The City Council will be asked tonight to authorize the spending of an additional $1.1 million on the AIDS monument proposed for West Hollywood Park. If approved, that will bring the city’s total contribution to the monument to $1.2 million and projected costs for redevelopment of the 8-acre park to $96 million.
A report to the City Council from the city’s Community Development and Economic Development departments states that $250,000 of the new appropriation will be used to hire someone to reach out to various relevant communities for input on the “content” of the monument. City Council members have expressed concerns that the monument, which is being designed by Daniel Tobin, is weak when it comes to expressing information or sentiment about the AIDS epidemic. The city also will take on $206,000 of costs related to the project that formerly were assigned to the Foundation for the AIDS Monument (FAM), the non-profit group organized to create the monument.
Current plans call for a “Naming Wall,” which will include names of local people who died of AIDs as well as a “Donor Wall,” listing those who have contributed to FAM. The design process has been slowed down to incorporate content suggestions. However, the design of the monument site and its landscaping has proceeded.
The staff report notes that the city has been worried about FAM missing deadlines for the AIDS monument project, about a lack of transparency regarding its organization and about spending and high administrative and overhead costs. Another concern has been whether FAM’s budget for building the monument is large enough. The new appropriation comes with a contract between the city and FAM that calls for audits during the fundraising and development program. The staff report also expresses concerns that FAM and its designer will exceed the $2.5 million budget for the physical components of the actual monument, although it notes that FAM has agreed to stay within that budget.
The report says that FAM has addressed most of the city’s concerns. Also on the positive side, FAM last May hired an executive director, Michael Ferrera, who serves as project manager and is helping create the outreach and content development effort. FAM board member Rogerio Carvalheiro, an architect, is volunteering to coordinate between that organization, the city and the ARTIST on the project.
“Given FAM’s improved administration of and transparency related to the AIDS Monument project, and the additional financial and operational safeguards included, staff is satisfied with the proposed terms and commitments in the First Revised and Restated MOU that help move the AIDS Monument Project forward,” the report says.
The city will be able to renegotiate the contract if FAM misses significant deadlines. Ultimately, the completed project will be gifted to the city. But if FAM isn’t successful in raising the money needed and doing the construction to create the monument, the City of West Hollywood could develop a monument on its own or find another use for the site.
The AIDS monument process began in 2012, when the City Council decided to identify a site for the monument in the redeveloped West Hollywood Park. FAM began its capital campaign in 2014. Among its largest donors are Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, which made a donation of $250,000 and pledged an additional $250,000 in matching funds, and Visit West Hollywood, the city’s tourism promotion organization, which pledged $250,000 over five years.
The staff report notes that FAM has reduced its fundraising target to $4 million from $5 million, a figure that doesn’t include money spent for community outreach and content development. It has received approximately “$2.55 million in pledges to date and expects to reach $3.36 million by the end of 2017,” the report states.
“FAM’s fundraising plan also includes projections of $750,000 in contributions from governmental sources, inclusive a $200,000 grant from Los Angeles County and $550,000 in contributions from the City of West Hollywood.”
The staff is recommending that the City Council contribute up to $500,000 toward the cost of building the monument and an additional $50,000 help FAM coordinate its community engagement efforts with the city. Those contributions, however, would be “contingent on FAM meeting specific project development milestones, to be verified by the city and by dates certain.”
Several national AIDS monuments or memorials have been created in recent years. Three months ago the New York City AIDS Memorial, designed by Brooklyn’s Studio ai, opened on former site of St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village. Last month, the London Assembly supported a proposal to build an AIDS memorial there. San Francisco’s National AIDS Memorial Grove was designated a national memorial by Congress is 1996, acknowledging that city’s reputation as the center of the AIDS/HIV crisis. That city is where one of the first known reports of the disease became public and also the original location of the AIDS Memorial Quilt.
Now underway is an effort, reported in The New York Times, to “ chronicle the AIDS tragedy more comprehensively, to explore the pandemic’s many facets in a permanent national exhibition and repository. It would be similar to institutions commemorating other cataclysmic events: the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in Manhattan and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Japan.”
The City Council will meet at 6:30 p.m. at the City Council Chambers, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd., south of Santa Monica.