April 23, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Berggruen Institute Considers New Ideas

By JEFF HALL| According to Dawn Nakagawa, executive vice president with the Berggruen Institute, Berggruen Institute is exploring new ideas for its proposed think tank that would be built in the hills above Brentwood.

Berggruen Institute (BI) has asked its architects to come up with some news ideas that will then be considered, she said.

This doesn’t mean BI is committing to any changes – BI might decide it still likes its original proposal best – but BI is open to exploring new options, according to Nakagawa.

In January, a public meeting was held at The Skirball Center. At this meeting, attended by several hundred, Berggruen presented its plans – and environmentalists expressed their concerns about those plans.

Berggruen supporters described BI as a modern-day “monastery”; spokespersons for the environmentalists said they were concerned planned hiking trails might be eliminated by the arrival of the Berggruen Institute.

Fears of potential fire dangers created by BI were also raised – as were concerns about potential traffic and possible dangers related to building over a retired dump that is known to produce methane gas.

Nakagawa said Berggruen is completely committed to maintaining hiking trails in the area and that any statements to the contrary are simply false.

Some minor re-routing of the trails might be required, she said, but the hiking trails will remain in perpetuity. This has always been BI’s plan, she added.

Nakagawa said she thinks Berggruen’s original proposal is actually more environmentally responsible than sticking with the footprint that was approved for a proposed housing development years ago – and since abandoned.

That plan, she said, envisions pushing huge amounts of earth into a canyon, burying hundreds of old trees in the process.

Nevertheless, continued Nakagawa, since concerns have been raised, BI wants to be a “good neighbor” and is willing to consider other options.

Theoretically, whoever owns the property – including Berggruen – could always go back to the original plan and develop 28 mansions on the site. That plan has already been approved by the city.

Since no plans have yet been finalized, said Nakagawa, Berggruen hasn’t filed any papers to proceed with a project.

There is no particular timetable for completing this next phase of idea exploration, according to Nakagawa.

“We’re not in any rush,” said Nakagawa. “We want to get it right.”

In order to get things right, according to John Binder, an opponent of the project, Berggruen should donate the property to the Santa Monica Conservancy and keep it as open space in perpetuity.

That would preserve the native habitat and the wild animal corridor, said Binder.

“If Mr. Berggruen really is an enlightened man and a philanthropist, as he promotes himself and his Institute, he will do that,” said Binder. “If he does not do that, he is just a pretender.”

Continued Binder: “It would also be respectful of the public if Mr. Berggruen spoke to the community directly. Or is he too important to talk to the peasants?”

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