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Despite Lawsuit, Friends Still Willing to Negotiate with Autry

A petition circulating Highland Park calls for the forming of a working group to include Autry staff, friends coalition members and city council members.

Despite a month of contentious debate before the Los Angeles City Council and a recently served aimed at halting the Autry National Center's proposed expansion of their Griffith Park Campus, members of the Friends of the Coalition said they are still willing to go back to the bargaining table with the Autry.

Last week, Dr. Stan Moore, a member of the and the friends coalition, circulated a petition urging the Los Angeles City Council to form a working group comprising city council members and both Autry and friends coalition leadership.

According to friends coalition steering committee member Nicole Possert, the petition has been circulating since early July. Despite a recent lawsuit filed against the city by a the and the that seeks to overturn the city council's approval of the Autry's planned Griffith Park campus, Possert, heritage trust member, said the coalition is still willing to go back to the bargaining table with the Autry.

The Autry National Center merged with the financially struggling Southwest Museum in 2002, in an agreement that community members hoped would lead to a revival of the historical location. However, the Autry has claimed that the Southwest Museum building is in need of $21 million worth of repairs, and has shifted the focus to expanding the Griffith Park campus.

The Los Angeles City Council approved the Autry's state grant funded $6.9 million expansion plan on June 21, following a month of bitter debate between the friends coalition and Autry leadership.

Click to follow Patch's coverage of the Autry expansion effort.

During the same city council meeting that the Autry expansion was approved, Councilman José Huizar introduced a motion that would bring council and coalition members together with Autry staff with the goal of finding a way to reopen the Southwest Museum.

"It's never been adopted by the city council," Possert said. "We support it. We encourage the council to pick up this issue as quickly as they did the approval of the Autry's $6.9 expansion project."

Rick Coca, press deputy for council member José Huizar's office, said that Huizar's motion could go before Councilman Tom LaBonge's arts, parks, health and aging committee some time in September.

"We've had a lot of success in the past when working with these types of task force approaches," Coca said. "We're hoping we kind find a solution that works for both sides."

Such a solution, though, has proven nearly impossible to find.

A that took place in January seemed to build momentum toward a plan in which the Autry would cede the Southwest Museum property to the city and allow the historic building to be operated as a mixed-use educational facility/museum by nearby Occidental College.

However, Possert said that Autry Vice President Luke Swetland in June, when he presented to the arts, parks, health and aging committee a letter that laid out a series of conditions, including that the Autry would retain complete control of the Southwest Museum's name and collection, which the friends coalition found untenable.

Possert said that the friends coalition would not be willing to accept any plan that didn't allow the Southwest Museum and the nearby Casa de Adobe building to retain their names. Whoever was brought on to run the museum would also need greater access to its massive collection than the Autry has so far been willing to concede, Possert said. 

When asked if the friends coaltion were also working against a spirit of cooperation through the filing of the lawsuit against the city, Possert said those actions taken by the homeowners association and the heritage trust only as a last resort to preserve planning, zoning and environmental laws.

Joan Cumming, marketing director for the Autry National Center, told Highland Park-Mount Washington Patch that, as a matter of policy, she would not comment on ongoing litigation.

Scott Rubel August 12, 2011 at 04:24 PM
Um, but the Friends WERE a working group for Autry staff and community members who want to save it. The point of the group was destroyed by Autry's lies and bad faith. Why would forming a new "working group" result in anything other?
Marino August 14, 2011 at 02:28 PM
It's not a NEW group if it comprises of the current "coalition" leadership. The same group that drove Autry out of Mt Washington with its conspiracy paranoia and bad faith. It would be like Israel (Autry) negotiating with the Islamic Jihad. Nicole Possert and Dan Wright need to resign. They brought hostility to a situation when none was needed. They do not represent the community. Only half of a Mt Washington homeowner's association. The community at large wants the Southwest Museum reopened. The "Friends" want to beat the Autry to submission. These are not compatible goals.
Nimby pimp August 14, 2011 at 05:13 PM
Here, here. Possert and Wright do not represent the community. I have communicated this to Ana Cubas and Jose Huizar. Let it be known.

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