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Razing of Ambassador Hotel OKd

Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has ruled that the Los Angeles Unified School District can proceed with its plans to demolish most of the historic Ambassador Hotel and build a $318-million campus, attorneys said Monday.

The Los Angeles Conservancy and a coalition of local organizations had filed suit after the school board voted in October to build a facility for 4,200 kindergarten through high school students on the 24-acre property where movie stars, politicians and royalty once mingled and where Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1968.

The suit contended that the district had failed to comply with requirements of state environmental quality laws.

In the weeks before the judge’s ruling, the conservancy linked up with local, state and national politicians to urge the district to consider an alternative proposal that it said would better preserve the landmark hotel. But district officials and school board members stood firm. “The idea of building the school around the hotel is something that we rejected years ago,” said Glenn Gritzner, special assistant to Supt. Roy Romer. “The plan that the conservancy has recently been discussing is more meat on the same bones.”

Roland Wiley, president of the board of directors of the Los Angeles Conservancy, expressed disappointment with the ruling, saying the members “respectfully disagree with the court.”

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“We believe that we have a plan that ... can save money and save the hotel,” he said. “We don’t feel our voice has been heard.” The conservancy will consider appealing the decision, Wiley said.

The district entered into an agreement with the conservancy in late March that stipulated that Los Angeles Unified could remove some furniture from the hotel, demolish a honeymoon cottage and begin removing the main pool and cabana. But the district agreed not to proceed with the major demolition work on the hotel and its bungalows, abatement of asbestos or removal of historical materials until after the lawsuit was settled.

A citizens’ advisory commission, which will advise L.A. Unified on how to memorialize Kennedy’s legacy on the campus, met for the first time last week. Gritzner said the commission is expected to report its findings by the end of the year.

Victor Viramontes, an attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said the ruling was a “resounding victory for students who desperately need schools.”


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