WARNER THEATRE HUNTINGTON PARK LOSES IN FIRST ROUND OF CAMPAIGN TO SAVE THE THEATRE
A packed house filled the meeting room for last Tuesday night's four-hour meeting to determine the fate of the historic Warner Huntington Park Theatre. At stake, the future of the Warner as an arts and film hub for the HP community and southeast L.A. County.
L.A. Historic Theatre Foundation Executive Director Escott Norton led a line-up of speakers opposed to the retail conversion plan on the basis of the lack of thorough consideration and research by city staff of potential theatre-related uses, the need for preservation of a much needed cultural amenity and the importance of the Warner Theatre as a historic and potential economic resource for the city.
LAHTF cited concerns about the preparation process of the report, and unsubstantiated “facts” used to determine that a theatre use was not possible.
Numerous communications with city staff to offer LAHTF experience and expertise on the revival of historic theatres were rebuffed.
The HP City Department of Planning and Community Development report cited cost of property and restoration, no identified operators and users, and enhancement of the Pacific Avenue retail district. The variance was approved for the renovation to retail by a unanimous vote by the three Historic Preservation Commissioners. While the plans presented at the meeting were noted for sensitivity to retaining historic elements of the property, LAHTF still had specific concerns.
Changes approved: Seat removal and end-cap storage; Platforming orchestra level; Demolition of the first four rows of the Balcony, Restoration of the façade; Demolition of various walls to “open up” the Lobby to the Auditorium.
Specific conditions suggested by LAHTF were also incorporated; Protecting original painted surfaces, Consideration of Terracing the auditorium floor as an option, and Preserving original fixtures and elements on site.
A retail tenant for the renovated theatre was not named.
The City of Huntington Park is underserved in theatre and cultural spaces. Many of the speakers at the hearing made clear that they had to leave the city for cultural events, and some mentioned moving away from their home town because they felt there was no center they could be a part of.
Local groups have formed and are rallying together support from within the community. LAHTF also talked to business owners who are working on their own plans to revitalize the area that include the theatre. We will continue to reach out to local groups and assist them in their efforts.
LAHTF contacted the office of the District’s newly-elected County Supervisor Solis prior to the meeting for assistance. HP city government had not contacted the County as a potential resource for saving the theatre. LAHTF will continue its efforts to convene interested parties to re-activate the Warner.
Warner Huntington Park Theatre Photo Essay by Hunter Kerhart. (photo credit: Hunter Kerhart/LAHTF)
WHP history and additional photos at LAHTF Member Bill Counter’s L.A. Movie Palaces site: