If LA can't protect Felix the Cat, what chance does Griffith Park have?
Only a few more days left! No, not for Knotts Scary Farm, as fun as that is. 9 days until we find out if Griffith Park will pass the next stage as an Historic Cultural Landmark - ie, be saved and protected from the developers.
Under this status, significant future changes in the park would require approval from the commission. (particularly building permits, which always go to Historic Resources. Unlike black bird balls, which DWP gaily throws all over Ivanhoe Reservoir without permission or even informing Historic Resources of their foolish action.) More details about the Disney-fied future of the Park WITHOUT protection are in my blog here.
The Cultural Heritage Commission and the public apparently had a very dramatic meeting in August, which I missed, damn. There, Councilman Tom LaBonge's assistant (he didn't show) said,
"he supports the historic-cultural designation for the park's buildings "but not an entire park."Tom has appointed himself Mayor of Griffith Park, but I realize now that he probably just means he's Mayor of the Ranger Station, the stables, and the bathrooms.
Rec & Parks (Jon Kirk Mukri) remained neutral. The Gene Autry Museum said they wanted to stay out of the Landmark designation. (probably worried that the $1 a year rent they pay to Griffith Park might double, or even triple. Plus, this way, they can keep building.) The LADWP also excused themselves from the designation. (LaBonge's main reason for disagreeing with the application: the Landmark status might adversely affect the rights of this utility to put in pipes. Good one, Tom!)
According to the Times and other witnesses I talked with, the Commissioner who almost stopped the whole application in the packed August meeting was Glen C. Dake. Dake followed LaBonge's thinking: what about the poor DWP? Would Landmark status mean no more water or water pipes in the Park? (This isn't Dake's first big conflict: he voted no to giving Felix the Cat on the Chevrolet dealership, Historic Cultural status, too!) But Dake was persuaded by the other 2 Commisioners to change his mind for Griffith Park, and say yes for the next Commission meeting.
I called Ken Bernstein at Historic Resources today to find out what the holdup is! This application was supposed to go through a couple of months ago, and the meeting with the Cultural Heritage Commissioners has been postponed twice.
The Commissioners are all volunteers. He explained that any application has to pass 3 out of the 5 Commissioners. In this case, one of the women had already been hired by Rec & Parks for something, and had to recuse herself. But last time only 3 Commissioners were there, and only 2 said yes. Ken said one of the Commissioners, Oz Scott, is a "well-known TV and film producer, so he's always going on location." (Oh, WELL then, that's ok, if he works in the industry!)
But the meeting for October 30 is still scheduled to happen, with 4 Commissioners. The HR staff itself will also weigh in with a verdict of yea or nay. The Commission does take the majority of the staff's recommendations (since those busy Commissioners are off doing their own thing, that's a good plan.) The staff's answer will be made public on Tuesday.
Ken wasn't able to tell me their secret verdict, of course, but I heard that smile in your voice, Ken! He did say this application was bigger than any they've ever gotten (350 pages, and a cost of $75,000.) He also said they got a couple hundred letters asking for Griffith Park to be given this Landmark status. This all sounds very positive, doesn't it?
But here's the kicker: remember my mention of Felix the Cat? Felix is NOT a Cultural Landmark. It did pass the Historic Resources Commission - in spite of Dake's no. But as you may know, the City of Los Angeles has some unholy alliance with the City Council. So of course after the Commission rules on a status application, it goes to the LA City Council. [Please cue the scary music.] And the Councilman for Felix the Cat voted no. And the whole application failed.
What do you think will happen if the Griffith Park proposal passes the Commission, and goes to Council? And Tom LaBonge gives his negative opinion? [Loud scream.]
To make a fuss (and I asked specifically - Resources Board considers emails to be the same as letters):
Historic Resources: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom LaBonge: email@example.com
Photo by Christine Cotter of the LA Times.