LATINO PERSPECTIVE--‘Circus Disco’ the 40 year old Hollywood nightclub that was founded decades ago to welcome Latinos and men of color who were shunned at other gay nightspots, is now being considered for demolition to make way for a multi-million dollar, mega mixed-use development project that would include 695 residential units and 1,391 parking spaces on the almost 6-acre site. (Photo: proposed Lexington)
According to the Los Angeles Times when historic preservationists learned that the soon-to-be-shuttered club could be torn down for new development, they grew alarmed that another vital piece of Los Angeles' gay history could be lost to the bulldozers.
To protect or at least commemorate Circus Disco, they proposed that the city recognize it as a historic monument, a step that could make it harder to demolish or alter the cavernous building. Such a status would not forbid demolition but could delay and complicate plans to redevelop the site with hundreds of new apartments.
On February 24, the City Council approved an ordinance that certified the EIR and made a zoning change allowing residential use of the proposed Lexington site, which was restricted to industrial and commercial. The ordinance was approved 14 to 0; Councilman Jose Huizar was absent. The ordinance goes into effect April 8, but LGBT Latino advocates and historic preservation experts want the council to reopen the EIR and have it amended to include historical and cultural information about Circus Disco and have a discussion about what should be done with the property.
“The fact that Circus Disco is on Survey LA and a potential historic resource means it should have been included in the EIR,” said historic preservation attorney Susan Brandt-Hawley. “It sounds like it’s an inadequate EIR. The city council needs to re-open it and supplement it to include this information.”
Jonathan Menendez, who directed the 2012 documentary “Gay Latino LA” and has been researching Los Angeles’ gay Latino history – including Circus Disco – for eight years, said, “Obviously that EIR is false. I completely support the city council amending it.”
“Circus is so important because the space has meaning. It’s a sacred cultural space,” Menendez said. “The space is meaningful because for gay Latino men it’s a home away from home. If you destroy that cultural space, you destroy a cultural landmark.”
Disco has tremendous historical and cultural significance to the LGBT Latino community.
Anthony C. Ocampo, a Cal Poly Pomona sociology professor, said Circus Disco is vital for some gay Latino men coming out of the closet.
“As a result, Circus plays a tremendous role and crucial role in creating community for gay men of color. When they first come out of the closet, it’s a safe space,” Ocampo said. “You find people like you. I’ve had gay Latinos refer to Circus as going to church. It was that essential to their life.
I agree with those who say that Circus Disco has an important historical and cultural significance to the Los Angeles LGBT Latino Community; but for Ocampo to say that demolishing Circus Disco would erase gay Latino history is nonsense!
Our history should not depend in one building. The plan should recognize the property's history, and it can be commemorated with a plaque.
In a letter to the Cultural Heritage Commission, Avalon Bay senior vice president of development Mark Janda said the company disagrees with the idea that Circus Disco is a historic monument and emphasized that hundreds of new apartments at the site could help chip away at L.A.’s housing shortage.
Mr. Janda is right there is a housing crisis in Los Angeles, the lack of it it’s the main reason rents continue to go up. Latinos are greatly affected by the shortage of housing in this city.
What we have to do is to make sure that the Lexington Project is well planned, and that it will take into account traffic, parking, the environment, and our quality of life.
If we truly want to honor our LGBT Latino Community we should support the Lexington Project and make sure that LGBT Latinos in Los Angeles and Latinos in general have access to a decent quality of life. This project will help ease some of this housing shortage, and will make it easier for Latino families in Los Angeles to afford rent in this city.
(Fred Mariscal came to Los Angeles from Mexico City in 1992 to study at the University of Southern California and has been in LA ever since. He is a community leader who serves as Vice Chair of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition and sits on the board of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council representing Larchmont Village. He was a candidate for Los Angeles City Council in District 4. Fred writes Latino Perspective for CityWatch and can be reached at: [email protected])
Vol 13 Issue 99
Pub: Dec 8, 2015