by Robert W. Nudelman
Hollywood Heritage has obtained several documents that are leading to the potential taking of legal action to block demolition of the historic 1929 Hollywood Bowl orchestra shell. These documents not only validate much of our previous lawsuit’s claims, but add other new areas of concern.
The County of Los Angeles is in a financial crisis. Yet it is somehow appropriating millions of dollars in additional monies, including general fund monies that could go to hospitals, libraries, safety and other financially strapped uses, to cover massive cost overruns for the shell demolition and replacement (the county’s latest euphemism for it is “restructuring the shell”). The project’s budget had already exceeded its $4 million limit while the case was still in the courts, yet work hadn’t even begun. Also, the county stated in court shortly before this that the project would be completed at the $4 million approved budget, even though they had already surpassed it.
Even with millions added to the budget, without the approval of the Board of Supervisors, who had voted to lock the budget at the $4 million figure in September 2000, the project’s scope has been reduced. The new dressing rooms and rehearsal spaces for the orchestra have been removed, and the project is replacing steel with dry wall in parts of the new shell’s construction. Other undefined yet very important reductions in the sound, acoustics, lighting, and staging equipment have been made.
In short, between these and other changes, as well as a much larger budget, this has become a completely different project than the one approved. A re-evaluation of this new project and its dramatically revised budget needs to be performed and compared to the project proposed by Hollywood Heritage. Our proposal meets the budget and demands of the Philharmonic (do they know of these changes?).
Finally, the county has said that the 1928 orchestra shell had provided superior sound to the 1929 shell, and that was why the new one would emulate that design, though no proof was ever offered. Hollywood Heritage has obtained a Nov. 1929 copy of Architectural Forum, which discusses the new shell and its superior acoustics to the previous one. Interestingly, the 1928 shell used a parabolic reflector over the orchestra to bounce sound down, similar again to the new plan, but it proved “unsatisfactory because it produced an over emphasis of tones.” Once again, those who forget history are condemned to relive it.
Hollywood Heritage is looking at these and other issues to weigh our legal position to protect this world famous landmark and to uphold the laws in force to prevent these abuses of laws protecting historic structures from continuing.