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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

If LA can't protect Felix the Cat, what chance does Griffith Park have?

UPDATE: The Historic Resource Staff (which is not the 5 Commissioners, but has influence over them, DID vote yes!) Also, contact emails to let your voice be heard are added at end.

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: ken.bernstein@lacity.org
Tom LaBonge: rory.fitzpatrick@lacity.org

Photo by Christine Cotter of the LA Times.

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Anonymous Anonymous said:

While I did think the Felix the Cat sign had some special charm, I would think that choices in the field have become pretty slim when a commercial sign marking a used car dealership was the best that we could find for bestowing the historical status. Is that all we can find in Los Angeles for such designations?

Griffith Park, on the other hand, is literally nature’s haven for places and things, a surviving spot of greenery in the city where such formerly common views of nature, with its foliage and fauna, are rapidly disappearing from the land in favor of continuing development spreading more concrete, stucco and steel as the alternative.

Development is city council's middle name and I expect each of them to give lip service to the application and then find a way to allow Griffith Park to remain in the running for developers to ply their trade, business as usual.

I WOULD like to know what is the course of action that the preservationists want from the public at this time- letters to the council members asking that Griffith Park be designated a historical site or exactly what?

Email, phone calls to individual CMs offices, faxes or any other expression of support that even CMs could not ignore?

Narrowing the request to specific assistance could help interested persons to channel their actions toward the desired result, just specify the request. I would like to remind you of the way they sometimes avoid personal accountability for decisions- “Let’s put it out for the voters to decide”; If they get enough response, as to each CM, they may not accept the message, but they cannot deny that the constituents have voiced an opinion that they will either accept and follow, or ignore and have to explain later, maybe during their campaigns for re-election to council or for election to another office.

Do you remember the vivid demonstration of opinion that the “toilet brushes” sent to Tony was about? He got the message, not that it improved his performance but his boldness in speaking out on this was toned down, while he moved along with his own warped quest.

The CMs should always be put on notice, in any event, so they don’t have room to later squirm out of their anti-constituent actions- “Well, I really wasn’t apprised of the opposition to the decision until after the vote was concluded. They should have let me know explicitly with some timely information. But I AM here to serve my constituents. … blah, blah, blah.”

What can we do here?

In Eagle Rock

October 21, 2008 8:20 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

October 30 for the commission meeting has not been confirmed yet.

Sweetie, if you care so fucking much about GPark, where the hell were YOU last Wednesday? We were all at City Hall speaking on behalf of the Griffith Park application during City Council public comment. Just wonderin', honey-pie.

October 21, 2008 8:53 AM  

Blogger Petra Fried in the City said:

->> 8:53, who exactly are you?

-->> By "In Eagle Rock"'s (8:20's) request, here is the info on what you can do to help with the Cultural Monument proposal for Griffith Park.

From: Webmaster wm@savegriffithpark.org

Griffith Park Landmark Status,
A No-Brainer, Almost A Non-Starter

Fortunately, Good Sense Prevails, and Thanks to the Public, the Process Continues

Although the City's Cultural Heritage Commission voted to investigate the merits of the Griffith J. Griffith Charitable Trust's application to have the Park designated an L.A. landmark, for a few tense minutes on the morning of August 21st, it looked like the nomination was dead.

An aide to CD4 Councilmember Tom LaBonge informed the Commission that while her boss was a preservationist who supported the application, "he did not support the designation," signifying that LaBonge will kill the initiative as soon as political cover can be arranged. LaBonge's aide offered no thanks from the council office to Colonel Griffith's great-grandson Van, for the Trust's long history of contributions to the Park. Instead, throughout CD4's remarks, the aide referred to the Griffith Family, who were present at the hearing, as the "Griffins."
Although landmark designation has no effect on infrastructure matters, at the behest of LaBonge, two City departments mouthed half-hearted concerns about its potential impact on their operations in Griffith Park. The DWP fretted about its water pipes that run under the Park and its powerlines that cross it, even though only one person has repeatedly expressed the desire to rid the Park's hills of overhead wires: Tom LaBonge. The Bureau of Sanitation breathed similar fears - that the designation would interfere with its sewage lines and trash pick-up. If any of these concerns had merit, Los Angeles would have no Historic Cultural Landmarks at all, including City Hall.

The one City department that mattered, Recreation and Parks, went on record as supporting the designation, expressing confidence that, as at other Rec & Park properties that are Historic Cultural Monuments, protocols would be worked out that would make the designation an asset, not a drag on park planning or maintenance.

