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City Hall Park Re-Opens After $1M Renovation

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Having undergone a $1 million renovation, the park around City Hall will re-open Thursday, seven-and-a-half months after it was closed when police arrested hundreds of Occupy Los Angeles demonstrators who had been camped on the lawn as part of a nationwide protest.

However, a concrete and chain-link fence erected around the park to keep protesters out will remain in place for at least several more weeks, a spokesman for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. This will allow the public to get used to the park’s hours, 5 a.m.-10:30 p.m., Senior Press Secretary Peter Sanders said. Gates will be locked outside of those hours.

As part of the Occupy Wall Street movement last fall, activists camped in the park surrounding City Hall for nearly two months, causing damage to the lawn, sprinkler system, a fountain and historic monuments.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa initially supported the protesters by giving out ponchos during a rainy spell last October, and then-City Council President Eric Garcetti invited the protesters to “stay as long as you need to.” But the mayor eventually ordered police to evict the protesters, then closed the park, citing reports of crime, drug use and what he described as an inappropriate presence of children.

The renovation marks the second major redesign of the 1.7-acre area since City Hall was built in 1928. The lawn was primarily grass until large trees were planted in front of City Hall in the 1940s and 50s.

The $754,000 cost to replace the irrigation system and for plants, paving and other capital expenses came in well above the $390,000 projected in January by Recreation and Parks Department staff.

“No general fund money was used to fix this park,” Sanders said. More than half of the total cost for the renovation came from so-called Quimby Act funds — money subdivision developers pay to local agencies for use to preserve park land.

Home Depot and The Scotts Company provided a combined $70,000 for plants. The L.A. Department of Water and Power kicked in $222,000 for new LED lighting and grass. The $45,380 cost to fix the Frank Putnam Flint Fountain, built in 1933 in honor of the senator’s efforts to bring water to Los Angeles, and a firefighters’ memorial on the southwest corner of the City Hall lawn built in 1944 to honor fire personnel killed in the line of duty, was covered by insurance.

(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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