By Aaron Blevins, 12/29/2011
Grassroots Group Prompts WeHo to Reexamine Renovations
It appears the grassroots effort to curb the proposed Plummer Park project has succeeded. Changes are coming to Plummer Park, but they’ll be sifted through a new-look subcommittee first.
The project subcommittee, initially comprised of Mayor John Duran and Councilmember Abbe Land, has been altered and will reconvene in the coming weeks at a meeting with the project’s design team. At Duran’s recommendation, he will be replaced on the subcommittee by Councilmember John D’Amico, who has a background in architecture and urban planning.
The project had been nearing its construction phase, with a groundbreaking expected in January or February. Now, the city is hoping the subcommittee will be able to offer new recommendations by late February.
“Hopefully, it will be a better project for it,” city senior management analyst Lisa Belsanti said. “It’s not without a lot of angst.”
Belsanti said the design team, consisting of architectural firm Brooks + Scarpa and landscape architects OLIN, will meet with the subcommittee to find realistic alternatives to the current plan, which features underground parking, the razing of Great Hall/Long Hall and the renovation of Fiesta Hall, among other things.
“They’re going to look at everything,” she said. “It’s not to say the current plan won’t be in the mix.”
The subcommittee will also take into account the costs associated with any adjustments, Belsanti added. The current plan would cost approximately $41 million, as part of the city’s $125 million, 25th Anniversary Capital Project. The entire project is being funded through reserves in the general and parking funds, bonds and private money.
Belsanti said the city does not know when construction will commence, but she encouraged residents to call city hall if they have questions.
“It’s especially hard for seniors and people with children who have incorporated that park into their daily lives,” she said. “We just want folks to feel comfortable reaching out.”
Cathy Blaivis, a member of Protect Plummer Park, said the group is pleased that the city is rethinking some aspects of the plan. Several members of the West Hollywood community had been outspoken about the project, and some organized an Occupy Plummer Park event in November.
“It was good news in the sense that it sounds like they’re abandoning the underground parking,” Blaivis said.
That had been a contentious aspect of the plan. Opponents feared that subterranean parking would result in the loss of 54 old-growth trees that provide shade, and also force the park to be closed for a considerable amount of time during construction.
While opponents are grateful, the city’s action does not come without concerns. Blaivis said she doesn’t know how the current architects, who specialize in modern and ultramodern architecture, would be able to tweak their design to fit with neighboring structures and the historical status of Plummer Park.
“It is good news,” she added. “I’m just hoping that the community … has some sort of a dialogue [with city officials] this time around. …We have guarded optimism.”