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Community Meeting Set on Plummer Park Overhaul

With many residents opposed to plans for an underground parking garage, city to hold meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday to address concerns over the park's redesign.

Much of is scheduled to close in early 2012 as construction begins on a $41-million redesign of the Eastside park.

With many residents having questions and concerns about the renovations, the city is holding a community meeting Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the park’s Community Center. Members of the design team will be on hand, as well as the landscape architect and arborist.

The redesign of the park is intended to create a more cohesive park, according to construction manager Dan Adams, who will also be at the meeting. More than an acre of green space will be added, while additional shady areas will be created.  

“Instead of several different areas, this is intended to make the park feel like one single park,” said Adams, who also served as construction manager for the . “The sightlines throughout the park will be better and it will improve safety.”

Underground parking

The major component of the park's master plan calls for the construction of a 179-space underground parking garage, running from Fiesta Hall to the tennis court area.

Once that parking garage is completed, the current parking lot off Santa Monica Boulevard near the Community Center will be converted into a garden area. Even with the elimination of that surface lot, the underground parking will have 69 more parking spaces than the park currently has, Adams said.

But it is the underground parking garage that has residents in an uproar.

“The whole thing hinges on the underground parking,” said Stephanie Harker, who is spearheading opposition to the renovations. “The whole park is being torn apart just for underground parking. If they want extra parking, just build a parking deck at the north end of the park along Fountain instead.”

In digging for the subterranean parking, almost all the trees in that central part of the park will be removed, including the large old-growth trees, but the city is reassuring residents that Plummer Park will still stay green.

“Plans call for most of the trees to be replaced when the park renovation is completed,” reports Helen Collins, senior administrative analyst at City Hall. “There’ll be even more trees than there are now.” 

Demolition of Great Hall/Long Hall

The garage dig will also mean that Great Hall and Long Hall, two adjoining buildings connected via a courtyard, will be demolished.

That upsets Harker, who points out the Spanish Colonial revival buildings were constructed in the 1930s 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. 

“Those are the only two WPA structures in the city,” Harker said. “They’re a community meeting place. They’re a cultural asset to the city from a historic time. They should be preserving them, not tearing them down.”

The Russian library currently housed in Long Hall will be moved to a city-owned building at 7362 Santa Monica Blvd. “We’re sensitive to the fact that the Russian library needs to remain in the area,” said Collins, “so it will move across the street.”

Meanwhile, the Audubon Society, a nonprofit conservation group focused mainly on birds and wildlife, which has been housed in Great Hall for almost 70 years, will have to find a new home.

“Unfortunately, we currently don’t have a place for the Audubon Society,” Collins said. “They need a larger space than anything we can provide.”

New pre-school building

The parking garage dig will also mean the Tiny Tot pre-school building will be demolished and rebuilt with a modern building. With that new building will come a new playground area, or “Play Cove” as the city is terming it.

During construction, the children can attend pre-school in . Harker says that will be inconvenient as parents who walk their children to the pre-school will now have to drive them across town. The city has no plans to run a special shuttle for the tots, but Collins points out there is the city-run transit system.

Fiesta Hall will be completely remodeled and expanded. When finished, it will house a state-of-the-art theater with 131 new permanent seats. The lobby will be moved to the north side of the building, where the courtyard currently is.

But those renovations will see Fiesta Hall get a new curving roof, which Harker says looks like a flying saucer, “Can’t they at least make it fit with the existing building?"

The park overhaul will also see the creation of a “Great Lawn,” a reading grove with lots of benches and a giant fountain area.

Timetable

Construction on the park could begin as soon as February, according to Adams, depending on how quickly all the paper work is completed and construction bids start coming in.

The Community Center at the south end of the park will remain open throughout construction. On the north end, the tennis courts and parking lot, which houses the weekly , will also remain open. However, since the central part of the park will be fenced off, the only way to get from the northern end to the southern end is to use the sidewalk along Fuller or Vista street.

The little panhandle area of the park, which opens onto Fuller, will remain open as long as possible, reports Adams. “We want to give people some green space as long as we can,” he said.

Although completion is scheduled for August 2013, Adams thinks it might be sooner.

“It is the city’s intent to open up the park as early as possible,” Adams said. “What I think we’re going to witness is a rollout of the opening. As soon as we can get that parking garage open, we want to open it to the public. The playground area could be open early as well, so I think it will open very gradually.”

