ACT UP Members Join Effort to Save Great Hall-Long Hall

From left to right, xxx, ACT UP member JT Anderson and Helene Schpack (Photo by James Mills).
From left to right, ACT UP members James Rosen, JT Anderson and Helene Schpack (Photo by James Mills).

ACT UP is joining the fight to save Great Hall-Long Hall in Plummer Park from demolition.

Members of the long dormant Los Angeles chapter of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power turned out at Wednesday night’s meeting of the Public Facilities Commission to protest the possible destruction of the Great Hall-Long Hall buildings. The international advocacy group was instrumental in pushing the United States government to act on the AIDS crisis and find effective treatment medication in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Its LA chapter met at Great Hall-Long Hall weekly from 1987 to 1996.

“I will chain myself to the building before a wrecking ball hits it,” said ACT UP member James Rosen, evoking images of one of the public protest methods ACT UP used in the past.

“We packed Great Hall every Monday night,” said Helene Schpack, another ACT UP member who said that 250 people often showed up each week and that the city waived all fees for use of the space. “An enormous amount of social history happened in that building.”

The ACT UP members, along with other members of Protect Plummer Park and the newly formed West Hollywood Preservation Alliance, were responding to Councilmember John Heilman’s call for the immediate demolition of the 77-year-old buildings during the April 1 West Hollywood City Council meeting.

The Public Facilities Commission reviews proposed development at all West Hollywood parks. However, at this point the park’s future is up to the City Council, whose plan to renovate the park, despite protests from community members, stalled earlier this year when redevelopment funds were denied from the state.

public facilities commission
Twenty-four people attended the Public Facilities Commission on Wednesday night (Photo by James Mills).

During a discussion about a possible designation of the Great Hall-Long Hall to the National Register of Historic Places, Heilman called the buildings “decrepit” and “horrible” and called for their destruction “forthwith.”

“The lack of respect that John Heilman had the other evening is appalling to me,” said ACT UP member David Reid, who added that Heilman is his friend. “There’s a lot of dead bodies in this town that had meetings in those halls. It’s historic to West Hollywood. It’s historic to Los Angeles. ACT UP LA was founded there. To say that ACT UP had no influence in our society is an insult to a lot of souls that have passed this way.”

On April 1, the City Council voted 4-1 to oppose the Historic Register nomination. Council members said they want maximum flexibility to decide how to renovate Plummer Park.

“I would think it’s an honor to have the nomination,” said resident Chloe Ross. “Turning it down is kind of like refusing an invitation to the White House.”

However, even if the state commission approves the designation at its May 1 meeting in Anaheim, that doesn’t guarantee protection for the buildings. The City Council could still demolish the buildings by voting for an “overriding consideration.”

Many people who spoke during Wednesday’s public comment period ridiculed Heilman’s statement that the courtyard between the buildings “smells of urine.” Some said that the stairwells of the new parking deck in West Hollywood Park also reek of urine and that homeless people are routinely seen peeing in public.

“The city has a much bigger urination issue to address than the demolition of Great Hall-Long Hall,” said resident Laura Boccaletti.

A number of residents also said that the city has failed to perform needed upkeep on Great Hall-Long Hall, the only two buildings in the city that were built by the Depression-era Work Projects Administration (WPA). Boccaletti claimed the city was using “intentional neglect” to justify the demolition.

Public Facilities commissioners Elyse Eisenberg and Cole Ettman said they were upset by Heilman’s comments and urged residents to write letters directly to the state Historic Resources Commission supporting the nomination.

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Otw
Otw
7 years ago

@ Steve, now that’s creative! Thank you for a great suggestion…..

Riley
Riley
7 years ago

Hear, hear, Steve! Re-purposing is a great idea for any historic building.

Rudolf Martin
Rudolf Martin
7 years ago

Steve, I wish you were in charge. a renovated GHLH with its courtyard would be ideal for a small museum, gallery, café, restaurant, etc in addition to black box theater, meeting rooms, space for children, sheriff’s office, etc. where is the creative thinking on this? A private business would also keep the place clean.
I also agree with you on FH and parking.

Chloe Ross
7 years ago
Reply to  Rudolf Martin

What Rudolf said.

Steve
Steve
7 years ago

Oh yeah…..and put underground parking on the north side where the parking lot and tennis courts are!!

