A preservationist's legal battle to save the Hollywood Bowl's trademark band shell will probably cause a one-year delay in the county's plan to replace it with an acoustically superior dome.
The delay would push the first season for the new shell at the county-owned bowl, the summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, to June 2003.
County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said he expects county officials and bowl representatives to formally postpone construction within the next week or so, barring a last-minute change of heart by Robert Nudelman, who has sued over the bowl reconstruction.
"We are basically at the point of no return for this year," said Yaroslavsky, whose district includes the outdoor amphitheater in the Cahuenga Pass.
Through his lawyer, Lawrence Teeter, Nudelman insisted that his lawsuit will go forward. "This is not going to go away," Teeter said Wednesday.
In late April, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge denied Nudelman's request to halt construction of the new shell. The ruling was not signed until Monday, however, and Nudelman and Teeter have 60 days to appeal.
Yaroslavsky called the suit frivolous and said the appeal process will cause architects to miss deadlines that are crucial to finishing the shell by the next bowl season.
To begin on time in October, said architect Craig Hodgetts, the deadline for ordering the 482 tons of steel needed for the frame is July 1. Ideally, Hodgetts said, the steel would have been ordered in March.
The county and the Philharmonic have maintained that the 72-year-old white shell is deteriorating, is too small and does not provide proper orchestral acoustics. A full orchestra cannot fit onstage under the dome.
"It's the wrong shape, and it's falling apart. I've broken pieces off it with my hands," Yaroslavsky said.
Nudelman, president of Hollywood Heritage, argues that the shell can be enlarged from the front by adding two new "rings," which he says will improve acoustics.
Nudelman also has charged that the county is expanding the bowl stage and improving the sound and lighting systems with the veiled intention of making the venue more conducive to lucrative rock concerts rather than symphonic music.
He contends that the improvements are part of a larger county plan to oust the Philharmonic from the bowl when its long-term contract with the county ends in 2005.
The Philharmonic and the county have repeatedly denied that scenario.
Yaroslavsky said the Board of Supervisors may even renew the orchestra's contract sooner than 2005. By county law, a new contract could have a term of up to 30 years.
"It's been a classical music venue, first and foremost, since the 1920s," Yaroslavsky said. "It's never been anything else, and it shouldn't be anything else. While there may be many issues we have to negotiate with the Phil that will be contentious and difficult and involve a lot of give and take, I think the partnership is as sound today as ever."
The shell will be funded by $18 million approved by voters specifically for that use and other stage improvements. Patricia Mitchell, chief operating officer of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Assn., said that as eager as she is to begin construction, she favors the county's decision to wait for resolution of the lawsuit.
"It would be an awful lot of public money to put at risk; we don't need to take that gamble," she said. "We'll get to the finish line, one way or another."
Yaroslavsky agreed. "This project is moving forward," he said.
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Proposed Bowl Makeover
Source: Hodgetts & Fung Design Associates