LA Country Club Wants Scouts Out – Historic Scout House to be Demolished
Posted: Friday, May 1, 2015 – 4:36 PM
Beverly Hills may lose its last Scout House.
The cabin, located adjacent to El Rodeo School, was built by Master Architect William J, Gage and constructed by George Holstein in 1934. The Beverly Hills Rotary Club donated funds, and on April 22, Boy Scout Troop 33 took possession of the Scout House.
The Scout House has been in continuous use since 1934, with four generations of scouts using the facility. Currently, three troops meet in the cabin, including Cub Scout Pack 100, Boy Scout Troop 33 and Girl Scout Troop 215.
The Beverly Hills Scout House represents the last vestige of a bygone era. It also represents a profound stability that has lasted over 80 years in a City that tips with trends. It is Ground Zero for thousands of young people who spent countless hours learning about life and earning badges, honoring traditions, marking passages and forming life-long memories inside its walls.
Until 1961, the Beverly Hills Rotary sponsored the house, donating $1
per year to the Los Angeles Country Club for lease. Then, in 1961, the Beverly Hills Unified School District took the lease over.
The terms indicated that BHUSD was to be responsible for the regular maintenance of the cabins, to indemnify the club against liability, and to use the cabins solely for the purpose of supporting youth organizations and group meetings.
A slightly different version appeared in 1990, one that stated that the school district would not use the property for any other purpose “without the written consent of the club first.”
The Scout House is located at 709 N. Whittier Dr. It is described in documents as a “plot of land 65 feet by 29 feet… situated partly on the southerly portion of Lot 1, Block 180, Beverly Hills, Sheet No. 15, as per map recorded in Book 72 . . . and partly on the southeasterly corner of Lot 1, Tract 4568, as per map recorded in Book 54 . . . adjoining said Lot 1, Block 180, Beverly Hills, said property facing on Whittier Drive . . . adjoining El Rodeo School.”
It is on land that is both in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles, and it is unclear if either City has included the little cabins in their historic surveys. It appears to be the last of four Scout Houses at each of the City’s four elementary schools.
“The Scout Houses have been in constant use by Troop 33 and later other youth groups for over 80 years. As an active participant in scouting as a boy and then a leader in the Scout House for 42 of those 80 years, I keenly feel what will be a devastating blow to our community. Troop 33 is the only Scouting unit in Beverly Hills that has been active for over 80 years, in large part attributable to the Scout House. Other units who lost the use of their Scout House stopped operating,” said Scout Master Joel Odersky. “Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are today, key leaders in society. The loss of the Scout House in Beverly Hills – and one of the few existing Scout Houses in California – will be a tragic blow to Scouting and the youth groups of our community.”
Then, when a branch fell from a tree on the golf course onto the roof of the smaller cabin, Odersky requested help from the L. A. Country Club to chop up the branch and remove it. That set the wheels in motion for the club.
In November, Odersky received a letter from then-General Manager Kirk Reese, clearly taken aback by the lack of maintenance being performed and the “unkempt” condition of the property. The Board of Directors had “several safety concerns,” it said, pointing out the exterior lighting, repair to stairwells, clearing of brush, fencing, and more.
BHUSD had failed to perform basic maintenance. In addition, the “Board of Directors discussed the lack of control over other groups who use the facilities without our consent or knowledge, including use for BHUSD audit education and even as a polling place for the City of Beverly Hills.”
The board decided it could not continue to lease the property to the district and expose themselves to liability. “We wish to move quickly to resolve this as we plan on demolishing these buildings as soon as they are vacated.”
The scouts love the property and have done their best to respect and maintain the house, though it was out of their hands. Anticipating a day when the troops could take on the responsibility, Odersky formed BHSHA Inc, a 501(c)(3), to support the Scout House in Beverly Hills, to administrate the house.
Explaining the Scout’s position, Odersky, with Brian Goldberg, BHUSD Board of Education president, met with Reese. “He said he needed the land for the U.S. Open in 2023,” said Odersky.
In a letter dated Feb. 5, Reese said, ‘It is not in the club’s best interest to continue a long term lease of the Premises, but in recognition of the long historical relationship between the club and the scouts, we wish to end the relationship amicably.” Reese gave them until June 15, implying generosity by offering to help move their things.
In Beverly Hills, when a property owner applies for a demolition permit for a property that was built by a master architect, that triggers a 30-day waiting period while the Cultural Heritage Commission determines if the property has historic value. Councilman John Mirisch has asked the City staff “to look into eligibility for the historic register.”
At the Los Angeles Conservancy, Preservation Associate Marcello Vavala is looking into jurisdictional issues, if the property is under Los Angeles, Beverly Hills or both. “I’m going to follow up with planners in both Beverly Hills and Los Angeles to check on the particulars,” he said in an email last week.
The Scout House indeed, has historic value, said Ilene Knebel, Girl Scout troop leader. One of her co-leaders and her daughter represent the -third and -fourth generation of scouts to use that building.
Co-troop leader Rebecca Zimmerman is a third generation scout in Beverly Hills. “My 12- year old is so upset. That’s why we decided to do the yarn bombing,” she said of daughter Gabriella Cagliari. “Its just a safe place to meet. It’s so sad. It should be a landmark.”
Social media has exploded with support from former scouts around the country who used the house as kids.
The scouts have asked to purchase and renovate the property but the Los Angeles Country Club board has declined.
The L.A. County Club did not return a request for comment.