Steve
Steve
7 years ago

Not a fan of Great Hall/Long Hall and I’ve been vocal about it. I’ve seen too many years of it being a beacon for the homeless, prostitutes and other criminals. Personally I’d like to see them go to create an extra acre or so of open space. However, if they do remain, I would support it only if these buildings were used for functions that would benefit the other 90% of the city. I would like to see these buildings partially leased out for commercial purposes such as cafes, restaurants (yes, with liquor license) and things that would attract a… Read more »

Chloe Ross
7 years ago
Reply to  Steve

I have no problem with your ideas for the WPA buildings. Many of us who love the park believe they should be used – as they were intended. My godson went to Headstart here in 1990. The Russian Library was there. Of course they should be used. It would wonderful if many, many more residents and tourists could enjoy the buildings and the park. And yes, put the underground on the north side.

Chloe Ross
7 years ago

Some very excellent points, RM. And I had not even figured state funds into the equation. For the Gang of Four to turn down a revenue stream of state money – they must surely have a very deep and compelling reason for their unreasonable position. I do think Mr. Heilman has somehow revised his shift the blame list to include we, the people. The WPA houses have hardly been kept up since I arrived in 1989 and this is clearly not the responsibility of the residents. And it seems to me intentional. When he lashed out at the citizens who… Read more »

Rudolf Martin
Rudolf Martin
7 years ago

Nice to see ACT UP fighting for those buildings. John Heilman on the City website: ” We have a strong commitment to protecting the City’s character and historic buildings, and will continue to work hard to preserve the historic and scenic assets of West Hollywood”. I also agree with what Jeff Prang said when running for office: “Things change and some redevelopment of residential buildings is necessary, but protecting and preserving culturally significant buildings while maintaining the character of our neighborhoods must be a priority.” John Heilman should try better medication forthwith before treating his depression by destroying our historic… Read more »

Snarkygal
Snarkygal
7 years ago

@me Do you want Plummer Park ending up looking like West Hollywood Park? Flat green grass with wide cement paths with few old growth trees? In my opinion, our City Council ruined that park. All my family memories are wiped out. No more baseball diamonds where both my brother and i played in softball leagues in our 20’s, no more pool where my mother used to go to swim. WeHo Park is not a welcoming place where I would want to go anymore. Yes, that park has a nice playground area, but it is soulless. Plummer Park is so inviting… Read more »

Me
Me
7 years ago

@Chloe, other then disagreeing about better shopping in Bev Hills (sorry madam, but you’re way wrong about that), I’ll ignore you because frankly you are just silly….whether it be in writing or in person. It’s easy to garner 1300 signatures (we’ll see the actual number if/when they are ever verified) if you continue to spread lies. Those distributing the petition told people that they were signing to stop the redesign of Plummer Park as originally planned. What is going on now has absolutely nothing to do with a new nursery school, underground parking or an improved theater….it’s about removing crappy,… Read more »

Chloe Ross
7 years ago
Reply to  Me

@Me. Apparently we have met. It must not have impressed me at all. I did not garner signatures – I have heard from and spoken directly to the state office of historic preservation and these two buildings are anything but crappy or ugly. And it does indeed have everything to do with the proposed plans. The actual figures quoted by the city about more green space are inaccurate and placing little kids on the roof of a building next to an exhaust vent when there is all this supposed “new green space” defies logic. As far as attracting this “element”… Read more »

Chloe Ross
7 years ago

Regarding the use of names v. aliases or pseudomyns – this is what Wiki has to say to start a long piece on the subject:

The term is derived from the Greek ψευδώνυμον (pseudṓnymon), literally “false name”, from ψεῦδος (pseûdos), “lie, falsehood”[3] and ὄνομα (ónoma), “name”.[4]

Shawn Thompson
Shawn Thompson
7 years ago

@me There is currently over 1300 signatures on a petition that opposes the destruction of this building. So ACT up members are just joining a large group of individuals that want to preserve the park. You mention the word “green space” which has been used by the city council as well. The park is already NATURAL GREEN SPACE. The use of the term “GREEN SPACE” by the city is misleading to many in the community because in the plan that currently exists would have the center of the park destroyed to insert a parking garage and the new “GREEN SPACE”… Read more »

Riley
Riley
7 years ago

@Me…Great Hall/Long Hall are nominated for State AND National historic designation, which means anyone in the entire US can have an opinion on this matter. Independence Hall in Philadelphia was just a building where very important meetings were held. The buildings are not “mis-placed” they have been in the same place since 1938. Besides being nationally historic because they are WPA structures, they are also important because of what went on there. It’s called a “cultural resource”. The same as designating “Irv’s Burgers” on Santa Monica Blvd. The City thought Irv’s should be preserved because it was a hamburger stand… Read more »