Monument Status for Encino Site Requested : 'Lost Village': A slow-growth activist's efforts to have the Ventura Boulevard location named an archeological landmark are criticized as tactics to stall development.


In the continued hope that an ancient Indian village might thwart construction of additional modern office buildings on Ventura Boulevard, a slow-growth activist has applied to the city Cultural Heritage Commission seeking monument status for a major archeological find uncovered six years ago.

Gerald A. Silver, president of Homeowners of Encino, contends that more of the "Lost Village of Encino" must lie beneath two nearby redevelopment sites near the intersection of Ventura and Balboa boulevards. Although the presence of more remains has yet to be confirmed, Silver has rallied American Indian leaders and archeologists to his campaign to delay construction until archeological surveys are conducted.

"I don't know what Mr. Silver's motives are, but even if we suppose his interest is in stopping another construction project, in this case, I believe he's correct," Mark Raab, director of the Center for Public Archeology at Cal State Northridge, said Thursday.

"There's every indication a lot of archeology is in the ground for several blocks around," Raab continued. "And when construction is proposed in that area, it really would be a very good idea to do some archeological testing prior to undertaking any construction."

The Lost Village request is scheduled for review by the Cultural Heritage Commission next Wednesday. If the commission accepts the nomination, it will have 60 days to visit the site and recommend to the City Council whether the Lost Village deserves monument status, said commission spokeswoman Nancy Fernandez.

The so-called "Lost Village," uncovered in 1984 at a cost of $1.7 million, included more than 1 million artifacts and the bones of about a dozen Indians found beneath a construction site on the southeast corner of the intersection. Experts such as Raab and archeologist Nancy Whitney-Desautels of Huntington Beach, who excavated the site, believe it to be the remains of a large Indian village described in the journals of Spanish explorers who arrived in the San Fernando Valley in 1769. It was dubbed the Lost Village because modern archeologists searched for its remains for years without success.

"An archeological site of that kind is probably found once a generation," Raab said.

At least two other archeological sites in the city have been designated as historic-cultural monuments, said Fernandez, one in the Ferndale section of Griffith Park and another in Marina del Rey. The "monument" designation, which can apply to an area as well as a building, would enable the Cultural Heritage Commission to screen requests for building permits.

On another front of the Lost Village battle, Silver and supporters are scheduled to testify Tuesday before the city's Building and Safety Commission. There, they will argue that archeological surveys be required before construction is permitted on the north side of Ventura Boulevard, across the street from the Lost Village dig, on which an office building has since been erected.

Silver's group is appealing findings by the Building and Safety Department that neither of two office buildings proposed between Balboa Boulevard and La Maida Street need environmental impact reports or preliminary archeological surveys.

A proposed 48,000-square-foot office building off La Maida Street will be addressed Tuesday. A hearing on the second project has yet to be scheduled.

One of the developers affected by Silver's efforts, Gardena-based builder Jerry Katell, on Thursday called Silver's application to the Cultural Heritage Commission "just another ploy to stop any development projects that he can."

But Katell, who is planning a three-story, 140,000-square-foot office building off Balboa Boulevard, said he has decided to hire archeologists on his own to conduct a preliminary archeological review, largely to prevent construction delays later.

"We've already dug a number of exploratory holes on the property and found nothing," Katell said. "So we don't expect to find anything, and this would sort of settle it forever."

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