May 30, 1998 - From the May, 1998 issue

Why Restore LA’s Historic City Hall? It Must be On-Time, On Budget & Done Right!

The last event held in L.A.’s City Hall this Century was the April 18 gala dinner benefits Project Restore, the Ed Avila-headed nonprofit working to revitalize City Hall and other public buildings in the region. At the event, Project Restore honored the L.A. City Council and Universal Studios for their contributions to civic preservation efforts and gave special recognition to Speaker of the California Assembly, Antonio Villaraigosa. The Planning Report is pleased to present the following comments made at that event by Project Restore Chairman and TPR Publisher David Abel.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. With the blessing of our Mayor and City Council, and in the company of County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard and Congressman Javier Becerra, Assemblymembers Antonio Villaraigosa and Robert Hertzberg, City Attorney James Hahn, and LAUSD School Board Member David Tokofsky, I welcome all of you to the last Project Restore dinner in City Hall this Century. 

My name is David Abel. And as Chair of the Project Restore Board, I have the distinct honor to open the program tonight, to offer some lofty comments about the work of Project Restore, to introduce our new CEO, Ed Avila, and ultimately to welcome our Master of Ceremonies for the evening, Kevin Starr. Before I do all the above, I want to honor in absentia the President of Project Restore, Georgia Rosenberry. Georgia is on extended leave from Restore due to a debilitating stroke. The staff and Board miss her very much. I know the City Hall family misses her—and I know she misses all of you. Tonight's success owes a great deal to all the work Georgia has done over the years to establish the bona fide credentials of Project Restore. 

What has compelled Georgia, thirty-three board members, dedicated staff, and the many volunteers and supporters of the organization to become so involved in the work of Project Restore? Victor Hugo summarized the spirit of the organization best when he said, "Let us, while waiting for new monuments... preserve the ancient monuments." Our central mission at Project Restore is to help preserve and restore our City Hall and other public buildings in Los Angeles County. It's the same spirit that compelled our nation to restore the Statue of Liberty and for us as Californians to restore so magnificently our State Capitol. It is why San Francisco, Oakland and other cities have taken seriously the challenge of restoring and revitalizing their civic landmarks. 

I and you know it is fashionable today to be cynical. Government is "other;" it is not us. It's "them." It's bureaucracy. We find it difficult to collectively act in our own interest, let alone when our interests are not immediately at stake. As we approach the millennium, I wonder what legacy will mark our stewardship of Los Angeles. I can only hope its equal to the legacy of the dreamers who built California and Los Angeles—and who left us this great building, the Harbor, our libraries, Griffith Park, our water systems, and the many public works projects we take for granted today—even treasure. 

Will auto malls, strip malls, toll roads, private schools and park fees be our legacy? 

How fitting it is for us to seriously consider Victor Hugo's words as we approach a millennium. "Let us, while waiting for new monuments ... preserve the ancient monuments." 


Our spirit in Los Angeles—the buoyancy, the entrepreneurship—is certainly back. We should be and are proud of a rebounding economy and our rekindled civic energy to engage and respond to reform challenges. 

How we address our public buildings is clearly a metaphor for how we wish to embrace or to retreat from our community. Shall this temple of citizenship be restored as a collective vision of a community bound together—much like it was when it was built in 1928? Or shall we simply treat it as a temporary shelter for balkanized programs and factious debates with which we have no great civic interest. 

Is the construction project all around us this evening just an exercise in on time, on budget engineering, or is it an opportunity in our City's history to revitalize the collective imagination of Los Angeles in the exercise of democracy? Is it about what we are afraid of, or is it about what we all want to be collectively?

We at Project Restore are committed to a public statement about our civic future that is at least as grand as was our predecessors in 1928. And with your support tonight—a quarter of million dollars of support—we're emboldened and thankful.


© 2024 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.