Echo Park hospital tries some fancy footwork to build support

Early rendering of Barlow Hospital development

Barlow Respiratory Hospital has hired a long list of consultants, planners and real estate brokers as it seeks to transform its leafy grounds on the eastern edge of Echo Park into a major housing development and new hospital. Now, the 110-year-old institution has apparently turned to a different set of professionals to build support: dancers. The hospital, which wants to sell most of its property to finance a new hospital on a corner of the grounds, has hired the Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre to perform an “artistic journey” at the hospital next month titled “Catch Your Breath.”

The show, which will run from Oct. 11 to Oct. 14, is inspired by the stories of Barlow patients and will “highlight the hospital’s past, while celebrating its future through captivating live performance.”

The performance will take place as Barlow employees and other supporters have been raising awareness of the hospital as they try to get the 25-acre property located next to Elysian Park and Dodger Stadium rezoned to accommodate more than 800 units of housing. As part of the effort,  Barlow is seeking to sell most of its property and use the proceeds to build a new hospital on the corner of the grounds.   Opponents* have said the proposal is way too big, but the hospital does not start construction by early next year, it could be forced to close.

A press release issued by the Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre describes Catch Your Breath this way:

Drawing upon Barlow’s focus on “the whole person, not just the illness,” HDDT will place the physical body at the core of the piece, with revitalizing choreography that will highlight the beauty and significance of the hospital grounds and allow the audience to see the beacon of hope the enhanced Barlow Respiratory Hospital provides for its patients, families, and the community.

If “Catch Your Breath” proves to be popular, perhaps other developers will turn to dancers for help.

* The Eastsider is a member of the Echo Park Historical Society, which is opposed to the current Barlow proposal.


  1. Oh PLEASE. Barlow wants to build way too many units on a site that just wasn’t meant for a massive, urban housing unit. I am shocked that Heidi Duckler could have been bought off for this piece. I understand the need for a new hospital, but this is part of a vast urban park that needs to EXPAND, not shrink. Heidi should be supporting the park, space, and curbing the encroaching urban landscape, not encouraging it!

  2. There was a petition to stop this, what happened to that. Overbuild and let traffic rot!

    • SaveElysianPark.org – over 1000 people signed the online petition against the project, as well as more than 600 physical signatures. The Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park has delivered comments to the Planning Department on the inadequacies on the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) (Such inadequacies including but not limited to: improper commercial purpose, massive changes in zoning (not a by-right project), and a terribly substandard traffic study). Many citizens also voiced their opposition to this ill conceived project and submitted comments on the same. The DEIR is now under review by the Planning Department – we await their ruling.

      • That number of people signing the petition is scarily low, especially considering how easy it is to get people to sign a petition, especially online! Geez, the petition signers are outnumbered simply by the number of people who will be living in the new development! That’s not anywhere near a large enough showing of opposition. Especially when you have people like Eric Garcetti and Antonio Villaraigosa who LOVE big development and time and again have been more than willing to steamroll over a neighborhood to make way for it.

      • Echo Park Neighbor

        I applaud you, Ari. Thanks for all of the effort you have put into fighting his monstrosity. I’m feeling optimistic about our chances to block it.

      • Thank you Ari. I have faith that this will make an impact.

        • Sorry there are some maintenance issues on the site. We are working on a parallel site to support my run for President of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council (AriForNeighborhoodCouncil.org), and it fried SaveElysianPark.org temporarily. Hope to have it back up soon. Remember to vote in the Neighborhood Council Elections on Saturday October 6. You can also follow @SaveElysianPark on Twitter.

  3. Actually, Barlow has been having a fundraising effort going — called “Taking the Next Breath” — to help pay for the new hospital, with a goal of $25 million. I’m sure this show is part of that fundraising effort.

    That $25 million figure for fundraising for this project means a lot of support for it — presumably by people who don’t live in this area but support the hospital.

    Barlow was expecting to have a list of potential buyers lined up by now, and then make its selection.

  4. “Catch Your Breath” before the influx of pollution generated by thousands of new residents and their vehicles.

  5. Echo Park Neighbor

    OMG. Q, I could not have said it better.

  6. 800? I’m not a nimby but comon.. I’ve been up there many times, that is just an absurd number of units for that land.

  7. Dear Barlow,
    You are, first and foremost, a business; and a not very successful business at that. If your organization is not viable enough in the minds of potential benefactors to motivate them to donate the funds you need to either update your facility where it stands, or buy land in a more suitable location and raise the buildings there, you should go out of business and let your patients and employees find a better facility. To turn your failure into the bad fortune of a neighborhood, rather than your own; to take land that was supposed to remain open space and whore it out for development says something about your “charitable” character. How can you be so beneficent and still sell out a neighborhood that always supported you, dump a disgusting housing development on it while simultaneously ruining a major city park and flooding the streets with traffic and visitors the area can’t handle? If you have any real clout, get your downtown supporters to raise funds for you to build your facility, and if you can’t, kindly fold up your tents, declare your enterprise over, and leave!

