In honor of the late Westchester-area developer and philanthropist, the City of Los Angeles will rededicate a portion of 89th Street in Westchester, between Sepulveda Westway and Sepulveda Eastway, as Howard Drollinger Way.
The public is invited to attend the ceremony, which is scheduled to take place in the parking lot at the intersection of 89th Street and Sepulveda Boulevard at 11:30 a.m. Monday, June 16th, which would have been Drollinger’s 86th birthday.
Howard Blaine Drollinger, whose vision and commitment to Westchester helped turn an area filled with bean fields and dirt roads into a thriving community, died of lung cancer August 13th, 2006.
A decorated World War II veteran who flew 50 successful combat missions over Italy as a navigator in a B-24 Liberator, Drollinger was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, four air medals and a Presidential Unit Citation while serving in the 15th Army Air Force. When the war was over, Drollinger, a proud graduate of the University of Southern California, joined his mother, Ella, as a developer in Westchester, a fledgling community just north of what would become Los Angeles International Airport.
“Howard Drollinger was a true community hero in Westchester and throughout the City of Los Angeles,” said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “He was a successful businessman and philanthropist, but most importantly he was a friend to many.”
The street will be renamed in his honor thanks to the efforts of Robert Acherman and the Flight Path Learning Center of Southern California, which secured the unanimous approval of the City Council earlier this year.
City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who joined Drollinger in his battle to stop airport expansion, plans to join family members and other dignitaries at the dedication.
“It’s fitting that Howard Drollinger will have his legacy celebrated with a street right in the heart of the business district he helped create,” Rosendahl said.
“His special relationship with Westchester will long be celebrated because he was the kind of businessman who did things right. He looked out for the community. He gave back to the community. He was part of the community.”
Congresswoman Jane Harman said of Drollinger, “He changed the whole face of the community. There is a Drollinger mark on everything in Westchester. He was a legend.”
Drollinger’s investment in the community helped turn the sleepy post-war town into a thriving community with a bustling shopping district full of retail stores, many of which were H.B. Drollinger Co. tenants.
Drollinger’s mother, Ella, built Westchester’s first commercial building in 1944. But by the mid-1950s, thanks to Drollinger’s efforts, Westchester’s Central Business District was featured in Life Magazine as a flourishing commercial district that was helping the surrounding residential area take root in the wake of World War II.
When Fox Hills Mall opened in Culver City and LAX expanded in 1975, removing thousands of homes and shoppers from the Westchester area, many retailers and property owners fled. The area took a turn for the worse as boarded-up shops and fewer tenants filled the once-bustling Sepulveda Boulevard corridor.
“I never lost faith in Westchester,” Drollinger said in a 2002 interview. “I knew this community would get through that double whammy.”
Drollinger’s commitment to the community was evident in every letter he wrote. For more than five decades, he signed his personal correspondence, “Yours for a Greater Westchester,” and he put his money where his mouth was.
While other property owners sold, Drollinger continued to buy. By the early 1990s, Drollinger owned a significant portion of the Central Business District and began redeveloping the area. Since then, he had overseen the development of the Ralphs Westchester Village Center, which includes Longs Drugs, Blockbuster Video and scores of smaller retailers.
In 2003 he built The Parking Spot-Sepulveda structure to serve airport travelers. He continued to own and manage various office and commercial buildings throughout the Westchester area.
Known as a hard-nosed businessman, Drollinger certainly had a soft side and treated his fellow man with compassion and generosity. He was known for giving a helping hand to fledgling entrepreneurs and for supporting those who shared his passion for the community.
A Westchester Rotarian since 1952, Drollinger donated millions of dollars to local organizations. His contributions had an immeasurable impact on the community, helping to do everything from feed the hungry and buy school supplies, to increase recreational opportunities for adults and children and provide services for the mentally ill.
