Miller Time
Hope For A Park, Requiem For A Poolhouse
By Grady Miller
Jun 20, 2013 - 5:46:41 AM

HOLLYWOOD—One of my favorite signs in Los Angeles is a funny attempt at visualizing the forbidden message contained in the words, No Gambling. It’s posted in a West Hollywood Park and makes no sense at all unless you know that Old Russian men play dominoes on picnic tables under the shade trees and that (reputedly) a lot of rubles ride on the turn of a domino.


I’m breathing a sigh of relief now because the Old Russian gamers will be here a while yet, a vestige of permanence in the changing Los Angeles landscape. Plummer Park has been protected for the moment, after citizens marched on City Hall last October, but be aware that only your vigilance will keep the park protected. The WeHo City Hall plan to bulldoze buildings, uproot centennial trees, and displace those who enjoy the park has not been permanently halted. (You are invited to visit www.protectplummerpark.comand participate in an electronic petition. Visit see an architectural sketch of the future envisioned for the park.)

Speak up or all this could change.


The plan may be motivated by perfectly well-meaning folks. For my money they have been infected by the mania for change and construction. In the words of neighbor Jorge Ratcovich, who lives across from this park, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”


People are the focus of the park, the tennis players lobbing balls, the weight lifters pumping iron, the children in the playground running around and giving their parents a moment of peace. The setting of Plummer Park is green, cool, and calm. And a blade of grass or a shade tree cannot be improved upon, a fact of nature perhaps ungrasped by coarser human natures.


An architectural conspiracy seems to be afoot, as well. But the move to tear down the Great Hall and transmogrify Fiesta Hall and the Great Hall, the stucco and red-tile Spanish revival buildings that reflect California’s Spanish heritage and the park’s (it was carved from a section of Spanish land grant) reflect more insensitivity than a concerted conspiracy. The existing two multi-purpose community center buildings very low-key and almost seem to grow out of the ground. The new structures, dubbed ”˜futuristic,’ but they are more Jetsons. Boil down to conspiracy, nonetheless, against the park’s leisurely vibe.


I have been directly touched by another local effort at ”˜improvement.’ In my neighborhood last year in the Hollywood Recreation Center, as part of a project to build a new swimming pool there, we lost the old pool house. The inefficient post-World War II brick structure fell to the wrecking ball un-mourned and unprotected. It had open rafters on the inside of the roof that angled down, revealing the craftsmanship of the roof boards installed at a slant, meaning that each single board had to be individually installed; what’s more, the roof boards on the men’s side were a mirror image of the women’s side.


This pool house had a laid-backness and a relaxed gentility often lacking in contemporary American buildings. It’s something I’m going to mourn, as the fact that my swimming pool, the protagonist of my summer idyll, has been turned at present into a field of dust. Nobody took into account the old pool house because it was considered unremarkable and inefficient (passing by in the night you could hear the boilers hiss and clank.) I’m sure all the gas and electric savings will pencil out in a few hundred years. Nor do I underestimate the value of bulldozing and building for the economy and the fun of destruction itself.


Without my daily dip in the pool, however, it’s a fair assessment to say that I am going bananas this summer. I wonder for the families and the children that splashed and sunbathed and tobogganed down the water slide. And may the City Stewards of West Hollywood heed the public will, and know that every person who speaks out stands for ten bogged down by the day-to-day chains, and maintain a park which exquisitely performs its community function.


Grady Miller can be reached at

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