A top county official pledged this week to help Los Angeles city officials find money to buy the 50-foot boulder that gave Eagle Rock its name.
County Supervisor Mike Antonovich joined City Councilman Richard Alatorre at the base of Eagle Rock on Monday to call attention to their new joint effort to prevent development at the site.
The rock is on a 2.5-acre parcel off Figueroa Street just north of the Ventura Freeway. The land will cost about $500,000, but the city has only about $250,000 available for the purchase, Alatorre said. Antonovich has asked county administrators to look for funds that could make up the difference.
Eagle Rock activists have worked for more than two years to stop house construction projects proposed for the land surrounding the boulder. They said the new preservation drive by Antonovich and Alatorre could move them closer to putting the landmark in public hands.
"This has been an ongoing effort to purchase this rock," said Kaye Beckham, president of the Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce. "I think we're coming to an end."
Katie Smith, a retired real estate broker who is chairwoman of the Save the Eagle Rock Committee, was equally pleased.
"Did you notice that this was a Democrat and a Republican working together for the good of the community?" she said. "That's kind of neat."
Indentations in the mammoth rock cause it to cast afternoon shadows that resemble an eagle, giving the community its name. The boulder was declared a city landmark in 1982.
Since 1978, the property has been owned by Frederic A. Heim, an Encino businessman and former member of the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners.
In recent years, community leaders have persuaded city officials to reject plans to build apartments or single-family houses adjacent to the rock.
At Alatorre's urging, city officials began negotiating to acquire the site, offering city-owned land in exchange. But Heim has rejected such proposals, saying they were not equitable.
Earlier this year, Alatorre obtained City Council approval to begin eminent domain proceedings that would force Heim to sell the site. But Alatorre said Monday that such a seizure cannot go forward until the city has enough funds to complete the purchase.
The councilman said he sought help from Antonovich, a former classmate at Cal State Los Angeles whose 5th District includes the Eagle Rock.
On March 18, county supervisors unanimously approved an Antonovich motion directing the county's chief administrative officer to examine all funding sources that could provide money to help the county buy the Eagle Rock. A report on these funding options is due Tuesday.
Although county officials face their own budget problems, Peter Whittingham, an Antonovich aide, said the staff may find available bond money reserved for park projects or historic preservation.
At Monday's briefing, Antonovich, who grew up in the Los Feliz area and attended John Marshall High School, said he had a personal interest in saving the Eagle Rock.
"I was born and raised in the area and went to one of the local rivals of Eagle Rock High School," he said. "I'm very familiar with the history of this."
Community organizations in Eagle Rock have raised about $11,000 to help preserve and maintain the site if it is purchased by the city and county.
"I think the idea is to leave it just as it is, not to make it a picnic area," Beckham said. "We want to preserve it in its natural state."