that reach them.

The next step: If the appellate court's ruling stands, Getty officials could pull construction permits for the disputed parts of the project as early as February 2003. It will take about 30 months to finish the entire project once that construction begins.

-- Christopher Reynolds

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