Troubled cemetery draws buyer interest

NORTHWEST GLENDALE — Owners of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery say they are interested in buying the troubled Grand View Memorial Park, which fell into scandal in 2005 when investigators discovered that 4,000 people had been improperly buried.

The sale of Grand View — which has had limited public access for years after it fell into a state of disrepair — is required under the terms of the $3.8-million settlement for the class-action lawsuit against the cemetery’s operators.

The lawsuit came in the wake of a 2005 state investigation that found the remains of 4,000 people who had not been properly buried. The cemetery was shut down a year after the remains were discovered, and it reopened with a new operator but closed again due to financial struggles.

Now, a limited $500,000 restoration of the cemetery grounds — including a new irrigation system and the removal of dilapidated buildings for additional grave space — is about 85% complete, said Paul Ayers, the attorney for the plaintiffs’ families who was appointed to oversee the restoration.

Several potential buyers have expressed interest in the property, although Ayers cautioned that a sale could take several years as final settlement details are worked out.

“I think there are bonafide people interested in the cemetery,” he said. “But I’ve been around this end of the cemetery business for a long time, and it’s very slow.”

Hollywood Forever officials on Monday said they have a list of ideas for making Grand View Memorial Park a viable business again, citing their experience in turning around the Hollywood cemetery that was on the verge of closure when they bought it in 1998.

“We have made a formal offer,” said Hollywood Forever President Tyler Cassity. “The offer is with the ownership interests; we can do nothing further until they resolve their interests.”

Hollywood Forever, the final resting place for a long list of celebrities, is now an active cemetery and regularly hosts community events, including summer movie screenings.

“It was a bankrupt cemetery,” said Yogu Kanthiah, Hollywood Forever’s chief executive officer. “We took over the cemetery and turned it around, and now it is a cultural landmark for the community.”

The state will have to sign off on whoever buys the cemetery.

“I think the state is going to be extremely discerning about who they allow to purchase that property,” Ayers said. “They’re going to want to see someone who has expertise in this field.”

In the meantime, family members will continue to be confined to limited openings at Grand View, with the first for the year scheduled for Memorial Day.

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