Great Hall-Long Hall Nominated for Historic Register

Protect Plummer Park members submit the application, but that doesn't prevent the city from demolishing the buildings.

members have filed papers with the state nominating the endangered Great Hall-Long Hall in for historic status. However, that nomination does not protect those buildings from being demolished.

The California Office of Historic Preservation will likely consider the Great Hall-Long Hall application at its January 2013 meeting. In the meantime, Francisco Contreras of the city’s Planning Department said that the city could, if it chose to, continue with its plan to use a wrecking ball on the buildings as part of the .

“I don’t think the [nomination] process precludes the city from moving forward with plans for Plummer Park,” Contreras told Weho Patch. “There are active permits [for Plummer Park] that were in place before the nomination was submitted.”

As part of its , the city planned to construct a 179-space subterranean-parking garage in the center of the park. Great Hall-Long Hall were slated for demolition as part of the digging for that underground parking.

halting construction that was set to begin in February 2012. The city has said it will hold more public meetings about the park and look at alternatives to the current plan before proceeding. However, the city has not yet scheduled any such public meetings.

Funding for the project is also now uncertain due to the state-mandated dissolution of the city’s redevelopment agency which was partially financing the project.

Even though the wrecking ball still looms overhead, Stephanie Harker, who spearheaded the group, told Weho Patch she is “cautiously optimistic.” She hopes the nomination will go through, the city will honor it and then rehabilitate the aging buildings. 

Historic Buildings

The conjoined Great Hall-Long Hall were constructed in 1938 by the Work Projects Administration (WPA), a U.S. government-funded Depression-era building initiative. Designed to create jobs for out-of-work Americans, the WPA built thousands of bridges, schools, parks and other projects across the nation.

Great Hall-Long Hall are the only WPA buildings in West Hollywood, two of only a handful of WPA projects in Los Angeles County.

“Many people in our community feel that [Great Hall-Long Hall] are important historic structures from Roosevelt's era,” reported Harker. “They are Spanish Colonial Revival style architecture; they are still functional and they are in the middle of an historic neighborhood. Demolishing them should never have been an option as far as Protect Plummer Park is concerned. The buildings should be designated and carefully restored."

Protect Plummer Park member Jennifer Dunbar, LEED AP, who has an historic-preservation architectural background, filed the detailed paperwork for the nomination with the Office of Historic Preservation in late June, submitting original drawings of the buildings, newspaper articles from the period, numerous photographs, etc. 

The OHP sent notice to the city about the nomination in late July. If it chooses to, the city has 60 days to respond, Contreras said. This information was made public last week when the city informed the Historic Preservation Commission of the nomination.

HPC Was Not Involved

Even though the city’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) was shown the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) regarding Plummer Park, it wasn’t involved in the final decisions regarding the Plummer Park master plan. HPC and the city’s other boards and commissions were only allowed limited input into the project.  

“When HPC reviewed the draft EIR for Plummer Park several years ago, some members, including myself, expressed dismay at the proposed removal of Great Hall-Long Hall, as well as alterations to Fiesta Hall,” HPC member Gail Ostergren told Weho Patch, “ but other priorities prevailed in the final plan.”

Contreras explained that the City Council understood that the buildings were important resources, but said, “They also heard from the residents that the need for a remodeled park with more green space was an overriding concern.” Thus, the City Council voted in 2010 to proceed with the demolition as part of the park redesign.

Harker noted that the city had been calling Great Hall-Long Hall “cultural resources” for years until it “wanted to demolish them, then they started calling them ‘outdated buildings.’ ”

As recently as August in the meeting agenda for the Successor Agency to the dissolved redevelopment agency, the buildings were referred to as “outdated building” (item 8.a).

Praise from HPC Members

Even though HPC isn’t involved in the final fate of Great Hall-Long Hall, Ostergren praised the nomination of the buildings.

“I’m happy to see that the Protect Plummer Park group has organized and educated itself about the process and has submitted a National Register nomination,” Ostergren said. “If nothing else, it demonstrates an increasing awareness of the value of preserving West Hollywood’s historic resources. The city’s preservation record will improve as community concern grows and residents demand it.” 

HPC member Bruce Kaye, was also happy to learn of the nomination.

“Preservation issues are ultimately decided in the political realm,” Kaye told Patch. “Community participation and engagement, however, plays a key role in our politicians’ appraisal of a preservation controversy. The Protect Plummer Park group is a good example of a community learning how to engage in the political process and to powerfully advocate for their interests and concerns . . . their submissions are of the highest professional standards and their presentations represent compelling community testimony.”

However, Ostergren confirmed that the nomination may have come too late to do any good. 

