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Tar Pits to Host Open House on Renovation Plans and Draft Environmental Impact Report

Concept drawing by the WEISS/MANFREDI architectural firm for the new La Brea Tarpits Master Plan.

On September 11, the County of Los Angeles released a Draft Environmental Impact Report analyzing the potential local impacts of the proposed plan to renovate and remodel the Natural History Museum’s La Brea Tar Pits.  The proposal includes the existing museum, excavation pits, and other parts of the 13-acre site. And this Saturday, September 30, the Tar Pits will hold a community open house to provide more information about both the renovation plans and the findings of the new DEIR. (An online version of the report, broken down into sections, is available here, and a downloadable PDF version is available here.)

Saturday’s “pop up” event will take place outdoors at the Tar Pits, 5801 Wilshire Blvd., between the Page Museum entrance and the Lake Pit.

When we last checked in with the Museum, in March, 2022 during the scoping period before work began on the DEIR, NHMLAC director Lori Bettison-Varga said Tar Pits is one of the most important paleontological sites in the United States, including both an active paleontological site with a growing research department and the popular public museum. At the same time, though, Bettison-Varga said the current facility was 40 years old and lacks both the storage space and modern amenities that would help it continue to do its important work into the future. So the new Master Plan, designed by the firm Weiss/Manfredi, will re-imagine the site to enhance both its scientific and public service capabilities, as well as contribute to making the surrounding Miracle Mile museum district a “bucket list destination.”

The proposed design, which the architects refer to as “Loops and Lenses,” ties together the museum, its active research sites, and its community spaces with a system of looping pathways and many points of entry and connection.

Overhead view of Weiss-Manfredi’s “Loops & Lenses” design proposal.

Specific features will include a new Visible Fossil Lab, revamped educational excavation sites, new shaded entryways, an “enhanced and expanded” central green, and a new exhibition building.

Weiss-Manfredi drawing of the proposed new Visible Fossil Lab.

To learn more about the project and the DEIR, see and visit the open house on Saturday. If you’d like to weigh in on the project, a 45-day public comment period on the DEIR opened on September 11, and will close at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, October 26.  Comments can be addressed to:

Leslie Negritto, Chief Operating Officer, Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County, at [email protected], or 900 Exposition Boulevard Los Angeles, California 90007.

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Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.

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  1. Hope readers will take time to write! Responses are due by October 26, Thursday (not Monday). This plan will have a big impact here, similar in scale to the May Company and LACMA projects (with never-ending construction mess). In particular, we need to save more or all of the mature, large shade trees proposed for removal, estimated at 130-180 trees, including native species and some rare and historically significant examples. This is in keeping with the educational work of the institution. Park and building plans should incorporate more of the existing trees for the sake of the environment, our health, and our non-commercial communal life. Planting new trees means decades pass before they can provide the same benefits. The plan is also concerning in how drainage water will be sent to the ocean, instead of being filtrated back into the ground and used for park irrigation. Light blight should be minimized. A canopy of shade trees — native trees to continue the ecological theme and minimize water needs — around the perimeter is essential for comfortably walking to and from the new subway stop. Green open space and big shade trees are only going to be more essential as Wilshire Blvd. densifies with Dubai-high 50-story buildings. The area is already quite dense with historic and newer multi-tenant buildings. We need a cool, green park as respite to air-conditioned living and our heat-island.


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