The president of the Lions Club of West Hollywood says the club was caught off guard by a notice from the City of Beverly Hills that it had to move by the end of March out of the log cabin at 621 N. Robertson Blvd. that had been its home for decades.
In an interview today,Gyula Kangiszer told WEHOville that the Lions Club had done an assessment of the building three years ago and decided that improvements were needed, including making it more handicap accessible. Kangiszer said the club put the work on hold after the City of Beverly Hills said it was in negotiations with someone to sell the property.
In a letter dated Jan. 20, Beverly Hills City Manager George Chavez told Kangiszer that the club had to vacate the property by March 31. Chavez noted that the Lions Club’s original lease, dated Nov. 3, 1976, had expired on July 1, 1977, and that a recent audit of the city’s land holdings revealed that the Lions Club has not paid rent on the property in the 42 years since then. Chavez said a contractor had inspected the property and “found portions of the building in poor condition.”
Kangiszer shared with WEHOville a letter that the Lions Club sent today in response to the letter from Chavez.
“We are heartbroken that you are requesting the demolition of the West Hollywood Log Cabin that has been serving the community since 1936,” Kangiszer wrote. “As a magical place in the busy city, the Log Cabin has saved over 100,000 lives helping people overcome addictions.
“You reference that the Lease expired on July 1, 1977. We are unsure what triggered the City of Beverly Hills to terminate the Tenancy now, 43 years later. Over the years, the Lions Club of West Hollywood has continuously requested your approval to agree on a long-term lease. The representatives of the Lions Club have been asking for years whom the lease should be paid to, and the representatives of the City of Beverly Hills stated that due to administrative ambiguity the Lions Club needed to wait with the payments.
“The Lions Club is committed to preserving the Log Cabin. We had collected quotations to beautify the building and its surroundings while maintaining its Historic Site characteristics. These improvements would have been done in 2018, but the City of Beverly Hills requested us to wait as it was still clarifying the land ownership situation with the City of West Hollywood. We were under the impression that these discussions are still ongoing. While we were waiting for the green light to start the external improvements, we had security and external video monitoring systems installed.
“In the interest of the community, we ask that you retract your termination request and work with us to agree on the details of a long-term lease.”
Kangiszer said the rent was only $1 per year and that the Lions Club had been confused as to whom it owed the rent because the property had been owned by the Beverly Hills Water Authority. The lot on which it sits actually is within the boundaries of the City of West Hollywood, which has been in discussions with Beverly Hills about acquiring the property. The log cabin was built in the late 1920s or 1930s (different accounts state different years) and originally housed a local troop of the Boy Scouts of America.
Kangiszer was elected president of the West Hollywood Lions Club four months ago, succeeding longtime president Gayle Ann Stewart. He said the West Hollywood club had roughly 30 members and met at the log cabin about once a quarter. He said the Lions Club has kept the building because its members saw it as a valuable resource for about two dozen addiction recovery groups that met there. There are multiple Alcoholics Anonymous and Crystal Meth Anonymous and other recovery groups in the area, some of which meet at the Lions Club building and some at the Werle Building, which is owned by the City of West Hollywood and is on the opposite side of Robertson Boulevard. Kangiszer said those attending the recovery meetings make small payments at each meeting, with about $1 going to the Lions Club for each person attending a meeting in the log cabin.
The City of Beverly Hills and the City of West Hollywood have responded to the public outcry about plans to demolish the Lions Club log cabin on Robertson Boulevard with a statement on Monday saying they are discussing developing a “shared approach” to providing options for the Lions Club and addiction recovery groups that have used the cabin as a meeting place.
The statement said that the City of Beverly Hills has offered to provide alternative meeting locations for the Lions Club and other organizations that use the log cabin and “the City of West Hollywood is exploring options that support the ongoing use and the availability of community and recovery meetings.”