Protest Signs Contain Angry Words
The Culver City Ice Arena was again the subject of a drawn-out public comment session and discussion at the Council's meeting Monday night, with an overflow crowd packing the Mike Balkman City Council Chamber.
The fate of the ice rink and the building housing it is still, however, uncertain.
With the rink due to close on February 2 and the compressors that keep the ice frozen due to be turned off as of February 15, to make way for the new tenant Planet Granite, city staff recommended the Council wait for the next meeting (February 10) at which time the city can give them further information on environmental issues.
A huge crowd of ice skating and ice hockey enthusiasts and other supporters of the ice rink had turned out on January 13 to beg the Council to do something. As a result, Monday night's meeting featured an agenda item for the Council to discuss the matter and take whatever action might be possible.
Although the Council and city staff had already made it clear there is no legal way of forcing a property owner-in this case the owner of the Ice Arena-to not sell or rent his or her property to a tenant with a business focus different from the present use, many ice rink supporters felt that something should be done.
Their protest signs, which they displayed to the right and left of the Council dais, often featured angry words for Planet Granite, a rock climbing gym facility that is to be housed in the ice arena building after modifications.
People were overheard saying the Council needed to take action and a speaker in non-agenda public comment implied that in an election year Council members should keep the public's concerns in mind.
The arrival of Council member Mehaul O'Leary was greeted with loud cheers when the audience saw he was wearing a gray "Culver City Ice Hockey" sweatshirt.
Community Development Director Sol Blumenfeld and Fire Marshall Mike Bowden spoke about the environmental factors in "decommissioning" the ice arena.
"The California Fire Code requires that a [closure] plan be submitted for review 30 days prior to the closure," said Bowden. "We are closely monitoring the situation to see that the rink is being decommissioned in a safe and timely manner."
If the closure plan is not submitted on time or seems to be unclear, Bowden added, the city will have to step in and bring in a subcontractor who will certify that it is safe to shut the compressors down.
There is concern about the removal of the ice because of the possible release of hydrous ammonia and other hazardous waste material.
As of Monday, staff said that a closure report had not yet been received but that the owner was reportedly working on it.
Blumenfeld also mentioned the possibility of "what's under the ice." Depending on what structures existed prior to the building of the arena, there may be "archeological" remains, a matter for the historical status of the property.
To acquire historical status as a landmark, the building must be nominated by the Council or by an individual and the pertinent data given for review by the Cultural Affairs Commission.
Designation as a city landmark would not save the ice rink business but would save character defining features of the building such as the female ice skating figure that seems to spring from the roof. The structure's owner would be obliged to maintain and repair any character defining features of the landmark.
The audience cheered at the prospect that either a delay in decommissioning the ice area on environmental grounds or a delay to allow consideration as a historic landmark might buy some time for the rink.
They were less happy and some hisses were even heard, when Planet Granite spokesman James Lee gave a brief presentation on his company. Planet Granite had already issued a press release explaining the company's viewpoint.
"I think it's important that the matter be brought forth today," said Lee. "That support is a testament to the passion and dedication that the residents have expressed."
His presentation contained an apology from Planet Granite for the way the company had introduced its plans to Culver City.
Planet Granite, a small company (not a corporation, Lee emphasized) has nothing but benevolent plans for its Culver City facility. The presentation outlined the company's history (founded by climbing enthusiasts), its charitable contributions, and its concern for building community.
The ice rink advocates listened patiently, having been warned by Mayor Jeff Cooper to "keep it civil."
Nevertheless, they filed past the podium over a period of three hours, wearing T-shirts emblazoned with slogans like "Culver City Ice Zealots," wearing ice skating and hockey outfits, imploring the Council once again to put the love of ice skating ahead of the needs of rock climbers.