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Finding Aid of the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park records 0320
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Collection Details
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  • Biographical Note
  • Historical Background
  • Preferred Citation
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Scope and Content
  • Processing Note

  • Title: Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park records
    Collection number: 0320
    Contributing Institution: USC Libraries Special Collections
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 11.0 linear ft. 11 boxes
    Date: 1965-2008
    Abstract: The Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park was founded in 1965 to organize public and official awareness and to raise support to preserve the park land as public open space, and to develop it for recreational activities. The mission and efforts of this vibrant "grass roots" organization are ongoing, and the Committee will continue to add materials which document its activities. The collection consists of nine boxes of records dating back to the Committee's early history in the 1960s. It was donated by the 2004 Board of Directors of the Committee.
    creator: Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park (Los Angeles, Calif.).
    creator: Simons, Grace E.

    Biographical Note

    This collection chronicles the life of Grace E. Simons almost as much as it does the Committee which she established--at least the last twenty years of her life. Without Simons' vision and foresight, Elysian Park might look very different today--much less "park-like."
    Grace E. Simons was a journalist who worked for a French news agency in China where she met her husband, Frank Glass, who was an organizer for the Communist Party. They came to Los Angeles in 1939 where Grace worked as a reporter and editor for the California Eagle, an African-American newspaper that finally folded in the early 1960s. During an interview for the Eagle, Simons met Malcolm X who was impressed by Simons' sharp questioning of him concerning his attitude towards women's rights.
    It was in the mid-1960s that Simons first became involved in protecting the historic park when the city threatened to take 63 acres for what has become the Convention Center on Figureroa Street. Seeing what had happened with Dodger Stadium, Simons and a few neighbors banded together to become the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park (CCSEP). Serving as President of the Committee for many years, Simons led the fight in a series of battles that it won against proposals for an airport, oil drilling by Occidental Petroleum, an Asian Cultural Center, a child care facility, a restaurant and parking lot on Radio Hill, and several condominium projects.
    The committee experienced its share of losses, among them a move to expand the Los Angeles Police Academy.
    In 1979 the Sol Feinstone Environmental Award was conferred upon Simons--one of only five persons to receive the award nationally.
    Grace Simons passed away in 1985 at Barlow Hospital, right next to Elysian Park. Her husband, Frank Glass, passed away in 1987. A memorial sculpture to Simons and Glass designed by ceramicist and sculptor Peter Shire was dedicated in 1994 and is located at Angel's Point in Elysian Park.

    Historical Background

    Elysian Park is Los Angeles's first and oldest park. It was part of the original 1781 land grant to the pueblo of Los Angeles from King Carlos III from Spain. The initial 550 acres of Elysian Park were, "...forever dedicated to the public..." in 1886, and by 1937 had grown to a little over 600 acres. The park is the site of the first Botanical Garden in Southern California. In the 1880s about 37,000 eucalyptus trees were planted on park land, and in the 1890s the Los Angeles Horticultural Society began planting many specimens of rare trees including the double row of wild date palms north of Stadium Way. About 67 species remain of the original plantings.
    Elysian Park serves as an enormous backyard for the families who live in nearby neighborhoods such as Echo Park, Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, and Elysian Heights. Notable sites and buildings at or near Elysian Park include the Portola/ Fremont Gate, Victory Memorial Grove, the Chavez Ravine Arboretum, the Avenue of the Palms, the rock garden at the Police Academy, the Recreation Center in the Solano Canyon section of the park, Barlow Hospital, tunnels on the Pasadena Freeway, Arroyo Seco Parkway, and the Buena Vista Reservoir. Trees are regularly purchased and planted in Elysian Park by CCSEP members and friends as loving memorials to the living and the dead.
    Before the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park was formed in 1965, the Pasadena Freeway had already split the park and Dodger Stadium had been built on part of Chavez Ravine and Elysian Park. When a group of promoters presented a plan to take the Avenue of the Palms for the Los Angeles Convention Center, the committee organized itself with Grace E. Simons as its first president. They successfully stopped the development and continued to fight many more battles over the years in an effort to preserve Elysian Park as a public park and an oasis in the heart of Los Angeles. The CCSEP felt that Elysian Park was essentially Los Angeles's Central Park or Golden Gate Park, but had historically not been given the same status or protection as its more famous parks. It was their opinion that the greatest danger to park survival was combined public indifference and special interest pressures to take park land for non-park purposes. All of the Citizens Committee's volunteer energies were aimed at arousing public and official awareness of the value of saving public park land and in preserving the section of the Los Angeles City Charter which reads, "All lands heretofore or hereafter set apart or dedicated as a public park shall forever remain to the use of the public inviolate..."

    Preferred Citation

    [Box/folder# or item name], Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park records, Collection no. 0320, Regional History Collection, Special Collections, USC Libraries, University of Southern California

    Conditions Governing Access

    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE. Advance notice required for access.

    Conditions Governing Use

    All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manuscripts Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

    Scope and Content

    The collection documents the activities of the Citizens' Committee to Save Elysian Park from the mid-1960s through the early 2000s. Throughout almost four decades the organization's history, the Committee preserved the records that were generated through its efforts to preserve Elysian Park. The nine boxes of materials include court transcripts, environmental impact reports, photographs, correspondence with political figures, media notices, articles, and ephemera related to the topics championed by the Committee. Subjects included in the records are court cases pertaining to the Police Academy, opposition to the widening of the Pasadena Freeway, the Department of Water and Power's proposal to take over part of the Buena Vista Reservoir for a pumping station, the battle to prevent a convention center from being built at the park, issues with Dodger Stadium, etc.

    Processing Note

    Processing of the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park records was generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and administered by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). USC Libraries was awarded a Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives grant from 2010-2012, "Uncovering California's Environmental Collections," in collaboration with eight additional special collections and archival repositories throughout the state and the California Digital Library (CDL). Grant objectives included processing of over 33 hidden collections related to the state's environment and environmental history. The collections document an array of important sub-topics such as irrigation, mining, forestry, agriculture, industry, land use, activism, and research. Together they form a multifaceted picture of the natural world and the way it was probed, altered, exploited and protected in California over the twentieth century. Finding aids are made available through the Online Archive of California (OAC).

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    California. Dept. of Transportation. -- Archives
    Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park (Los Angeles, Calif.). -- Archives
    Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles, Calif.). -- Archives
    Los Angeles (Calif.). Dept. of Water and Power. -- Archives
    Los Angeles Convention Center. -- Archives
    Los Angeles Police Academy. -- Archives
    Neubauer, Sallie -- Archives
    Simons, Grace E. -- Archives
    Yorty, Sam, 1909-1998 -- Archives
    Chávez Ravine (Los Angeles, Calif.)--Archival resources
    Echo Park (Los Angeles, Calif.)--Archival resources
    Elysian Park (Los Angeles, Calif.)--Archival resources
    Parks--California--Los Angeles
    Roads--California--Los Angeles--Archival resources
    Tule elk
    Uncovering California's Environmental Collections Project