Still to be worked out are the staging area for the parking garage and the haul route for the dirt. Adams says that will be discussed at Tuesday’s meeting.

Harker and others have attended numerous public meetings about the park, but say their comments were ignored. Now, they’re circulating a petition stating their opposition to the renovation, hoping the City Council will stop it before its too late.

“They keep saying they’re doing this for us,” Harker said. “In fact, they’re doing this to us. We need to stop it.”

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Ali October 12, 2011 at 01:41 AM
I agree. Save those buildings. The park is fine as it is. Maybe just spruce it up a bit but don't completely destroy it like they want to. In addition to affordable housing, how about some low income housing?
Lynn Russell October 13, 2011 at 03:45 PM
Everyone involved in the Master Plan completely missed the inspiration and the original charm of the park itself, what it means to the community and just who makes up the community. From the outset the leaders wanted to leave THEIR imprint and appear to have been either accidently oblivious or purposefully neglectful in allowing the park to deteriorate and get along as best it could. The community has made it vibrant. The correct plan would be very simple and direct..... restore and rejuvenate the original ambiance and its features........it was a spot of nature with the appropriate unobtrusive structures in an architectural style that was natural and comforting. It was the best WPA could do after a difficult period in time. The simplicity of it all could teach us a great deal. Parks are a place to unwind and restore one's soul in the midst of a city.......not to be over run by car culture, parking caverns, parking attendants and worries about time restrictions and parking tickets.
joninla October 30, 2011 at 10:18 PM
"The Simplicity" about which you suggest is an obvious lesson, I am sad to say, is way off base. The City Council knows the difference between the Simplicity you are referring to compared to their total Destruction and Rebuilding of "A FLAT PARK". They not only know the difference. In fact the City Council's greatest FEAR is the possibility that they will run out of unnecessary and overblown projects which they can plan and approve and then spend from the massive annual budget the City has. Spending is fun. But being given perks, kickbacks and other forms of personal financial gain by ..... Let's say a Developer who's business is BUILDING UNDERGROUND PARKING GARAGES .... They "pay" or "contribute to" the Council Members to "DECIDE FOR THE CITY" to spend the City Money on THEIR idea, project, plan. The next thing we hear, the City has been doing studies, surveys and the biggest problem facing the City and the only/best fix is .... A massive underground parking for the park ..... Having it totally planned and in progress before announcing it or having the first 'show meetings' to hear the residents input. It was a done deal before the first announcement was made. BACK ROOM POLITICS ... as usual in WeHo
Lynn Russell November 29, 2011 at 08:23 PM
Dear Joninla, I have often read your comments and found many credible but often you manage to twist ideas around to suit your moods. You can dish all the venom you want against the city and that does not help any of us. Please come with some even handed solutions and come out in the open.......like for instance come to some city meetings and identify yourself if you truly want to make a difference or make a legal challenge against them. Many of of are knowledgeable about your suppositions and charges but becoming cynical for the sake of expressing cynicism it is a dead end for sure. You can never intimidate someone into giving you a fair hearing and crafting a better plan.
joninla December 05, 2011 at 07:44 AM
First of all - I do apologize for the lack of clarity/grammar/repetition in my posts. I suffered a stroke almost a year ago which has severely impaired my ability to write coherently. Further, if using a mobile device, the problem is multiplied by the limits of the device. As for GOING TO CITY MEETINGS? For what purpose. There is a clear pattern of no effective outcome from however many people make passionate pleas for actual logical and rational concerns. I could watch the proceedings on Public Access if I had any interest in following the details of a repetition of a pattern of a City being run without cause, care or concern for the Residents interests. Sure there are a lot I nice things about WeHo, that's why I live here. But how much greater a place it would be if the financial resources ($41 Million here, $13 Million there) were used to enhance Social Services, Transportation, Cost of Living, Tree PRESERVATION. Any inaccurate assertions I may have made being untrue would be a happy surprise and would be glad to be wrong. I am only making my repeated posts when I see something VERY WRONG going on. The problem is not that there are so many 'bad' people in the world, but rather the number of 'Good People' who do not choose to see or speak up about what is truly wrong. The issues I've commented on have no affect on me personally, but affect my community and I've begun to see the problems and choose to speak up.

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