Before the public spoke, some 30 of whom endorsed the designation (many representing organized groups), the Autry National Center in Griffith Park was allowed to weigh in. Its attorney-lobbyist from powerhouse Latham & Watkins proceeded to bite the hand that had fed and nurtured the museum since its founding two decades ago. He demanded that the 351 flat acres called the Griffith Reservation, that came into the Park in 1922, be bounced from consideration, since they were not a part of the original rancho grant. Barring that, he asked the Commission to remove the Autry's 12-acre portion of this area - a $1 a year leasehold - from landmark protection. Ostensibly about the preservation of western history, the Autry was asking to be exempted from the history of Los Angeles, not only advocating the partitioning of the Park but giving everyone present a new definition of our local heritage: Gene Autry historic, Colonel Griffith not.

When all was said and done, the application was accepted. The Cultural Heritage Commission toured the Park on September 4th and the panel will decide whether or not to recommend the designation to City Council at the CHC meeting now scheduled for 10 a.m. on October 2nd, (probably October 30th now) Room 1010 City Hall, 200 North Spring Street downtown. If you can, please attend.

In the meantime, forcefully express your views to City Hall. Tell your elected officials that you support the Griffith Family's Application to have all of Griffith Park declared a City Historic-Cultural Monument. The unfounded assertion that the designation be limited to certain parts of the Park only, will not only diminish the identity of Griffith Park as a whole, but will leave parts of the Park unprotected from possibly unwise and unsupervised development (as well as ineligible for historic funding). Landmark status for the Park will confer on it the same honor and protection enjoyed by many other parks and sites in Los Angeles. While it would not prevent further development, it would help to insure that historical aspects of the Park are preserved and that the people of Los Angeles have notice and opportunity to be heard in advance of significant developments.

Make your views known by sending letters or e-mails to the Cultural Heritage Commission, Councilmember Tom LaBonge, your own Councilmember and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa:

Cultural Heritage Commission
Office of Historic Resources
200 North Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Councilmember Tom LaBonge,
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa,
or your elected city official
200 North Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

October 21, 2008 9:19 AM  

Blogger Michael Higby said:

Why so tense 8:53? You sound mental. You must be one of those park acorns that is about as mental as the bus wackos.

Real people who are concerned about issues do the best they can. Many of us have day jobs. We can't spend eight hours downtown when half the time the officials holding the meeting screw up and you don't get to speak.

October 21, 2008 9:22 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

8:53 If you wait until the hearing to speak your 2 minutes, you haven't been doing the best you can, and you'll likely lose. Do you think councilmembers come into meetings with no idea how they will vote? They don't even pay attention during public comment time.

October 21, 2008 1:11 PM  

Blogger Petra Fried in the City said:

From: SaveGriffithPark.org
Sent: Tue Oct 21 13:32


At the end of this message you'll find the staff report & recommendation on landmark designation for Griffith Park that will be the subject of the eagerly anticipated Cultural Heritage Commission meeting next Thursday. This Special Meeting is open to the public who are invited to speak on behalf of the nomination. If the Commissioners agree with staff – and the hundreds of favorable letters they have received from individuals and civic groups throughout the City – the issue will then go to City Council for a final determination.

A big turnout is absolutely essential to help the Park clear this critical hurdle so we urge you attend and bring other Griffith Park supporters with you. The meeting takes place Thursday, October 30th at 10 a.m. in Room 350, City Hall, 200 N. Spring Street.

Be sure to sign in and fill out a comment card when you arrive.

In the meantime, here is recent media coverage of the initiative to gain the honor and protection of L.A. Historic Cultural Monument status for Griffith Park.



October 21, 2008 1:32 PM  

Blogger Donna Barstow said:

This comment has been removed by the author.

October 21, 2008 3:30 PM  

Blogger Donna Barstow said:

8:53, thanks for writing, and for the sweet words!

Do you remember the story of Martha and Mary in the Bible? http://gbgm-umc.org/UMW/jesusandwomen/marymartha.stm

I believe Mary probably had a pen in her hand.

October 21, 2008 3:32 PM  

Blogger Donna Barstow said:

petra fried, all great info - thanks so much.

October 21, 2008 3:34 PM  

Blogger Donna Barstow said:

Anonymous at 8:20, thanks for asking. Good point, and I added emails to the post.

Just a request asking that Griffith park be designated a Cultural Landmark is all it takes.

You are correct: an old sign is an example of something old to save in LA, but is not nearly as important as the Park! However, I did go to sign school, so I think as an example of good and powerful design, that, the exterminator sign (forget the name) and others, do deserve to be saved, too.

October 21, 2008 3:38 PM  

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