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.”
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.
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.”