He was a longtime contributor and supporter of many organizations that formed the crux of the community, including the Union Rescue Mission, Westchester Family YMCA, Westchester/LAXñMarina del Rey Chamber of Commerce, Loyola Marymount University, Airport Marina Counseling Service and scores of local youth sports teams and schools.
In addition, his generous donations through the Westchester Rotary Foundation assisted in sending young scholars to other countries for educational purposes, clothing underprivileged children, repairing the local fire station, teaching students to read, painting out graffiti and many other initiatives. His contributions to Rotary International helped to promote international projects, including the organization’s goal of eradicating polio from the entire globe by 2008 ñ a mission that is nearly complete.
“For decades, Howard Drollinger defined civic leadership in Westchester,” said Rosendahl. “Building on his mother’s legacy, he helped give birth to downtown Westchester. Howard always put his community first — whether it was by fighting LAX expansion, spearheading economic development, or lending his name, his time and his resources to community beautification projects. Howard was a treasure.”
Drollinger served as president of the Westchester Chamber of Commerce, honorary mayor of Westchester and president of the Rotary Club of Westchester, where he maintained perfect attendance for more than 50 years. He also served as a member of the City of Los Angeles Board of Zoning Appeals, Mayor Tom Bradley’s Committee on Capital Improvements and was a founding member of the Westchester Vitalization Corporation. He was also a lifetime member of the Sigma Chi fraternity.
He was honored by scores of organizations for his efforts and was the recipient of the 2005 Fritz B. Burns Outstanding Community Service and Leadership Award, the Rotary Club of Westchester’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the Westchester Family YMCA’s Community Builder Award and the Westchester/LAXñMarina del Rey Chamber of Commerce’s Helmsman Leadership Award.
RUHLEN EARNS PLANNING AWARD
The American Planning Association recently named John Ruhlen, a longtime Westchester resident and president of the Westchester Streetscape Improvement Association, as the Los Angeles Section’s Citizen Planner and Activist of the Year.
Ruhlen was recognized for his efforts to revitalize the Sepulveda Boulevard corridor. Through the Streetscape Improvement Association, Ruhlen has spent several years engaging the community in plans to beautify the area and recently helped secure a $1 million earmark for the project from Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Those funds will be used to add new landscaping, meandering sidewalks and other beautification for a portion of the boulevard near 83rd Street.
Ruhlen was also instrumental in creating the new “Welcome to Westchester” sign in the median on Sepulveda Boulevard near the In-N-Out Burger restaurant, and has been very active in the Westchester Business District’s efforts to add new lighting and landscaping throughout the Westchester Business District.
He and other award winners will be honored at a dinner Tuesday, June 17th, at the Southern California Institute of Architecture in downtown Los Angeles. By earning the Los Angeles Section’s award, Ruhlen qualifies for consideration for a similar statewide award that will be announced later this year.
PART HOLDS MEETING FOR PRESCHOOL PARENTS
Parents Achieving Results Together (PART), a network of preschool parents from Westchester, Playa del Rey, and Playa Vista, is holding a special meeting for preschool parents from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, June 5th, at the Westchester Community Room, 7166 W. Manchester Ave.
The event is designed to inform prospective preschool parents about the area’s public schools and the great things happening in our local classrooms.
Over the past several years, the Westchester/Playa Education Foundation (WPEF), founded by PART to support our seven local public schools, has helped initiate the “Family of Schools” partnership with Loyola Marymount University; helped usher in the “Innovation Division” (iDivision) to bring autonomy to our schools, with less interference from LAUSD; written a $1 million grant for Westchester High School for Small Learning Communities; delivered requested teacher supplies to all the schools every September; and begun the Public School Expo and Guide to Public Schools to help promote our schools.
YMCA YARD SALE
The Westchester Family YMCA’s Men’s Club will hold a yard sale to help raise funds for the YMCA’s youth programs from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 28th, at the YMCA Annex at 80th Street and Alverstone Avenue.
Those interested in donating items to the sale may drop off items between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, June 26th and 27th.