Monday, December 21, 2009

Letter to The Autry, re: Southwest Museum

While I was disappointed to hear about the Autry’s plan to close and limit space at the Southwest Museum, I am nonetheless determined to meet and discuss with the Autry’s leadership a number of viable alternatives(see below letter) to keep the Southwest Museum – the City’s first museum – open as a fully credited museum. The Autry has nothing to lose and everything to gain. I am encouraged that John Gray has committed to meet with me in the New Year and I am very much looking forward to that discussion, which I believe can benefit both the Southwest Museum and the Autry National Center in Griffith Park. The Mt. Washington and the Griffith Park communities, as well as all Angelenos, deserve our very best on this issue. I am convinced that there are a number of “win-win” scenarios that can benefit both the Southwest Museum and the Autry National Center.

Chair, Board of Directors
& Board Members
Autry National Center of the American West
4700 Western Heritage Way
Los Angeles, CA 90027

December 16, 2009

Dear Chairman and Board Members:

I write to update you on some important work that my office and the City of Los Angeles have undertaken to explore funding options for the rehabilitation and re-opening of the Southwest Museum (SWM), as well as the expansion of the Autry Center at the Griffith Park site.
On June 30, 2009, the Board of Referred Powers voted unanimously to direct the Autry to negotiate with me, on behalf of the City, a legally binding agreement to assist with the re-opening of the SWM. I took this directive very seriously and undertook a meeting with John Gray, the Autry’s Executive Director. I also attended the Autry’s Board of Directors meeting on July 15, 2009. However, I was disappointed when the Autry unilaterally broke off negotiations without informing me and announced the calling off of those negotiations through the press.
Since that time, we have been hard at work to come up with a solution to make the SWM a viable destination. In 2003, the Autry commissioned Brenda Levin to study the SWM to determine alternatives for its revitalization. The Levin study articulated two options valued at around $16 million and $23 million respectively, which demonstrate that the SWM can be economically viable and sustainable. However, instead of using the SWM collection to fundraise and implement either of the Levin options, the Autry has used the SWM collection to launch an ambitious $175 million capital campaign to expand its other facility at Griffith Park. In this economic climate, I understand the difficulties that the Board might have in reaching such an ambitious fundraising goal.
Over the past month, I have reached out to Mr. Gray in an effort to discuss City and Federal financial assistance options that may be beneficial to the Autry and its interests regarding the SWM collection, the SWM building, and the Griffith Park site.
These options include: 1) low-interest loans via the Federal stimulus funding package; 2) a park assessment district; and 3) various other City grant options that should be reviewed further. I would be happy to discuss the staff’s report with you at anytime to find a resolution for the SWM and Griffith Park sites. I understand that the Board of Directors will meet in January 2010 to discuss revised plans for the Autry’s expansion at Griffith Park site and the potential closing of the SWM. I am supportive of your goal to expand the Autry Center site at Griffith Park, and I want to work collaboratively with you on finding a win-win strategy for the re-opening of the SWM. I hope that we can meet prior to your January 2010 Board of Directors meeting.


José Huizar
Councilmember, 14th District

CC: John Gray, Executive Director