    • While yes, this plan is for drastic overdevelopment and is wrong, I would not want Barlow out of business. I would not take so lightly the NEED for Barlow and other hospitals. In fact, we need more hospitals, not fewer. Frankly, we cannot afford to lose any hospitals; We don’t have enough as it is. Another location, money from benefactors, some other solution, whatever, all fine and good. But advocating elimination of a fine and needed hospital is not a reasonable solution.

    • Hahaha could’ntt said it better, why support a place that care for there residents, barlow is looking at this for there own interest not to help the community, not only they are raising money with there campaigns but they are pinching pennies among there employee ( from secret sources within the neighborhood) no overtime, raise prices on there cafeteria food, and layed off there LVN’s at the main campus and few people in other departments

  8. I have attended many Heidi Druckler directed Collage Dance Theatre productions. I can envision how the evening’s performance will unfold:

    Scene 1 – Dancers cavort through the Barlow natural park setting with beautiful trees. They are pushing wheelchairs with tuberculosis patients of a bygone era through the dramatically lit trees. This scene will represent Barlow’s history as a “remote” location for treatment of TB.

    Scene 2 – In the woodsy meeting room on the Barlow campus, the dancers cavort in business suits at a meeting of the hospital Board of Trustees. Through dance, we learn that the hospital has been mismanaged and that unless the Board sells the land to real estate developer (a dancer dressed in slicked hair, black cape, and mustache), the hospital will close. The scene ends with the unveiling of a preposterous drawing of buildings that look like downtown Tokyo jammed into the Barlow grounds as the Board dances in joy.

    Scene 3 – We return to the wooded park setting. Dancers representing concerned community residents dance in a line formation holding copies of the Environmental Impact Report. They are ringing the alarm of the idiocy of the Barlow proposal. Suddenly bright lights on machinery turn on in the woods uphill and a bulldozer/steamroller “ballet” mows down the line of community dancers and trees. The bulldozer/steamrollers are driven by City officials led by Mayor Tony Villar and Eric Garcetti with important support by Tom LaBonge and Planning Director Michael Logrande in one of the more bizzare paux deu dance routines ever seen. During the paux deu dance, Barlow Board member dancers swing down from the few remaining trees in an acrobatic movement tossing bags of money to the Mayor and City officials who dance with joy for their next election campaign. As the forest of trees burns and the company takes their bows, the real Barlow Board of Trustees hand bags of money to the Heidi Druckler Dance Company and they exit to the latest hot venue in Echo Park for a bitchin’ cast party.

    The Los Angeles Times gives the production a rave review without mentioning the death of the Park formerly enjoyed by Los Angeles residents.

    I am sure I am just imagining this scene and it could never come true.

    • Genius.

    • WOW!!! This would be a fabulous fundraising tool! 1000’s would pay to see it….Ry Cooder would make an album…OOPS, he did….It’s called Chavez Ravine….roll credits….

    • Sarah,

      The Barlow property is not part of the park.
      How about you own some land and I tell you what you can do with it?
      There should be reasonable dialogue about the size of the project, but it’s not a public park you are talking about.

      If the people who sign any of these petitions are willing to open their wallets as wide as their mouths maybe you can buy the land and turn it into a park.
      But until that happens someone will end up with the land and develop it to recoup their investment.

      • Glen B…

        Clearly you have no knowledge of land entitlement…It’s zoned agricultural….NOT High density….currently they may, BY Right, develop 1 home per acre….25.5 to be exact….So, take your entitled “I own property” to that bank, or just do your homework….

        Sarah, you remain brilliant in your interpretation…Glen, back to lobbyist school for you….

        • Sorry Edina I didn’t know you were the real estate lawyer around these parts.
          If this place was here over 100 years ago the people who started the place didnt think it would get past some creaky old cottages.

          If you want open spaces Montana is what you need to look into.
          Not sure what people are trying to preserve.
          The park is a great gang magnet on nights and weekends.
          Helicopters are hovering all the time trying to keep the crime down.
          If I was a property owner I’d welcome some development and it would raise property values. I may actually buy one of those new places.

          We had this same NIMBY attitude in North Hollywood and thanks to the Metro station NoHo is so much better. It was a drug dealer filled gangland with helicopters all the time and cops with lights on with guys getting questioned on the sidewalk…reminds me of another neighborhood.

