In a dramatic last-minute shift, Councilman Jose Huizar proposed a “prenuptial agreement” that would require the Autry National Center to renovate the Southwest Museum in Mt. Washington and operate it as a living museum as part of its lease agreement with the city for its planned expansion in Griffith Park.
It wasn’t clear that Huizar’s Solomon-like “splitting the baby” proposal fully pleased either of the warring parties.
The Autry took over the Southwest and its vast collection of artifacts of the Old West in 2003 at a time when the city’s oldest museum was in disrepair and had suffered years of mismanagement It has spent $7 million on repairs to the century-old facility and promised to restore it but refused to enter into a binding agreement.
Eastside activists have waged an intense campaign to block the Autry’s 79,,000 square-foot expansion that would more than double the size of its Griffith Park museum and demanded that the Southwest be fully restored and operated as the main site for display of the collection of 250,000 artifacts.
On Tuesday afternoon before an overflow crowd in the City Council chambers, the years-long fight came to a head before the five-member Board of Referred Powers.
“While I believe that the Autry is acting in good faith when it says it is committed to renovating the Southwest Museum, I think the community deserves to have a binding commitment in writing to ensure that they and future generations enjoy one of Los Angeles most treasured
cultural institutions,” said Huizar, who represents the area.
The board — Janice Hahn, Ed Reyes, Bernard Parks, Bill Rosendahl and Tony Cardenas — gave Huizar four weeks to negotiate the agreement with a firm timeline for the Southwest’s
Here’s a report from the meeting by OurLA.org writer Chris Rowe, a West Hills Neighborhood Council member:
At the start of the meeting, it was announced that Councilmember Huizar wanted to speak first. And the
feeling from the “Friends of the Southwest” was one of fear. Would this
Councilmember ask his colleagues to support the Autry.
was one of disbelief, Huizar spoke about a document signed by the
Autry that promised to protect both museums. He stated
that he wanted a ” Prenuptial Agreement” — a very finely crafted document that
was airtight that would protect the Southwest Museum and its contents from being
taken by the Autry for the purposes of creating the grander “Autry National
Center” at Griffith Park.
the EIR for the Autry – and nothing to do with the Southwest Museum. They
believe that what the future of the Autry is will have no negative impact on the
Southwest Museum at all.
of the renderings of the future museum in Griffith Park. Levin spoke
about how this beautiful modern museum of glass would blend with the
landscape and incorporate the most modern of designs that fit the concept of
“Green Building”. As she spoke about how this glass structure was more natural –
I was thinking: “How much more natural can you be than the adobe of the
favor of the expansion at the Griffith Park site.
the Autry. At least five representatives from different Native American groups said the Autry would be a place where more
small children would learn about their Native American cultures and the history
of these people and the missions in the area.
protect the Southwest Collection — to keep it at the Southwest intact. He said Levin had created a rendering of an expansion of the Southwest on
its current site prior to being hired to design the expanded
Autry. A great deal of fuss had been made about the many projects that Llevin had designed throughout the City.
It was stated that 10 Neighborhood Councils favored protection I believe that Cardenas added, “This is why we no longer make treaties”. He went on to state
but about five of those who favored the Autry expansion who had filled out
speaker cards were given time to speak. Councilmember Hahn put on the
record those names that had not spoken as “Friends of the Autry”.
Keifer and Dr. Clyde Williams among others spoke of the need to protect the
Southwest. Jose Aguillar said that as a member of the Sierra Club, he would
support withdrawal of support of Councilmembers who wanted to expand the project
in Griffith Park.
of the Southwest. They said that other NC members from throughout the City were
present to support the Southwest.
professor from Pepperdine. He spoke of two students — and the differences
of an affluent versus a poorer background. And he explained that by taking the
collection from the Southwest community, that it would create a greater
difference between the “haves” and the “have nots,” because the Eastside community would
be deprived of those tourism dollars and this educational resource.
not had a chance to speak. There were about 50 people who opposed the Autry
expansion that did not have a chance to
speak. But she did not call out to the room the names of those who had
filled in speaker cards for the opposition. I never got to speak. So I do
not know if she ever received a speaker card for the record.
age children that live in the community surrounding the Southwest
Museum. They had a “child crafted” display showing a full museum and what
an empty museum would be like if the collection was taken from the Southwest.
They said that they wanted the museum there for them that was full.
the proceedings. Each Councilmember got to make a comment for the record.
expectation of making a decision that day. But she and the other Councilmembers
all agreed that the “Prenuptial Agreement” was in fact a very necessary step.
She wanted Huizar to go back and try to create air tight agreement
to protect the Southwest Museum’s collection.
that we had broken every treaty ever made.
of Huizar. He was given one month to work out the details with the
various entities, and to return to the Board with his efforts.
It was stated that 10 Neighborhood Councils favored protection
I believe that Cardenas added, “This is why we no longer make treaties”. He went on to state