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Education and City History

September 25, 2004

The Ambassador Hotel battle is not a symbolic one -- it is about roughly 3,900 children residing in the neighborhood being shut out of nearby overcrowded schools, forced to attend schools outside of their neighborhood and on the unacceptable Concept 6 school calendar. A Concept 6 school year has only 163 instructional days versus the traditional calendar year of 180 days, limiting learning by nearly four weeks per school year.

Over the K-12 experience, that amounts to losing a full year of instruction. The recent settlement on inadequate education for poor children acknowledges the inequity of the Concept 6 school year and cements the district's agreement to phase it out by 2012.

The neighborhood groups opposed to the use of school construction funds for preservation are largely made up of parents whose children are not being adequately served by L.A. schools, not individuals who want to take a symbolic stand against preservation. Parents simply want to enroll their children in a quality institution, not a retrofitted, dilapidated one that has fewer educational amenities and enrichment programs in the name of preservation.

Ann Marie Tallman

President, General Counsel

Mexican American Legal

Defense and Educational

Fund, Los Angeles

*

The Ambassador Hotel and I were born just four months apart, and I lived there as the granddaughter of the vice president/general manager and daughter of the manager from the opening in 1921 until I was 17.

What a wonderful opportunity the LAUSD has to be creative and make the hotel into a treasure of a school, as it has been a treasure of Los Angeles. Studying the history of our city on the site of so much history would be an extraordinary learning adventure for youngsters. I hope the school board will be bold in its decision. There are so many stories within the 23 acres and 500 rooms, and the board has the power to keep them alive for future generations.

Carlyn Frank Benjamin

Los Angeles

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The Robert F. Kennedy assassination site should be preserved. Acoustical tests performed in Dallas for the House Select Committee on Assassinations proved that shots recorded by a police officer during the 1963 John F. Kennedy assassination were filed from multiple directions. Similar tests could be performed in the Ambassador Hotel pantry for use in analyzing audiotapes -- one of which was recently discovered -- recording gunshots during the RFK assassination.

The autopsy findings already show strong evidence of gunfire from multiple directions. They show that RFK was shot from the rear at a sharp upward direction from a muzzle distance of up to three inches. Sirhan Sirhan, by contrast, was standing face to face in front of RFK holding a revolver in a horizontal position three feet from the senator.

Even before Sirhan's appeal got underway, police destroyed door frames and ceiling panels containing bullet holes depicted in official photographs.

Lawrence Teeter

Attorney for Sirhan Sirhan

Los Angeles

*

The Los Angeles Conservancy wants to clarify one statement made in your Sept. 20 editorial on the Ambassador Hotel. The conservancy board has not yet made a decision on whether to sue the L.A. Unified School District should board members vote to demolish almost all of the historic hotel. Our board will make that decision only after reviewing the project's environmental impact report and the results of the final vote.

The conservancy continues to believe that the preservation solution would provide the best school. If school district officials had put as much energy into making the preservation option work as they have in putting up obstacles, they would have voted on this issue a full year ago and construction would now be about to begin.

Roland A. Wiley

Board President

Los Angeles Conservancy

*

Re "Sure, Trash It; It's Only a Part of Our History," Commentary, Sept. 19: Hurrah for Gale Holland and her commentary assailing recent attacks on venerable Los Angeles buildings, neighborhoods and historical sites like the Ambassador Hotel, "a monument not only to Hollywood glamour," in Holland's words, but "a profound moment in Los Angeles and U.S. history -- the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy."

Holland's concern for the preservation of venerable Los Angeles buildings and historical sites echoes a respect for the past found in the lives and writings of some of the most celebrated intellectuals and writers in Western culture. Consider several examples: Thucydides in his "The History of the Peloponnesian War," written beginning in 431BC: "My history has been composed to be an everlasting possession, not the showpiece of an hour." Shakespeare in "The Tempest" : "What's past is prologue." Lord Byron in his journal (Jan. 28, 1821): "The best of prophets of the future is the past." Respect for the past, Holland reminds us, is respect for the very essence of what it must mean to be human at all.

James R. Beniger

Manhattan Beach

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