Vote Backs Renovation of Glendale Auditorium

Times Staff Writer

Fears by residents that Glendale's 50-year-old Civic Auditorium would be torn down were alleviated this week when City Council members voted to renovate the building rather than replace it with a new structure.

Council members decided on a 3-1 vote Tuesday to undertake a restoration project that could cost as much as $5 million. Construction of an auditorium was estimated at $13 million.

Community leaders who led efforts to save the auditorium praised the vote.

"I am so pleased, and I think that the council is responding to what the people have indicated that they want to happen," said Mary Ann Prelock, membership chairwoman of the Royal Canyon Property Owners Assn.

Before the vote, Prelock submitted to the council a petition signed by more than 1,200 people who support renovating the building and urged council members to "protect part of Glendale's past."

Council members have grappled for years over whether to preserve the city-owned auditorium on North Verdugo Road.

The cavernous building, which is structurally sound, is a popular home to community events such as high school dances, antique shows and beauty pageants.

And although it is not considered a monument of great architectural worth, it carries strong emotional value with many longtime residents.

'Near, Dear to City'

"One has to look at what's near and dear to a city," said Councilman Carl W. Raggio, who favors restoration. "The fact is there are elements within the city that remind people of a past that they cherish . . . the symbol of the Civic happens to be, for all of us, something that brings back pleasant memories."

Last July, the council voted to spend up to $450,000 to give the dilapidated building a new roof, sound system and paint job and to demolish the adjacent and decaying Verdugo Swim Stadium.

Opponents of renovation, however, contended that restoration is too costly and that a larger, more modern facility would better serve the residents of Glendale.

The disagreements among council members about the building's future were still in evidence Tuesday.

"Renovation of a grand lady should take place," Mayor Ginger Bremberg said. "You needn't always think destruction."

"I'm not going to vote for a renovated Civic Auditorium," said Councilman Larry Zarian, who registered the only opposing vote. "That would be throwing good money after bad. . . . This civic auditorium is not going to serve us for many more years."

The crucial vote for restoration was cast by Councilman Jerold F. Milner, who said that he favors construction of a new civic center, but not immediately. His vote shifted the balance from what was expected to be a tie vote.

'Probably Wrong Time'

"This is probably the wrong time to tear down that building," Milner said. "I do think, however, that sometime in the future it will be the right time . . . and I am very reluctant to spend any significant money on that building because I think it would be a bad investment for the city in the long term."

Until last month, it appeared that the four council members were evenly split over the issue and that Councilman John F. Day--who was absent from Tuesday's meeting--would provide the pivotal vote in favor of demolition.

At a Dec. 3 "Save the Civic" rally staged by members of the Royal Oaks Homeowner's Assn., hecklers booed and hissed at comments by Day, prompting the councilman to stalk angrily out of the meeting and to declare his support for tearing down the auditorium. About 200 representatives of a dozen other homeowner and civic groups participated in the meeting.

Efforts to save the auditorium were launched last fall by the Royal Canyon homeowner's group.

"We just decided that it was time to make a decision," Prelock said.

After Tuesday's council meeting, Prelock said she was pleased and surprised with Milner's vote.

'Sensitive to People'

"I didn't know how it was going to go," she said. "I think Mr. Milner is very sensitive to the people. I was a little surprised, but I was very pleased."

Milner, however, said he voted for the plan only because he wants city money to be spent on other projects first.

"I didn't vote for renovation, I voted against tearing it down now," Milner said after the meeting. "When I look at the number of things we need to spend money on, the Civic Auditorium is way, way, way down on that list."

Council members will begin studying several renovation plans and will decide the extent of restoration by June, Bremberg said.

The $5-million renovation plan proposed by the city Parks and Recreation Department calls for new meeting rooms, kitchen facilities and extra parking spaces.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World