15 Sep 2014
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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.

Great Hall-Long Hall Nominated for Historic Register Great Hall-Long Hall Nominated for Historic Register Great Hall-Long Hall Nominated for Historic Register Great Hall-Long Hall Nominated for Historic Register Great Hall-Long Hall Nominated for Historic Register Great Hall-Long Hall Nominated for Historic Register

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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