Lawsuit Dropped; Famous L.A. Nightclub To Fall

Posted on: January 16th, 2008 by Margaret Foster

Cocoanut GroveIt's a dark year for the Academy Awards. This March's event could be cancelled, and one of the nightclubs that hosted six Academy Awards ceremonies will be demolished this month.

The Cocoanut Grove was the nightclub of the 1921 Ambassador Hotel, which the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) tore down two years ago to make way for a new 4,200-student school, to open next year.

On Jan. 2, the Los Angeles Conservancy settled its lawsuit against the school district, which bought the Ambassador's 24-acre site in 2001, in exchange for its $4 million commitment to conserve 125 historic schools in the city.

Four years ago, the school district agreed to dismantle and reuse parts of the 1921 Ambassador Hotel: its Paul Williams-designed coffee shop, the Ambassador's pantry, where Bobby Kennedy was fatally shot, and the entire Cocoanut Grove nightclub. In light of this promise, the Los Angeles superior court granted permission to raze the Ambassador, which was gone by January 2006. (The site of the Kennedy assassination, now in 29 pieces, is in storage.)

In May 2007, however, the school district reneged on the deal, announcing that it wasn't feasible to save the Cocoanut Grove or the coffee shop. Instead, it would rebuild part of the nightclub, which was remodeled in the 1970s.

"There is reason to believe that LAUSD never intended to comply with the legal mitigation measures that allowed for the hotel's demolition," according to the conservancy's Web site. "For instance, LAUSD submitted its modified project plan to the Division of the State Architect (who oversees all construction projects using state school bond funds) in January 2007–four months before publicly disclosing the plan–and never submitted a plan to retain the Cocoanut Grove. In addition, internal LAUSD documents indicate that far from meeting its legal obligation to preserve the RFK site, LAUSD is actively contemplating the complete destruction of all remaining artifacts from the site."

The L.A. Conservancy filed the lawsuit on Oct. 25, 2007, its second against the school district. Now that the nonprofit has withdrawn the suit, the school district plans to demolish the Cocoanut Grove on Jan. 22.

"We faced the harsh realization that the true preservation of the site's remaining historic resources had become impossible," said Linda Dishman, executive director of the Los Angeles Conservancy, in a statement. "The Cocoanut Grove and coffee shop had been stripped of their historic fabric, and the RFK assassination site was now a 'Humpty Dumpty' of broken pieces in storage containers. As we maintained throughout the long fight to save the hotel, fake history does not belong in a place of learning; our kids deserve better."

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