          Lobby school?
          I wish I was a lobbier. I wouldn’t be driving a Mitsubishi pickup truck living in NoHo that’s for sure!
          Maybe you haVe an opening in your real estate company for me?

          • Glen B, it’s clear that you don’t spend time in Elysian Park. I live a block from the park, and I’m in it every weekend and periodically walk through it at night, and it’s a beautiful and generally peaceful place, and certainly no more a home to crime than any other spot around the east side.

            But it makes sense you wouldn’t understand the value of a place like Elysian Park. In your world view parks belong in Montana, not in Los Angeles.

          • i’ll be building my sewage treatment plant next to your house

          • that was for Glen B

          • Encore (Bonus Dance) After the First Curtain Call –

            A giant video screen is lowered by flapping helicopters as the flames of the burning trees die away. A regiment of vinyl Lazy-Boy recliners roll out from the side. Each armchair contains persons who look like the various hosts from Fox News. They all have keyboards upon which they are furiously typing and the messages are flashed upon the giant video screen. As the Heidi Druckler dancers push the Lazy-Boy recliner typists around into a rotating circle, meaner and nastier comments are displayed on the giant video screen as the typists congratulate themselves on ignoring the facts, proclaiming the free right of every landowner to build whatever they want no matter the impact on the community, and generally showing those “Libtards” a thing or two. The rotating circle (jerk) moves faster and faster, until a little girl from the neighborhood rides in on her bicycle. Seeing the looney posts on the video screen she goes over to big, oversized wall plug and pulls it out. The video screen goes blank and the Lazy-Boy Recliner typists begin to hyperventilate having been deprived of an outlet for their venom. Dancers dressed as Barlow Nurses enter to roll the recliner typists into the old hospital building where they are given respiratory therapy … and bags of money.

            THEN, the Heidi Druckler company adjourns for the bitchin’ cast party.

          • Dear Glen B,

            Sorry for the slow reply,,,,,,,busy toiling away at my day job driving through the horror of the valley that overdevelopment has created! Thanks for the moral boost though! Real Estate Maven would be a lovely way to pass my day…..

            In regards to the Nightmare Barlow has proposed for “OUR” neighborhood (those of us who actually live Barlow/Dodgers/Park adjacent), we won’t let it become the Valley, nor Downtown, nor Tokyo…so, good luck with the Mitsubishi……I hear not as good as Nissan, but what would I know, I’m an “amateur” community acitvist……


      • Glen,
        You obviously don’t live in the neighborhood otherwise you would know that this development is way too big for the area. By the way, I own land. (I bet you work for the developer, don’t you?)

  9. Sarah, I have to applaud you! Succinct and right on the money….

  10. Sarah,
    that was brilliant.

  11. Barbara,
    How can an organization that has continously been open and in business for 110 years be “unsuccessful”? And, how can you use the word “failure” for a state mandated decree for building code compliance after a devestating earthquake that affected thousands of businesses and the reliance on complying is strictly on donations? Why buy land to rebuild on when they have owned that land since 1902 and it’s purpose was to take care of and heal critically ill patients, not to remain an “open space”?
    Rethorical questions all as I realize you weren’t asking for questions about your opinions. But, possibly give some of those questions some thought??

    • It was not zoned for commercial buildings. It was zoned as farmland; the idea was that it would NOT be developed.
      I guess it depends on your idea of successful. I don’t think that cutting the throat of the neighborhood that has housed you in order to raise funds you could NOT manage to raise on your own meets my definition of a successful enterprise.
      Let them find a proper location, get backers, and move.

      • Or raise funds to improve the hospital without selling any land to outside developers. Hospital land for hospital is not the same as hospital land for condo megaplex.

    • P.S. If the land’s purpose is to “take care of and heal critically ill patients,” how can you advocate selling it to commercial developer?

    • Wasn’t that devastating earthquake almost 20 years ago? I’m sorry, but it is hard to see this place as particularly well-run — or run for the public benefit.

  12. This isn’t about the hospital, this is about money worshiping land developers who could care less about the neighborhood … or the city. There are plenty of other far more appropriate places to build their treatment center. Let’s save what parklands are left, whatever the zoning or alleged “property rights” of ownership are.

  13. Ari Bessendorf. The issue of Barlow Hospital build-up -up-condos and your
    running for President of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council
    (GEPENC) are two seperate issues. Using the information lifted off signed
    petions for election purposes does not serve your organization well nor the
    future of the NC well either. The term is exploitation and this community has had enough of NC exploitation ! The upcoming GEPENC election is nothing more than a farce.

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