Critics Push for Vote on Civic Center

Times Staff Writer

Opponents of the proposed $25-million Civic Center project in West Hollywood have pledged to push for an initiative on the June ballot to prevent the complex from being built in West Hollywood Park.

"We want to put (the City Council) on notice that they are completely out of touch on this issue," said Bob Hattoy, regional director of the Sierra Club.

He and others, who on Monday announced the formation of a group called the Save Our Parks Alliance, labeled as ridiculous the council's 4-1 decision last week to build the Civic Center in the park.

Tom Larkin, a real estate broker and a member of the alliance, said the group intends to get out "hundreds of volunteers" to collect the more than 3,000 signatures needed by Feb. 8 to place the initiative on the ballot.

'Biggest Outcry'

He predicted that the campaign will result in "the biggest outcry" since West Hollywood became a city in 1984.

The park, located on San Vicente Boulevard between Melrose Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard, occupies a six-acre parcel of land and includes an auditorium, library, swimming pool and county public works maintenance facility.

The Civic Center would incorporate many of those facilities as well as a City Hall, while retaining a softball field, tennis courts and picnic areas. City officials are also considering whether to build a new fire station as part of the complex.

Some opponents have criticized the Civic Center plan as extravagant, while others have objected to its proposed location near the city's western edge as being too distant from residents of the city's east side.

However, the notion of placing additional civic buildings on limited park space continues to be the main issue for most opponents, especially since West Hollywood Park is one of only two public recreational areas in the city.

"I'm not opposed to a new Civic Center. I just don't want to see it placed in that park, and I'd like to see the plan scaled down," said Teresa Garay, a member of the alliance and co-chair of an advisory group to the city's General Plan.

"A monument is nice, but at whose expense?" she said. "I keep thinking about how that money could be used to help the homeless or address the AIDS crisis or provide badly needed services for senior citizens. . . . Vital human services are going to be affected if the project goes through."

Hattoy took issue with claims by supporters that the Civic Center's design would increase recreational space at the park by 30%, calling it "voodoo planning."

"They're stretching the facts a little," he said. "We're talking about green space and facilities that need improvement in the park. Building this mammoth structure is not going to improve the quality of the park."

Opponents point to a planned rooftop tennis court as an example of recreational space that they claim should not be considered as legitimate park space.

Hattoy said the Sierra Club's involvement in the initiative campaign would not preclude the group from taking legal steps to halt the project.

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