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POINT/COUNTERPOINT CITY OFFICIALS IGNORE PUBLIC WISHES FOR L.A. ICON.

Byline: Mark Siegel

NESTLED in the hills of Los Feliz, the Greek Theatre has been a cultural icon of our city for more than 70 years.

Unfortunately, for the past 25 years, our community has been in a constant battle with the current operators, Nederlander Greek Inc., over the seriously neglected safety and security procedures, the deteriorating physical facilities and constant noise and traffic issues. Sadly enough, the current operators have failed to respond to our concerns or even to care to discuss these problems with us.

House of Blues Concerts offered an outstanding proposal to turn things around at the Greek.

House of Blues Concerts offered the city one of the largest contracts in the history of the Department of Recreation and Parks: more than $23 million over the term of the 10-year contract. The financial commitment, which was backed by city-approved financial guarantees, included $11.5 million in capital improvements to the facility - double that proposed by the Nederlanders - and millions more in rent.

Equally important, House of Blues was committed to making a solid investment in community, youth and cultural programs.

Furthermore, House of Blues Concerts' development proposal, in addition to offering a world-class design, was responsive to our environmental concerns. It called for restoring the sensitive canyons near the Greek Theatre - rather than destroying the canyons to develop a parking lot, as proposed by the Nederlanders - and included a clear and effective plan to resolve our traffic, noise, security and neighborhood-cleanup concerns.

Most importantly, House of Blues Concerts kept us, the community, involved throughout the process.

The outstanding merits of the House of Blues Concerts proposal earned it the unequivocal recommendations of the Los Feliz Improvement Association, the Sierra Club, an independent review panel, the Department of Recreation and Parks staff and general manager, independent financial consultants retained by the city and numerous community organizations.

But city government failed to listen not only to the community, but also its own experienced team of experts, in not awarding the contract to House of Blues Concerts. City government allowed selnterests to prevail by throwing out both bids after an 18-month review process. The Department of Recreation and Park Commission recently decided to throw out the bids even though LeRoy Chase, its vice chairman, stated that the commission had before it two responsive bids from two responsive bidders. It is clear that House of Blues had the winning bid.

By throwing out the bids, the city of Los Angeles has lost millions of dollars and passed up an opportunity to renovate the Greek Theatre into a cultural icon of Los Angeles.

What is most disturbing about this entire process is the fact that the Department of Recreation and Parks Commission has failed to listen to our concerns and recommendations.

Even though told over and over again about our issues and concerns, the city government has allowed Nederlander to operate this city-owned venue for 25 years on a sweetheart deal - without once putting it out to bid - because of political relationships. This 25-year stranglehold on the facility was unchallenged, and the city was making little or no financial return while the venue generated more than $150 million in revenues and the Nederlanders made millions. City government refused to allow a competitive bid process until we spoke up.

In fact, the contract to operate the Greek Theatre was opened to a competitive-bidding process only after a lawsuit and a referendum petition signed by more than 70,000 residents were filed. We are speaking loudly and clearly again, and again city government failed to listen.

We sincerely hope that city government will reconsider its action in throwing out the bids and award the contract to House of Blues Concerts.

If a new bidding process is commenced against the will of city constituents, we would only hope that House of Blues Concerts re-bids for the operation and improvement of the Greek Theatre. House of Blues has the experience and merits to renovate the theater into a great icon of the city, while making sure that our concerns are considered and addressed.

Every day of indecision marks another delay in the much-needed renovations of the Greek Theatre.

If the current operators were doing their job, we wouldn't be in this situation of having to repair a deteriorating venue. Unfortunately, we are faced with the possibility that this less-than-mediocre operation will continue for another few years.

City government has walked away from millions in revenue by throwing out the bids and losing all of the benefits provided in the House of Blues Concerts' winning bid, and, most unfortunately, city officials have turned their ears away from the voice of the people.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:May 1, 2001
Words:776
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