This letter is in response to the letter of Joe Galliani (Times, Oct. 12), which attempts to lay the blame for the demolition of the Pacific Coast Club at the feet of Mayor Ernie Kell. The Coalition to Preserve Historic Long Beach devoted countless hours and thousands of dollars to try and find a way to preserve this local landmark. As chairpersons of the coalition since its inception, we would like to set the record straight.
The Pacific Coast Club fell to the wrecker's ball because of unsolvable economic problems and the legal complications of building a private hotel on a public beach. When local preservationists were working with developer Rob Bellevue to find a way to save this important part of Long Beach history, Mayor Kell directed the city manager and staff to work with us and to do whatever was necessary to preserve the club. Alas, it was hard economics and not a lack of will that caused the club's demise.
Galliani's broadside attack on the insensitivity of the mayor to preservation issues is also misplaced. In addition to the creation and staffing of the Office of Neighborhood and Historic Preservation, other pro-preservation measures have been supported by the mayor. He has directed the drafting of two ordinances for consideration by the City Council.
The first would prevent the demolition of landmarks until approved plans and financing agreements for replacement projects are in place. The second would require developers of historic sites to pay for adaptive reuse feasibility studies as part of the environmental review process.
Also, surveys have been ordered to identify buildings worthy of recognition to put both preservationists and owners on notice that these structures have special meaning to our citizens and that their demolition will be permitted only after exhaustive review and attempts to incorporate them into the city's urban fabric. The list of successes goes on; preservationists have never had it so good.
All this is not to say that we have not had our unconsolable losses, the Pacific Coast Club and Jergins Trust Building among them, and that the battle has been won. Eternal vigilance is the price we must pay if we wish to incorporate the most evocative of our city's past into its future. The stewardship of Mayor Kell and City Manager Jim Hankla have made that watch easier.
DOUGLAS W. OTTO
Coalition to Preserve Historic Long Beach