The months-long battle to save the West Hollywood Lions Club log cabin at 621 N. Robertson Blvd. appears to be headed toward a resolution, with the City of West Hollywood and the City of Beverly Hills trying to settle on a final sales price.
Sources involved in the transaction have told WEHOville that the sale of the log cabin, which is on land owned by the City of Beverly Hills but within the West Hollywood city limits, is likely to be finalized in six months. An official announcement of West Hollywood’s purchase of the cabin is expected next month.
But a fight continues between the Lions Club and the West Hollywood Recovery Center and City Councilmember John Duran over who will manage the log cabin, which is the place where 24 addiction recovery groups hold their meetings. The West Hollywood Recovery Center is located at the city-owned Werle Building, across Robertson from the log cabin, and also hosts many recovery group meetings.
In an interview with WEHOville, Gyula Kangiszer, president of the West Hollywood Lions Club, said it wants to continue to manage the log cabin building, which is primarily used for weekly recovery group meetings. The Lions Club meets there only quarterly.
Kangiszer noted that the Lions Club, which purchased the building in 1937, has hosted meetings of addiction recovery groups there since 1948. Kangiszer said the Lions Club is committed to upgrading the building, which it has delayed since the City of Beverly Hills issued it an eviction notice on Jan. 20. In that notice, Beverly Hills City Manager George Chavez told Kangiszer that an audit of the city’s land holdings revealed that the Lions Club’s lease on the property had expired on July 1, 1977, and that the Lions Club had not paid its $1 a year rent for 42 years. Chavez said that a contractor had determined the building was in poor condition. The City of West Hollywood leases a parking lot on the south side of the log cabin lot from Beverly Hills, paying $8,000 a month plus 50% of any revenue it generates from the lot in excess of $10,000.
Beverly Hills’ plan to take over and demolish the log cabin sparked a huge protest from those in the recovery community, with a Change.org petition to save the building garnering nearly 32,000 signatures. Several celebrities in recovery also spoke out, one of whom was Sia, the famous Australian singer and songwriter. In a post on Twitter directed to the cities of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, Sia said: “I’m happy to pay for upgrades to the log cabin to bring it up to code, and also to start the process of declaring it an historical landmark. Saved my life. Least I can do. #thelogcabin.”
One of those who spoke out against the demolition was City Councilmember John Duran, who has publicly declared that he is a recovering alcoholic and champions himself as an advocate for the recovery community, some of those members are supporting his Nov. 3 campaign for re-election on social media.
Duran has been an advocate for the Recovery Center, however members of the original board of directors of the West Hollywood Recovery Center have complained privately that Duran claims to have founded the center, which they say is not true. One of the founders wrote an op-ed for WEHOville in August 2019 in an effort to set the record straight. “When a West Hollywood City Council member attempts to use the West Hollywood Recovery Center to gain political points it is clear the real story of its inception should be told, if only to memorialize history,” wrote Michael Holdaway, one of the Recovery Center’s founding board members. Duran’s claim that he is the one who pushed the city to buy the Werle Building to house the Recovery Center also has been contested by another City Council member who noted that former Councilmember Jeffrey Prang (now County Assessor) and Duran worked together on that.
Kangiszer said Duran was trying to push himself forward as the savior of the log cabin while criticizing the Lions Club’s efforts to also preserve it. At a recent City Council meeting, Duran lashed out at Michelle Kangiszer, Gyula Kangiszer’s wife and a secretary of the Lions Club, who asked the Council to back its effort to preserve the log cabin. Duran accusing the club of mismanaging the cabin and said that despite its claims to be a non-profit, he could not find its IRS non-profit tax filings online. Those filings are, however, available through numerous sources including Guidestar, where they can be accessed here. Its most recent filing, for the 2018 tax year, shows revenue of $37,483 from Lions Club membership dues and assessments and that it paid $6,503 for “occupancy, rent, utilities and maintenance,” which presumably covers the log cabin, its only property. Kangiszer told WEHOville that the Lions Club gets $150 a month from each of the 24 recovery groups that meet at the log cabin.
Duran also got into an altercation with Michelle Kangiszer on Saturday on Robertson Boulevard when she was overseeing the installation of trees in front of the log cabin to replace two 80-year old trees that died and were removed several years ago.
Kangsizer said the Lions Club was installing the trees to illustrate its commitment to continuing to manage the log cabin building.
“He walked over from the Recovery Center in the morning and tried to prevent us from putting the trees in,” Kangiszer said in an email to WEHOville. “He was threatening to call the police, saying that we cannot remove the stumps or plant new trees without a permit. We told him no. Then he said we needed the permit, because we were blocking the sidewalk. That wasn’t the case either. (We got the largest trees which did not need a crane that would have required a permit.)
“He was very hostile,” Kangiszer said. “When Michelle asked why he was so mean to us and trying to cause trouble while we are making the place pretty again, he said, ‘it’s because the other company who is taking over in three weeks might have other ideas what to do with the front.’ Nobody has communicated that to us.”
The other management company, whose identity has not been disclosed, will work for the West Hollywood Recovery Center, which WEHOville has learned has been told by city officials that management of the log cabin will be handed over to it. WEHOville has reached out to members of the Recovery Center’s board of directors for comments but as of publication has not received a response. WEHOville also has reached out to Duran for his response to Kangiszer’s statements. He has not responded.