Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Death Knell for the Ambassador

The clock is ticking on Wilshire Blvd., as the L.A. school board voted 4-3 to adopt Supt. Roy Romer's plan to demolish most of the legendary Ambassador Hotel.

The L.A. Times reports:

Under the plan, which was one of five being considered by the board, the Los Angeles Unified School District would preserve the hotel's arcade of stores, a coffee shop designed by architect Paul Williams and the historic Cocoanut Grove nightclub while razing most of the hotel, including its lobby, hotel rooms and adjacent bungalows.

The board's decision ends one chapter in the life of the hotel that has played a significant role in the history of Los Angeles and represents one of the last pieces of open space along the densely packed Wilshire Corridor.

The school district has fought to gain control of the hotel site for almost 15 years as a way to ease overcrowding in neighboring schools.

At the meeting Tuesday, board members clashed over how to best deal with the historic aspects of the hotel while creating more classroom space. The three board members who opposed the superintendent's proposal were Mike Lansing, Jon Lauritzen and David Tokofsky.

During a lengthy public hearing, more than 30 speakers — including civil rights leader Dolores Huerta; Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles); Kennedy's son, Maxwell Kennedy; and a host of community leaders, activists and concerned citizens — made poignant, sometimes tearful requests to alternately preserve the hotel, tear it down, or find a compromise.

Ken Bernstein, the director of preservation for the Los Angeles Conservancy, told board members that city residents "would surely never forget the demolition of the Ambassador." Nor, he added, would they forget "the elected officials who sent in the wrecking ball."

Conservancy officials said that the group's board will meet in the next few weeks to decide whether to take legal action against the district.

LA Observed has full coverage here.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Kennedy Cop-Out

The Kennedy family has no interest in helping save the historic Ambassador Hotel, according to stories in today's L.A. Times and Daily News.

The clan's position helps the cause of superintendant Roy Romer, who is pushing a compromise plan that saves some of the hotel -- including the hotel pantry where Robert Kennedy was assassinated -- but replaces most of the landmark structure with a new school building.

According to the papers, the LAUSD board members were already aware of the Kennedy family position: In an interview Thursday, Romer said the "feelings of the Kennedys are very important to me. I have thought about that before, and I will continue to think about it."

But Romer added that his job was to find a plan that would pass board muster, avoid lawsuits and get a school built while still acknowledging the historic value of the site.

"I know the community is divided, and I have tried to find a compromise," Romer said. "I have got to get this school built, because the children are going to be hurt if I don't."