Edelman to Make Final Bid to Save Pan Pacific Auditorium

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles County Supervisor Ed Edelman said Thursday that he will make one last effort to save the Pan Pacific Auditorium, an abandoned relic of the 1930s that has become a magnet for youth gangs and graffiti artists.

He also said the county will try to improve security in nearby Pan Pacific Park, the scene of a fatal shooting during the Memorial Day weekend.

"I'm known to have a lot of patience, but in this case my patience is running thin," said Edelman, who has been trying for years to arrange for a developer to revamp the decrepit wooden structure and put it to profitable use.

The park and the auditorium, which has visibly deteriorated in the last few years, are located between Beverly Boulevard and 3rd Street in the Fairfax District.

If a developer cannot be found, Edelman said, "then obviously we're going to have to take the thing down, because it's unsafe and an eyesore."

Much of the porte-cochere, a curving ledge that sticks out over the doors to the old auditorium and makes up part of its famed facade, collapsed during the winter.

The building as a whole is covered with names, initials and spray-painted self-portraits of graffiti artists, some displayed high on the roof.

Some of the proceeds from a hotel project that was dropped earlier this month were to have funded round-the-clock security patrols, but residents told Edelman Monday that the park has become a disruptive factor in the community.

'No Sense of Quiet'

"The neighborhood has no sense of quiet, no sense of itself any more," said Robin Gostin, a teacher at Fairfax High School whose house overlooks the auditorium's parking lot off 1st Street.

She said 40 neighbors met two weeks ago and discovered that they had similar complaints, including loud music from portable radios and tape recorders in the park, 2 a.m. basketball games in a court adjoining their back yards, air horns at late-evening softball games, urination and defecation on their lawns and high-speed driving down Gardner Street.

"The county needs to bring the community back into the park," said Stan Treitel, a neighborhood resident and head of the United Community and Housing Development Corp., which sponsors local development projects.

He said the shooting on May 25 that left one man dead and another seriously wounded has scared many residents away from the park, which doubles as a flood-control basin.

Even before the shooting, he said, "more than the average number of people utilizing the park were not neighborhood people."

After hearing the residents' concerns, Edelman said he has asked county officials to look into the possibility of fencing off some of the park to limit late-night access.

"There have been a number of suggestions," he said. "We're looking into them to see if we can't improve the security in the park and we'll know in about a week what they recommend."

Although the parking lot off 1st Street is locked from midnight to dawn, the park itself is unfenced along 3rd Street.

Occasional Patrols

It is patrolled occasionally by officers from the county Parks and Recreation Department. However, Steve Valdevia, executive director of Community Youth Gang Services, a city and county agency, said the demands for manpower elsewhere have made it impossible to keep out graffiti artists.

He said one of his staffers worked with the young people who frequent the park and managed to reduce the graffiti for some time after the Pan Pacific building was repainted two years ago.

Since then, however, the agency has been forced to reassign its personnel.

"What you've got there is graffiti and a bunch of long-hairs that like to do drugs and write on walls and get into fistfights, at worst," he said. "Our priorities take us into Crenshaw and South-Central and East L. A., where there's lots more homicides."

Built in 1935, the Pan Pacific Auditorium was the site of political conventions, car shows and hockey games. It fell into disuse after the construction of the Sports Arena.

It was acquired by funds from the state, county, city and flood control district in 1979.

Plans were announced in 1985 for the Somerset Group to build a hotel and film center inside the shell of the old building, but the project fell through last month.

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