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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Occidental College interested in taking over Highland Park’s historic Lummis Home [updated]

Photo by Martha Benedict

Photo by Martha Benedict

HIGHLAND PARK — The city’s Recreation & Parks Department will begin negotiating with Occidental College to have the school manage and restore the Lummis Home, one of the Northeast L.A.’s most important historic landmarks that is in need of repairs and renovation.

The Board of Recreation & Parks Commissioners on Wednesday authorized city staff to negotiate a “partnership agreement” with the Eagle Rock college to takeover the more than century-old Lummis Home, the two-story house  built out of arroyo stones by Charles Fletcher Lummis, a journalist and civic activist who help establish the nearby Southwest Museum.

Late last year, the Recreation and Parks Department  began looking for a new organization to operate the city-owned Lummis site after failing  to reach an agreement with the Southern California Historical Society, which has occupied  and managed the property for nearly half a century.

But after seeking proposals  from different organizations to operate and restore the property, only one organization made an official offer: Occidental College.   However, Recreation and Parks  determined it would be better to reject that offer and negotiate a different, exclusive agreement with Occidental, according to a staff report.

The Southern California Historical Society is scheduled to leave the Lummis Home at the end of the year, leaving the city to handle its operation and care. That puts the department under additional pressure to quickly find a group to take over the property. Says the staff report:

Upon the  Society leaving the Lummis Home at the end of 2014, the Department would be responsible for  the maintenance and security … The Department would have to hire additional staff in order to provide tours of the Lummis Home and develop and implement a marketing plan in order to generate revenue to sustain the operation.

It is therefore more economical to secure these services through a private organization that would assume all costs of operation and maintenance in exchange for exclusive long-term use.

The Eastsider has contacted Occidental College to find out what it has in mind for the Lummis Home and how much it will invest in the property.

* Update: Occidental College spokesman Jim Tranquada provided the following statement in response to the commission’s vote:

We think this is a remarkable opportunity and we look forward to working with Recreation and Parks and our community partners to see if we can develop an agreement that will not only restore the fabric of the house but also its role as a cultural center for Northeast LA and the city as a whole.

The college’s response to the city’s request for proposals includes its concept for the creation of an  Institute for the History of Los Angeles,” a center for study of Los Angeles history and culture with special emphasis on the diverse communities of Northeast Los Angeles and the larger city.”

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One comment

  1. I think that the Recreation & Parks Department’s treatment of the longtime stewards of this iconic Los Angeles property is shameful. Despite their five decades in residence at Lummis House, there was no opportunity to negotiate a longterm lease, and thus no way that the Southern California Historical Society could seek funding to restore and upgrade this city-owned landmark. It was on the basis of their not raising millions of dollars without a lease that this most suitable tenant was refused the opportunity to bid to remain one.

    Whatever happens to Lummis House in the future–and I truly hope that this deal with Occidental can be finalized so that it does not remain unoccupied (like Pico House) — all of Los Angeles owes the Southern California Historical Society a debt of gratitude for their decades of loving care and enlightened interpretation. And the Recreation & Parks Department owes them a huge apology–and all of us an explanation for why SCHS was not given the same opportunity as Occidental.

    The Recreation & Parks Department doesn’t even have a permanent GM. Is this deal being steered by Gil Cedillo’s office, or Mayor Garcetti’s, or the Parks Commissioners? What is going in?

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