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Out of the Blue, Modest Proposals

Happily, the Dodgers won the World Series in five games. As an avid fan who has followed the team since learning to read by studying the sports pages of the Brooklyn Eagle in 1940, I do not know if I could have handled any more of the tension the games generated. They were exhilarating, and exhausting.

And even though I had tickets to the seventh game at Dodger Stadium, I am glad they closed down the A’s in alien Oakland. You never know how fans will react after such an event, and Elysian Park, where the stadium is located, has suffered enough. Remember last year, when fireworks that the Dodger organization set off nearly burned down the park?

While the Dodgers, bless them, have done well since moving to Chavez Ravine in 1962, the park has not. Touring it reveals groves of dead trees, eroded hillsides, damaged picnic grounds, overflowing trash cans, broken fountains, generally poor maintenance and inappropriate uses, such as the city using some nooks and crannies there as dumping grounds.

And this, the last remaining public portion of the public land grant establishing the city in 1781; the city’s first and oldest park, officially “forever dedicated” as such in 1886; the site of the first botanical gardens in Southern California; and a vital open space, particularly for the adjacent communities of Chinatown and Echo Park.

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One would hope that in some way Elysian Park, which as the Dodgers’ neighbor, accommodated the construction of the stadium and bears the brunt of traffic to and from the games, could benefit from the success of the Dodger organization.

Actually, as part of the original agreement that gave the Dodgers Chavez Ravine and allowed roads to be cut through the park, the organization was to set aside 40 acres for a recreational area in Elysian Park on which they would spend $500,000 for development.

In addition, according to a 1962 article written by former Mayor Norris Poulson who helped shape the agreement, the Dodgers were to spend $60,000 a year to help maintain the park. But the funds instead went into the city’s general fund, ending, for reasons unknown, after 18 years.

Meanwhile, the irrigation lines that had been serving the park and were destroyed when the stadium went in, never were repaired. The result is the dead trees you can see from the even-numbered sections of the reserved and upper-deck seats in Dodger Stadium.

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In addition, when new roads were cut and others widened over the years to ease the crush of cars in and out of the Dodgers’ raw parking lot, there was no compensation to the park, in either land or maintenance funds. And this, as the Dodgers became one of the more successful and profitable sports enterprises in history.

Certainly, if the Dodgers can afford millions of dollars in deferred payments to players no longer with the team, and at the urging of such fans as myself, dangle millions more for free agents, they could afford to aid ailing Elysian Park.

With this in mind, I propose that the stadium parking fee be raised from $2 to $3, with the additional dollar being channeled to underwrite specific projects in Elysian Park. Considering that parking at some other stadiums is considerably higher--it’s $7 at Shea Stadium in Flushing Meadow, N.Y., $5, if you are lucky, at the Coliseum--I feel the amount is modest, as is the proposal.

The increase would generate an estimated $1.5 million a year, an amount equal to Kirk Gibson’s salary, that could be used for the hiring of more park rangers, more park maintenance personnel (if only to pick up the beer cans and other garbage thrown from the cars departing the stadium after a game), repairing the irrigation system that the construction of the stadium damaged, or planting new bushes and trees.

With the funds a foundation on which to build a new pride in the park, perhaps it is time for the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks, in cooperation with the ever-vigilant Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park, to undertake a needed master plan for the entire area. Also included in the process should be the Department of Water and Power, whose Elysian Reservoir is surrounded by the park, and the Police Department, whose academy also is in the park. The park has suffered enough from patchwork planning.

As Tommy Lasorda will never let us forget, it was teamwork that powered the Dodgers to their unlikely ultimate triumph in 1988. Perhaps it also might work for Elysian Park, with a little help from the Dodger organization.

Some other modest proposals have been generated by the recent inclusion here on an endangered landmark list of the Canfield-Moreno estate atop Micheltorena Hill in Silver Lake, the McKinley Mansion on Lafayette Park Place and the Rivington apartment complex on Ocean Avenue in Santa Moncia.

These include the recycling of the Canfield-Moreno and McKinley structures as desperately needed AIDS hospices. Those interested in helping such an effort are asked to call the AIDS Hospice Foundation at 213/250-4200 or the Los Angeles Conservancy at 213/623 CITY.

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As for the Rivington property, it was suggested that since the Santa Monica Rent Control Board policies were in part responsible for the deterioration of the landmark, the board, whose members have signed petitions urging the property be saved, step in and purchase the property.

Not only would the landmark designed by John Parkinson be saved, but it also would provide the board with firsthand knowledge of the responsibilities and economics, and trials and tribulations of operating buildings in Santa Monica as a landlord. The experience could be an enlightening one for all.

Offering an excellent opportunity for a demonstration of adaptative reuse is the county Engineering Building, a 10-story neo-Classical structure at the southwest corner of Main and 2nd streets. It would be a shame to see the once-proud building leveled when, with a little imagination, it could be converted into needed housing.

The inclusion of various movie palaces on the endangered list prompted the thought that perhaps one of them could provide a home for the recently displaced Variety Arts Center. The center, consisting of a museum, a club, library and a theater group celebrating the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, just could inject some new life and lend some needed identity to a theater. Coordinating the effort is impresario Milt Larsen, 213/939-3939.

The list spurred a few other modest, and less than modest, proposals, which to explore will need more space and time. Meanwhile, other proposals involving preservation, planning and design for a more livable city are always welcome. Los Angeles needs all the help it can get.


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