When the Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition go before the Los Angeles City Council on in hopes of halting the Autry National Center's planned $6.6 million renovation of their Griffith Park campus, they will do so without the support of the arts, parks, health and aging committee.
Led by chairman Tom Labonge (CD4), the committee voted against supporting a pair of items that would have slowed the progress of the Autry's proposed renovation plan.
The first of those items, a CEQA appeal filed by Highland Park resident Charles Fisher and the , was shot down by a vote of 2-1, with LaBonge and councilman Herb Wesson (CD 10) voting against recommending. Councilman Ed Reyes (CD1) voted in support of the appeal.
The second item, which calls for the Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Commission to reconsider their in favor of the Autry renovation plan, will also go before the city council without the arts, parks, health and aging committee's recommendation. The non-recommendation vote was passed by a count of 2-1, with LaBonge and Wesson voting against recommendation and Reyes voting in favor of recommendation.
The Autry National Center merged with the financially struggling in 2002, in an agreement that community members hoped would lead to a revival of the historical location. However, the Autry has claimed that Southwest Museum building is in need of $21 million worth of repairs, and is not a viable location to display the vast collection currently housed their. The museum has been closed to the public since 2009.
Daniel Wright, a member of the Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition and the attorney who filed the CEQA appeal on behalf of the Mount Washington Homeowner's Alliance, said that the committee's vote was at odds with the city's general plan.
"It does not appear that the city staff and the city attorney understand the serious violations of CEQA that occurred at the hands of recreation and park staff," Wright said. "We will continue to try to educate the city in the hopes that litigation will be avoided."
In a with Highland Park-Mount Washington Patch, Wright has argued that by allowing the Autry's renovation plan, through which items from the Southwest Museum's collection would be displayed at the Griffith Park campus, the city was violating the Northeast Community Plan portion of the city's general plan.
That plan, which can be downloaded from the assets box on the right, calls on the city to "maintain the Southwest Museum in Mount Washington."
Wright said that the "First Californians" exhibit, which would be showed in Griffith Park as part of the renovation plan, was an "exact replica" of the Southwest Museum's principal exhibit.
“This renovation would render the Southwest Museum’s exhibit redundant, and in approving it, the city is in violation of its own laws,” Wright said.
Dr. Stephen Karr, the current director of the Southwest Museum, responded to Wright's argument, saying that the exhibits on display at the Autry would not mimic those on the display in Mount Washington.
"I am here to set the record straight about one of the assertions by the coalition, that the exhibits on California native cultures at the Griffith Park campus are to be exactly the same as those once housed at Mount Washington. That is untrue," Karr said. "The exhibits that I and innumerable Native American communities have worked on over the last seven years … are vastly different from those that were originally housed in Mount Washington."
Pamela Hannah, a current Autry employee who managed the Southwest Museum campus between 1998 and 2010, said the "Southwest Museum location does not work in the 21st Century as a fully functioning museum."
Hannah continued: "We don't feel a fully functioning museum is possible."