Friday, September 30, 2011
Got a Problem? Demolish It.
The unfortunate call came at 5:45pm on Wednesday evening when on the opposite end of the phone I heard, “It’s gone. They tore down the library.” The voice on the other end of the phone was Joycie Fickett, the widow of Edward H. Fickett, FAIA, the man behind the design of the demolished West Hollywood Park library built in 1959 after receiving approval from the county to design the Mater Plan of West Hollywood Park in 1957. Who else to call upon other than the Master of Master Planning? Fickett won awards for his work on the library on both national and international levels.
The round about way we found out about the demolition was through a close friend of Mrs. Fickett’s and ex-wife of Wolfgang Puck, Barbara Lazaroff (Spago Hollywood designed by Fickett) who supported keeping the Fickett library and decided to call her City Manager friend, Paul Arevalo late Wednesday afternoon to also plea to the City for alternative measures to demolition. He was short and to the point. The demolition had taken place. When she asked him as to whether he or the City contacted Mrs. Fickett, he replied, “I couldn’t do it to Mrs. Fickett. I think she is a lovely person and I just don’t have the heart to tell her.” Some may counter Arevalo was missing some other anatomical parts.
Upon hearing the updated report, I had to go see for myself. My findings were very sad, as the City had destroyed two-thirds of the building by Wednesday evening. The City started their process on Tuesday. Crushed California brick, twisted steel and broken glass, were in piles where the library once stood. Where was their demolition permit? When I checked Building and Safety last Wednesday, they had nothing on the books.
Arevalo and County Supervisor, Zev Yarolslavsky orchestrated the plan to secretly go about the demolition as the County signed off on the Lease Option Agreement between the two entities. Yaroslavsky had the power to stop the City of West Hollywood and the lack of oversight within the Master Plan. The two men ultimately deemed the best way to handle the “problem” was to demolish it.
As I have followed the City’s actions the past four months and extensively reviewed the New West Hollywood Park plan, I am not surprised by the recent action. It is only apropos for them to move forward without allowing the public a proper good-bye to a building that had served it’s community well.
Adaptive re-use options were becoming too heated of a topic as of late for the City to allow the building to stand one more day. At least they should have allowed for discussion of salvage and possible relocation. Again, they showed no signs of resourcefulness and environmental impact as they continue to laude an unimpressive new structure barely meeting the lowest LEED certification standards. Fickett’s work had more sustainable elements than the newly designed parking garage / library. When speaking with Regina O’Brien, Chair of LA Conservancy Modern Committee, she was disappointed the City never allowed the Conservancy an opportunity to document the interiors for historical purpose. I was personally denied access for the past four months. Paranoid?
The claustrophobic feeling you now have when visiting the park is devastating. No longer do we have views of the West Hollywood Hills from the park. The PDC’s soon to be finished Red building of triangular glass mass blocks the view. With West Hollywood only 1.9 miles, the 34,000sf of new library is seems a little overkill for the size of the community. The City’s design could not incorporate the 5,100 sf of the Fickett library and find adaptive re-use alternatives for the building. It only appropriate in West Hollywood size would matter.
Truth be told, the City of West Hollywood never really deserved the Fickett library. They never embraced the architectural treasure. Instead, they relied solely on their own judgment and taste. Even though the library was removed from the Master Plan very early on in the project, the City contends it didn’t matter, as the 2004 Plan was the final plan and the Errata was from the 2003 plan. The problem I have with it is the City never shared this important component of the 2003 plan to the Park’s Planning Committee. When you don’t work with full disclosure to the community, how can the people be expected to give proper comment? Again, the City has it’s own agenda and it certainly does not involve anyone else’s opinion. They will instead choose to demolish your opinion. They ignore the demands of the community, as well as the CEQA Mitigated Negative Declarations from years past.
Still, the City has not performed their end of the environmental Mitigated Negative Declaration. The City is required to have performed a complete survey of the work by Edward H. Fickett, FAIA located within West Hollywood. This is known as MND 14-1. The City refuses to complete the full survey of the architect’s work, as they are long overdue with the required full survey. Instead, the City only delivered seven multi-unit properties within their survey of his work. What happened to all of the single-family homes and commercial buildings he had designed? Seven buildings is a gross under-representation.
Unless you grease the palms of the officials or you provide HBO Emmy After-party tickets, you will not be heard by the City of West Hollywood. They do not have enough humility to recognize error nor true thoughtfulness to listen to their constituents. Instead, the close-knit government body ultimately decides the fate of the City without proper public comment. Whatever the City may say in regards to public comment periods in relation to the Fickett library are false. They did not perform due diligence and acted improperly with their time period of the Mitigated Negative Declarations in 2004. They fell short of the mandated requirement. This again being another glaring issue the City was facing through legal action being prepared.
Disrespect and a class-less approach towards the architect’s contributions to the City of West Hollywood are only exemplified by the garish acts they have performed in conjunction with the Fickett library. It’s no wonder we were met with such trepidation and childish behavior. It is after all “Boy’s Town”, not “Men’s Town”.