While the city initially planned only to investigate the price of demolition, it concluded with a directive to do both environmental and historical research on 10858 Culver Boulevard, setting in motion many possibilities for the site. Permitting the Wende Museum to help keep the Mayme Clayton collection in Culver City is one of them.
With only one action item on the agenda for July 8, 2019, it was plain that the faces filling the council chambers were there to address that item; A report on the status of the city owned property at 10858 Culver Boulevard, and direction to the city manager.
Throughout the past three months, the Wende Museum at 10808 Culver Blvd. had held a series of community conversations, focused on drawing out ideas for the use of the site next door. Formerly the home of AmVets, a non-profit organization, both buildings on the site had fallen into disuse and disrepair. Justin Jampol, the Executive Director of the Wende Museum, led these workshops with the idea that this unique space could be repurposed. The question to the community was what did they want to see there?
At the city council meeting, there were fourteen people who gave cards to the city clerk to address the matter, and the first to speak was Jampol. He offered many of the ideas that the community meetings had concluded were priority; community space, performance space, and housing. “We envision a community center with a focus on physical and mental wellness. We are also in the process of finalizing a partnership with the Mayme Clayton Library and Museum to make sure that this unique resource can stay accessible in Culver City … For 60 years, the A frame [the second building on the lot] has been a space for performances … We are also aware of the homeless crisis, and we want to be a part of the solution.”
With millions in private funding available through the Wende supporters, Jampol was confident that the site could be recreated in a way that would serve the city.
Donna Kent spoke fervently about the need to keep the Clayton collection in Culver City and available to all, especially students, for the sake of education about racism.
Keith Jeffreys, leader of the United States Veterans Artists Alliance and former director of AmVets cited the danger of a disintegrating building. “When the ‘Ghost Ship’ artist co-op burned in Oakland, I took at as ‘time to get out’. The liability issues we too daunting.” Jeffreys also offered his support for the Wende vision.
The President of the Culver City Historical Society, Hope Parrish, also enthused that the Wende proposal could save the Clayton. “It’s an essential part of the Culver City Cultural Corridor, and this is an opportunity we shouldn’t pass up. It’s a win-win for Culver City.”
Mark Lipman noted that he was sitting on a fence. “From my perspective on the homeless committee, this needs to be housing, but I would also love for this to be a space for literature, for readings. Ideally, it can be both.”
After a dozen other speakers, all of them supporting the proposal from the Wende, Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells had to take a moment to correct the alignment. “What was on the agenda, and what people are discussing here at two different things. This is an outside proposal, and we need a meeting specific to this.”
Both council members Daniel Lee and Alex Fisch spoke to the need for housing, and the idea of an interim use for the site after inspections had been done. Council member Goran Eriksson noted that “This is a postage stamp, it’s too small for housing.”
Fisch considered a more complex plan that would move the Community Gardens to Bill Botts Field and open up more space on the block; then it might be considered for housing.
The idea to tear things down or see if they could be rehabilitated led back to the creation of the Wende. Jampol offered to the council that in the process of converting the Armory building into the Wende museum, there had been a walk-through inspection of 10858 Culver Blvd. that concluded that A frame had structural value. The front building was probably beyond repair.
The item concluded with the council directing staff to do both an environmental and historical evaluation of 10858 Culver Boulevard. A meeting specific to the Wende proposal would be put on the calendar before the end of the summer.