In an effort to protect one of its most important neighborhood assets, the Mar Vista Community Council has approved a resolution that would keep former Los Angeles Fire Station 62 in the community, as well as for the addition of new community uses.

The August 11th vote included the “retention and rehabilitation” of the former fire house at 3631 Centinela Ave. for the purpose of establishing a multi-use community center, as well as environmentally-conscious measures for the project.

Sharon Commins, a co-chair of the ad hoc committee for Old Fire Station 62 and first-vice president on the Mar Vista council, thinks that the new recommendations for the proposed community center will greatly enhance its capabilities as a multi-service neighborhood resource.

“A CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) center with solar (energy) would be up and running in a major catastrophic event,” she said. “The station is 115 feet above sea level and would make an ideal tsunami evacuation point, which is another intriguing possibility.

“And the hose tower is ideal for our Open Mar Vista community WiFi program.”

Providing a location for the council and other uses is an added bonus that a community center could offer, says Commins.

“The original plan for neighborhood council meetings and office spaces was to utilize these excess city properties for those functions,” the committee co-chair said.

“Old Fire Station 62 could provide such a place for the Mar Vista Community Council and other area neighborhood councils. It has terrific potential to be a powerful regional community building tool, just like our Farmers Market.”

The structure is currently in the Housing Trust Fund, according to City Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s office, and is not eligible to be sold as a city property.

Due to Los Angeles’ massive budget deficit, city assets have been considered vulnerable, as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City Council look for additional measures to close the $530 million budget gap, including the possible sale of city-owned properties, like the former fire station.

At a Day of Service cleanup of the former fire house in June, Rosendahl, who lives a few blocks away, reiterated his support for keeping the building off the city auction block.

“(Rosendahl) signed our petition to save the station,” Commins recalled. “We are all working hard for the same goal — responsible stewardship of a key public asset.”

Rachel Swanger, who co-chairs the committee with Commins, said, “We are very grateful to Councilman Rosendahl for putting (the fire station) into the Housing Trust Fund.”

Ken Frese, a Mar Vista resident, suggested adding an emergency response use at the site during an April committee meeting.

“I’ve lived in Southern California through three major earthquakes, and according to some of the latest seismic science, we could have another major quake within the next 15 years,” Frese explained. “We’ve got to be prepared for something like that, and the fire station is the logical place to do something of that sort.”

Chris Nevil, a Del Rey resident who took part in the cleanup at the station in June, praised the council for adding the CERT and evacuation center recommendation.

“As emergency response volunteers, it’s very gratifying to see an emergency response addition to the proposed facility,” said Nevil, who is a coordinator for CERT Battalion 4 and a board member of the Del Rey Homeowners and Neighbors Association.

Frese said that including CERT and the evacuation center in the proposal gives the committee and the council an opportunity to be proactive regarding its residents’ well being.

“I think that we have the chance to do something very farsighted,” he said.

Sherri Akers, a Mar Vista green consultant, was pleased to learn that environmentally-friendly measures were also included in the council’s approval of the resolution.

“I think it should be mandatory that any and all renovations done in both the public and private sector include upgrades for energy and water efficiency and conservation,” said Akers, who owns Green Door to Door. “I think the public needs someplace they can go to see these enhancements in action.”

Commins agrees.

“(That’s) extremely important. Our stakeholders believe the future is green,” she said. “They came out strong for the Green Gardens tour and the recent Water Wise event.”

Swanger said that having the solar energy and water conservation component in the proposal was consistent with Mar Vista’s and the committee’s plans for environmental cognizance.

“One of the goals of the committee is to continue to raise awareness about water conservation,” Swanger told The Argonaut. “This project can be a demonstration in environmental awareness, as well as having an important community benefit.”

Akers said that the water conservation and solar energy measures in the resolution would make the facility a more welcoming location.

“I would like to know that there is a public facility where people can see that solatubes and skylights make us less dependent on electric lights and create a more pleasant, natural environment,” said Akers, who helped spearhead both the Green Gardens Showcase and Wise Water Use Expo.

Commins visited the Del Rey Neighborhood Council on August 13th to solicit its endorsement for keeping the building in the community, and the council voted to fully support her request.

“Our city fathers, in their infinite wisdom, have sold city assets in the past to cover short-term bills,” Mark Redick, the president of Del Rey’s council, said after the vote was taken. “Once that money is gone from the community, it is not coming back.”

Swanger said having neighboring communities back Mar Vista’s efforts to keep the former fire station in the neighborhood is gratifying.

“Active and engaged citizens recognize that although we might have different views on how a community asset could be used, preserving them is what’s really important, because we all have them in our communities,” she noted. “Saving the property and using it as a community center is a top priority.”

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