“Listing on the National Register is largely honorific, and in and of itself affords no protections from alteration or demolition,” Ostergren said. “Those protections come through the local zoning ordinances. Because the CEQA review had already been completed and the EIR and project plan approved for Plummer Park prior to submission of the nomination, there is nothing to stop the city from legally proceeding with the demolition of Great Hall-Long Hall.”

Kaye shared her fears about the demolition, but also holds out hope. 

“Their National Register nomination may be a Hail Mary, but you have to give them credit for not giving up until time expires and the game is finally and truly over,” Kaye said. “Like other West Hollywood residents, I’m leaning forward in my seat, awaiting a now uncertain outcome.”

Members of the public are welcome to review the plans and other documents regarding Plummer Park at the counter of the Planning Department on the second floor of .

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Brian Hamilton September 05, 2012 at 07:18 PM
I think we need to put names to this: City Councilmembers John Heilman and Abby Land don't give a damn what the citizens want.
Stephanie September 05, 2012 at 07:28 PM
All except D'Amico (who was not there yet) voted FOR the "plot" to put in underground parking thereby creating the necessity to kill 54 old growth trees and demolish historic buildings against the CEQA ruling. They will tell you that the citizens wanted it...I am here to tell you most of the citizens DID NOT want it and were basically given no alternatives. Certainly there was NEVER the option of historically restoring Plummer Park.
joninla September 05, 2012 at 10:26 PM
THANK YOU STEPHANIE FOR ALL YOUR WORK TO PROTECT PLUMMER PARK GREAT STEP HERE! :) CAN WE GET THIS PICKED UP ON LOCAL NEWS (like the elderly woman who's about to lose her home got from local KCBS I think. Publicity could really help)?
joninla September 05, 2012 at 10:41 PM
SPECIFICALLY "Because the CEQA review had already been completed and the EIR and project plan approved for Plummer Park prior to submission of the nomination, there is nothing to stop the city from legally proceeding with the demolition of Great Hall-Long Hall.” LEGALLY - THIS SOUNDS ALMOST EXACTLY LIKE THE 'SAVE TARA' CASE IN WHICH THE CEQUA RULING CAN BE OVERTURNED BECAUSE THE CITY FAILED TO GIVE "PROPER NOTICE" AS REQUIRED >>BEFORE ANY ACTION IS TAKEN<< TO APPROVE VALID CEQUA FILING!! Allegra - any thoughts? THE CA SUPREME COURT HAS CLEARLY RULED AGAINST WEST HOLLYWOOD AND SET PRECEDENT ON THIS EXACT ISSUE AND THREW OUT WEHO'S CEQUA REQUEST WHICH ENDED UP SAVING 'TARA'. BEST OF ALL, THE CA SUPREME COURT RULED DIRECTLY ON WEHO'S NOTICE BY FOLLOWING THE LETTER OF THE LAW REQUIREMENTS FOR MINIMUM NOTICE >>> DOES NOT NECESSARILY MEAN PROPER NOTICE WAS GIVEN WHEN LOOKING AT THE WHOLE SITUATION AS A WHOLE<<< Tara was small compared to the LACK OF NOTICE and INTENTIONAL HIDING of any pre-planned decisions for the Plummer Park $41 Million Dollar Project. I think ANY Superior Court would throw out the City's CEQUA approval in a second based on all the ongoing demands for basic information notice, input and preservation. IT MAY NOT BE TOO LATE - LEGALLY SPEAKING AS as "Gail Ostergren" is quoted as giving a legal opinion and a member of weho's HPC.
hillsman wright September 06, 2012 at 03:15 PM
This nomination marks a milestone in the Protect Plummer Park movement. I hope the group will now press forward to seek a nomination for the remaining historic Rancho landscape - the 54 old growth trees - many of which were an original part of the Rancho. I firmly believe the citizens of WeHo would not tolerate the destruction of 54 irreplacable historic "structures" in such close proximity that these trees represent. If the city is hellbent on spending the bond money, assuming that the funds survive the dissolution of the redevelopment agency, then construct a revenue neutral parking structure on the site of the adjacent car wash with retail and restaurant space at street level. Not only would this garage serve the park and remove a blight on the streetscape, it would also spur economic development by serving the neighborhood and surrounding businesses. Ms. Harker, Ms. Dunbar and the many others working to Protect Plummer Park have shone a spotlight on an unfortunate episode of an over-reaching city government. Yes, Plummer Park needs some TLC to enhance its beauty and usefulness to the community, but the insensitive over-planned consultants-run-amock mega-project strikes at the very heart of community ownership of scarce recreational greenspace. This plan represents government process and public policy at its worst. Finally, it seems our elected representatives and public servants are beginning to listen to the voice of the people.It is not too late to save Plummer Park.


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