“This is like a marathon, I’m not sure what mile we’re at but it’s definitely not over.”
Nederlander Company general manager Rena Wasserman made this statement after reflecting on a decision last week by the Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Commission to recommend control of the Greek Theatre to Live Nation.
“We take this seriously and we have been great caretakers,” she added.
During its meeting last week, the commission unanimously recommended the city enter into contract negotiations with Live Nation to run the Greek Theatre. Nederlander, which has been running the public amphitheatre for decades, paired with local industry giant AEG for the opposing bid.
The contract would be for 10 years, with an option for two additional five-year agreements.
“Live Nation is pleased that the Recreation and Parks Commission unanimously selected our company to be the new operator of the Greek Theatre,” Live Nation said in a statement after the decision. “The Greek is an incredible Los Angeles treasure, owned by the people of this city. We look forward to setting a new standard for this iconic venue, investing heavily to return it to its rightful place as a world-class entertainment destination for fans and artists while being sensitive to neighbors in the surrounding community.”
At least a part of that surrounding community, however, does not agree with the decision, said Chris Laib, president of the Los Feliz Improvement Association.
“It was shocking to us because we thought the Nederlander-AEG collaboration was a homerun,” he said. “I think the neighborhood has kind of fallen asleep on this.”
That will not be the case moving forward, he added.
“There are 1,100 residencies that are directly impacted by ingresses and egresses, and noise, from the Greek Theatre,” Laib added.
There were several major factors that concerned him.
“[Live Nation’s] model is much edgier music that frankly, we don’t find appropriate for a residential neighborhood and an outdoor amphitheatre you hear throughout that neighborhood,” he said.
The Greek Theatre is located at 2700 N. Vermont Ave. It was built in 1929 and is owned by the city. The space was the recreation and park department’s highest revenue-producing, non-golf-concession property, generating $22.8 million in gross receipts in 2013.
According to the recreation and parks staff recommendation, Live Nation received a higher score from a third-party consultant Strategic Advisory Group, which prepared the RFP (request for proposal) for the Greek Theatre.
There was a point system with the maximum score possible being 500. Live Nation received 455 and Nederlander-AEG received 396. Main criteria for the scoring was based on financial performance, an asset management and concession improvement plan, an event activity and community partnership plan.
“[Live Nation’s] strategic direction to invest $40 million in capital investment during the 20-year contract term will transform the Greek Theatre into a contemporary amphitheatre, while preserving its historical elements and establishes a solid foundation for the continued success of the Greek Theatre for generations to come,” the recommendation said.
Wasserman said the bids for the contract were not measured correctly and she called into question the third-party company. She argues that Nederlander-AEG offers more money (guaranteed rent) for the guaranteed length of the contract (10 years) and that they were unfairly docked for community outreach programs. She said the system did not properly quantify their score.
Nederlander-AEG and Laib argue that the extra capital investment is after the 10-year guarantee, and Laib went on to question if the changes Live Nation are touting for the venue would even make it through bureaucratic hoops.
“[The association doesn’t] think it will get out of cultural affairs,” Laib said. “We know from our experiences with all the historic venues in our neighborhood, these are very delicate processes. We think [Live Nation] knows that they are saving $18 million by seducing the city with what this great theatre will look like, and that probably will never happen.”
Nederlander-AEG has put more money upfront in the first 10 years for guaranteed rent, Wasserman said, which would be more in line with the historical elements of the property.
The commission’s recommendation is not final. The issue now goes on to the city council’s committee, which Mitch O’Farrell, District 13, chairs, and of which Councilman Tom LaBonge, District 4, also is a member.
“As I am on the Arts, Parks, Health, Aging and River Committee, the members and I will thoroughly review this recommendation,” LaBonge said in a statement. “An assessment will be made for what’s best for the city.”
The recreation and parks commission still will have to approve a final contract, which will have to go through the same process of committee, full city council and mayoral approval.
During that time, Laib said he and residents hope they can get their voices heard.
“We are actively trying to protect our constitutional right to the peaceful enjoyment of our homes,” he added.
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