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L.A. Unified Seals Deal to Raze Ambassador Hotel

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Unified School Board approved Tuesday a settlement with local preservation groups, making way for the school district to tear down the Ambassador Hotel and replace it with a multi-school campus.

In a 6-1 vote in closed session, the seven-member board agreed to make a $4.9-million contribution to a nonprofit organization that will oversee preservation efforts at 50 historic school buildings in the district. In exchange, the Los Angeles Conservancy and a coalition of other local groups will end their long legal battle to spare the landmark hotel, where Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1968.

Work on the 24-acre site along Wilshire Boulevard is expected to begin immediately, said Glenn Gritzner, special assistant to district Supt. Roy Romer. Demolition of the main building will probably occur in October or November. An on-site auction of lighting fixtures, fountains and other items from the hotel is scheduled for Sept. 10.

In the hotel’s place, the district plans to build its Heritage project, which would accommodate 4,200 students from kindergarten through 12th grade. The campus, one of about 185 school projects to be built as part of a massive construction effort, is expected to ease severe overcrowding in nearby schools.

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Last year, the conservancy and other groups filed suit against the district in an effort to block the school plans. After a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge issued a preliminary ruling siding with the district in July, the preservation groups proposed the settlement instead of pursuing their case.

“We are grateful that the conservancy and its partners have decided to drop their legal action and work with us,” Romer said in a statement. “Continued legal action could have significantly delayed this project.”

Questions concerning another lawsuit filed against the district by Kennedy’s assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, remain unresolved but are not expected to interfere with construction plans, district officials said.

Sirhan’s lawyer, Lawrence Teeter, died this month, shortly after the same Superior Court judge issued a preliminary ruling against Sirhan’s claim that preserving the Ambassador is vital to proving his innocence.

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Sirhan has asked the judge to delay making her ruling final until spring in order to give him time to hire a new attorney, said Kevin Reed, attorney for the district. The judge has not decided on the request.

The Heritage elementary school is scheduled to open in 2008.


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