A recent city decision to permit the expansion of the Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Griffith Park violates environmental impact laws and endangers the future of the Southwest Museum on Mount Washington, according to a lawsuit filed by Northeast L.A. groups. The lawsuit brought by the Highland Park Heritage Trust and the Mount Washington Homeowners Alliance claims the city violated state laws that “require proper public disclosure and consideration of negative impacts before project approval.” The litigation also claims that city officials ignored zoning laws that prohibit city agencies from taking any action that “will not maintain the Southwest Museum land use on Mount Washington.”
The lawsuit is part of a long-running dispute between the Autry National Center, which operates the Autry and the Southwest museums, and groups in Northeast Los Angeles. Members of the Friends of the Southwest Museum have opposed the expansion of the Griffith Park museum until the Autry pledges to reopen the Southwest and its collection of Native American artifacts to the public as a full-fledged museum. “It is apparent that Autry intends … to move the Southwest Museum collections into the Autry and abandon the Mount Washington location altogether,” said the suit.
The lawsuit filed on July 26 says the Autry has violated the provisions of the 2003 merger agreement with the Southwest Museum, claiming the Autry “will bury the Southwest Museum name.” The Autry claims it’s not feasible to maintain the nearly century-old Southwest as a museum, which is currently closed to public as the staff uses the space to restore its collection. Click here to view a copy of the complaint.