Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A City in Denial: Implications of Demolishing the Fickett Library

Last evening at the West Hollywood Council Meeting the Edward H. Fickett, FAIA designed West Hollywood Library was brought to the table once again; this time through Closed Session, as well as General Session.  Obviously the City feels the threat of litigation as they went into Closed Session to discuss this issue of demolishing the Fickett Library.

I met with the Council Members, City Manager and City Attorney during the Closed Session last night as a document Mayor Duran had delivered to Mike Jenkins, City Attorney, on July 18, 2011 had generated some heat.   I spoke during the Closed Session and pointed out the City's errors.  It is unbelievable they can sit there and not want to take what I am saying seriously.  The damaging discovery I have made through reviewing a multitude of documents only points fingers at the City and how far off track they are with their Master Plan, only setting the City up for major litigation.  As we have support through LA Conservancy and MODCOM, the City should get prepared for a wave of litigation not only with the community at large, but with the County as well as the changes in scope of the project have dramatically changed from the inception.

During the Regular Session, open to everyone, we had about 60 people turn up in support of saving the Fickett Library and requesting the City to find adaptive re-use solutions.  LA Conservancy's MODCOM group decided to have their monthly meeting AT the Council Meeting.  We had good representation.  The only thing was the first round of General Comment was eaten up by others and we were only able to get Mina Chow, USC Architecture professor to stand before the Council and recognize the amount of support we had in attendance by asking us all to stand.  I have to say, it was impressive.  She also spoke about adaptive re-use concepts of the site and how important the Library is to the community as it "exemplifies many of the principles of mid-century modernist architecture.  The indoor/outdoor spatial connections, the exploration of planar geometry in the roof ceiling, which we see as an early study into the possibilities of an origami piece of architectural seen through it's floating ceiling.  This simple unadorned structure and its material details allow a visitor to define and predominate the building."

As time ticked on and the clock with hitting close to 11pm, many people left, as they felt defeated by the general political drama that unfolds within the landscape of West Hollywood politics.

When time finally came for General Comment at the end of the Agenda, we certainly had a powerhouse lined up.  Regina O'Brien, Chair of MODCOM spoke first during this portion of comment, "Edward H. Fickett played a very pivotal role in shaping the look of what is now West Hollywood- he is this City’s major Architect!"

Joycie Fickett followed with her impassioned response to the City telling her in 2004 that the Library will not go anywhere and it is not of threat for demolition.  She also brought up the fact that as of late, every time she approached any City Official, their response was always, "Where were you in 2004 during the Public Comment period?"  Simply stated, she answered, "I never thought the Library was going to be a threat as she was told over and over again, the Library was safe."  She continued mentioning the awards given to her late husband for the Library.  There were a total of four awards given to Mr. Fickett for this project, alone.

I got up after Joycie and again and spoke directly to Mike Jenkins, the City Attorney.  I sited our discovery once again of paper and resolutions that supported our position.  I continued to point out and show the Attorney as I held up about 3,000 pages of documents relating to our discovery.  I had pointed out the fact the scope of the Master Plan had changed dramatically since the inception where the Library was removed from the project and any mention or reference to the demolition of the Library was not a part of the Master Plan.  Currently, as we all know the City has decided to demolish the building by sticking the demolition into their Capital Project and hence, changed the scope of the project substantially causing major legal conflict with the CEQA guidelines in relation to CEQA violations inrespect to Title 14, Article 11, Sections 15162 and 15165. 

I also pointed out the MND's performed back in 2003 and 2004 had indeed set apart the Library from the project.  When I contacted both agencies handling the historical analysis and the other MND issues, both Myra Frank and Associates and Tom Dodson and Associates confirmed with me,  “The Library was never to be a part of this project and was removed through and errata sheet. At the beginning of the Master Plan.”  I addressed Mr. Jenkins and asked how he could be so irresponsible of letting a City walk into litigation.  (We also had choice words for one another after the meeting had been adjourned, as I never back down nor will be bullied by these folks.)

Citizens of the community, along with more MODCOM members, followed me.  We were all met with blank faces and stone-cold hearts not understanding the implication of why demolishing this library will have, not only on the local community of West Hollywood, but to the entire architectural world, as the impact of tearing down this important Historical Landmark will leave a void in Mid-Century Modern history.  So many wonderful citizens spoke out last night with passion and a true sense of the impact Mr. Fickett has made not only to their community in West Hollywood, but to the world at large.

Whenever I speak to the AIA (American Institute of Architecture) in D.C., they are saddened to hear the City will not recognize the merits of this man's work.  They have been supportive and on our side from the beginning of this travesty of politics and bad taste shown by the City of West Hollywood.  Their lack of respect or recognition of this gifted architect is felt worldwide.

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