The City of Beverly Hills is in the spotlight over its actions as a landowner in a neighboring city. On Jan. 13, Beverly Hills and the City of West Hollywood released a joint statement announcing that they are in “discussions to determine a shared approach to the current uses” at the historic Log Cabin at 621 N. Robertson Blvd. The Log Cabin, which is occupied by the West Hollywood Lions Club, is a meeting place for drug and alcohol recovery groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. But, as evidenced by the public outcry following the press release, the Log Cabin is more than just a meeting venue; it is a revered space. The Lion’s Club Log Cabin is a hub for hundreds of people in all stages of recovery, from all walks of life, who come through the doors each day in the name of sobriety.
The Log Cabin is a one-story clubhouse built circa 1936 when it was first home to Troop 27 of the Boy Scouts of America. The building looks exactly as the name suggests, a quintessential storybook log cabin that one might find at summer camp. The exterior wall is made of wood log, and a small front entry porch is located at the top of a short flight of concrete steps and centered under a projecting gable. The entrance consists of a pair of plain wood doors with decorative metal strap hinges.
Bordering Beverly Hills, the Log Cabin is on North Robertson Boulevard, just off Melrose Avenue, surrounded by high-end retailers such as Chrome Hearts and Maxfield. Catty corner is Cecconi’s West Hollywood, a posh Italian restaurant known for their $48 black truffle pizza pies. The Log Cabin bears no resemblance to the upscale neighborhood surrounding it, but that is part of the appeal that attracts people in recovery from all walks of life.
While the Log Cabin is located within the city limits of West Hollywood, the property itself is owned by the City of Beverly Hills.
According to the Jan. 13 joint statement from the two cities, a recent Beverly Hills audit revealed that there was no lease in place with the current tenant, and a contractor had “found portions of the building in poor condition.” On Jan. 10, the City of Beverly Hills sent a letter to the Lion’s Club of West Hollywood, demanding that they “remove the improvements and vacate the leased premises by March 31, 2020.”
The news was met with negative reaction on social media and local news sites in West Hollywood. An online petition started by Brent Bolthouse, the founder of The Bungalow Hospitality Group, has gathered nearly 9,000 signatures as of press time. Bolthouse, who has been sober for 33 years, is rallying the community and speaking out publicly about his own experience with addiction. Bolthouse credits the Log Cabin as instrumental to his sobriety.
“Tens of thousands of people have been helped by the 12-step meetings at the Log Cabin on North Robertson Boulevard over the past four decades; these meetings are a vital resource for the West Hollywood and greater Los Angeles sober community,” said West Hollywood Mayor John D’Amico in the Jan. 13 joint statement.
West Hollywood is conducting its own audit of the building’s condition. D’Amico told the Courier that there has never been any code violation issued by West Hollywood against the building. Nonetheless, Beverly Hills City Manager George Chavez noted in the Jan. 13 joint statement, “our concern is the safety of those within the building.”
“Safety” is a relative term, considering the role the building has played in the lives of countless individuals in recovery. The Courier spoke on background with an addiction specialist with nearly 30 years of experience who lead a daily group A.A. meeting at the Log Cabin for five years. “I’ve seen people come in there naked. I’ve seen people come in there in just the worst shape and turn their lives around. It’s a miracle. The top Hollywood people have all gone there. I sat with Academy Award-winning actors and actresses who would be sitting next to a guy who got off of a bus or lived under a building. So, there’s no bias there. There’s no other place like that.”
The President of the Lions Club, Gyula Kangiszer, told the Courier, “I feel that many people would say miracles happened here. They think about this almost like a church. I can’t tell you how much encouragement and support individuals get from the notion that others were cured in this building.”
A prominent West Hollywood businessperson who spoke to the Courier on condition of anonymity, observed that the situation is charged with emotion. “This caught everyone off guard. No one knew that Beverly Hills owned the property or that no rent had been paid. But, this might be an opportunity to see if there is a better location that can serve the community with the great work being done at the Log Cabin.”
In the meantime, the City of Beverly Hills has offered to provide alternative meeting locations for the Lions Club and other organizations that utilize the facility and the City of West Hollywood is exploring options that support the ongoing use and the availability of community and recovery meetings.