Culver City Expected to Condemn Hotel, Bar for Downtown Project

Times Staff Writer

In another step to improve a blighted section of downtown Culver City, the Redevelopment Agency on Monday will move to condemn a residential hotel and a bar to make way for a parking structure with retail shops.

The building housing the Adams Hotel and Big Ed’s bar is one of the last two structures on a parcel of land that Culver City has been trying to assemble for a large development since the late 1970s. About four-fifths of the 1.5-acre parcel is overgrown with weeds and surrounded by a cyclone fence.

The city would like to build a multilevel public parking structure on the lot, bounded by Main Street and Washington, Culver and Ince boulevards, in response to merchants’ claims that customers stay away from downtown Culver City because of a lack of off-street parking.

“Parking is a very high priority,” said Mayor Paul A. Netzel. “It’s been on the agenda for years. We must provide a parking facility in the downtown area beyond what we offer now.”

The idea for a public parking structure came last year, when Netzel met with representatives of Brotman Medical Center, the Chamber of Commerce and members of the film industry about providing more parking downtown. Jack Kindberg, manager of nearby Culver Studios, said that although the studio welcomes the plan, he hopes the city will include restaurants with the parking structure.


“We desperately need the parking and restaurants, and the stores are needed because there are not enough around here,” Kindberg said. “In my opinion, there is a desperate need for restaurants in Culver City.”

Andrew Weissman, a downtown attorney and past president of the Chamber of Commerce, agreed that the project should include commercial development along with parking.

“It ought to be some kind of mixed use,” he said. “It’s a very valuable parcel, and it strikes me to be (worth) a little more than a parking lot.”

H. Dale Jones, the city’s chief administrative officer, said that the Redevelopment Agency is appraising the remaining privately owned building on the block, at 9369 Washington Blvd., which includes the La Ballona Inn Mexican restaurant and an income-tax service.

If the agency approves the condemnation of the Adams hotel and Big Ed’s building on Monday as expected, City Atty. Joseph W. Panonne will file condemnation papers in Superior Court, and a court hearing will determine fair market value of property.

Susan Berg, the agency’s project manager for the downtown area, said that the staff has suggested a parking structure and “hopefully ground-floor retail shops. We are not at the point of determining what particular retail shops or how many.”

The agency staff decided to condemn the property because it could not reach an agreement with Finn Bjerknes, the owner of the hotel and bar, Berg said. The agency has offered Bjerknes about $700,000 for the property, but Bjerknes has said it is worth $1.1 million.

Frank Alonso, who owns the building at 9369 Washington Blvd., said he has been running the La Ballona Inn there since 1957. He said the agency has not contacted him since last year, when it offered $110,000 for the building.

Alonso said that price is too low and that his appraiser said the building is worth about $190,000.

“This is very valuable land,” Alonso said. “This is the heart of Culver City, of downtown, To me, the land is very valuable down here.”

Alonso said the agency has helped him find a new site a block away on Main Street and has offered to pay him $37,000 to replace furniture and kitchen facilities. The move to the new location probably will not affect his business, he said.

About a dozen tenants of the Adams hotel were still living there last week, said hotel manager Letta Small. The agency paid each of the hotel’s 28 tenants about $4,000 to relocate.

Ed Schwartz, who runs Big Ed’s bar, said he makes more money from film companies that shoot movies at his bar than from patrons. Schwartz said a film company recently paid him about $14,000 to use his bar for three weeks to shoot the film “Bar Fly” with Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway.

On average, patrons at the bar provide him with about $200 in net income per day, Schwartz said.