The timeline for the events leading to the construction of Dodger Stadium and the failed federal public housing project in Los Angeles named “Elysian Park Heights” is often mistakenly represented. The Federal Housing Act of 1949 was created to provide funding to cities for public housing projects.
Late in 1949 and the early 1950s, a federal housing project was scheduled to be built in Chavez Ravine, Los Angeles and residents were notified by the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles that they would receive three independent fair market appraisals for their properties and subsequently have to move, if they accepted compensation for their land. With the promise that the project was for “families of low income” and they would be the first to return to the new “Elysian Park Heights”, all but a few residents left in 1951-52. Those who stayed did so without paying for services or property taxes for eight years. Renowned architects Richard Neutra and Robert Alexander were hired to design detailed plans for the 3,364-unit housing project, one of 11 throughout Los Angeles at a cost of $110 million.
But, a change of political winds, charges of “creeping socialism” and a negative vote of the L.A. citizens doomed the housing project in 1953. The land laid dormant for seven years. Norris Poulson, who ran against public housing in 1953, was elected as the new mayor of Los Angeles. He then made arrangements for the land to be purchased by the city from the Housing Authority. For years, Poulson and the City Council struggled with how to use the largely barren and hilly area. Several ideas were floated, including a zoo, cemetery, man-made lake, state college, expansion of the Police Academy and a city park. If any of the above were to be developed, funds would have to be allocated by a vote of the City Council and, at the time, there was nothing in the budget for any of these projects. For whatever use city officials would decide on, the few holdout residents had to be removed.
During this same period, Dodger President Walter O’Malley’s sole focus was seeking a solution to an aging Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. In 1946, O’Malley had started the search for an answer to a new stadium in Brooklyn for the Dodgers. His quest for a new, privately-financed stadium continued for an unprecedented 10 years as discussions with New York officials continued and sites were considered. His preferred location was the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues in Brooklyn.
It was only after all of O’Malley’s options were exhausted in New York that he considered Los Angeles in earnest in 1957. L.A. officials recognized the opportunity. In August 1957, negotiations with the City of Los Angeles led to a contract which, in part, obligated O’Malley to privately build a 50,000-seat stadium. In addition, Wrigley Field in downtown Los Angeles was deeded by the Dodgers to the city of L.A. In the exchange, the Dodgers received acreage with restrictions in Chavez Ravine to build the stadium.
By 1959, when construction of the stadium was to start, the city had to evict the last 12 residents, who had ignored repeated eviction notices.
In May 1959, the city evicted the final few residents. The public housing project in 1949-50 forced removal of property owners in Chavez Ravine, not the Dodgers.
The Federal Housing Act of 1949 is created to provide funding to cities for public housing projects. On August 8, 1949, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to enter into an agreement with the federally-sponsored City Housing Authority for construction of 10,000 units.Los Angeles Times, “Council Votes for 10,000 Housing Units,” August 9, 1949
Los Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron supported these housing projects (10 other proposed projects at a cost of $110 millionJournal of Urban History, “Housing, Baseball, And Creeping Socialism, The Battle of Chavez Ravine, 1949-1959,” Thomas S. Hines, UCLA, February 1982) throughout the city, including one in Chavez Ravine, which had been identified in planning reports as the most “blighted” area in the city in need of “rehabilitation.”Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight: Fear and Fantasy in Suburban Los Angeles. Eric Avila, University of California Press, 2004, Page 156. Bowron convinced the City Council to approve them, which they did in October 1950.
By 1950, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (a state agency) designates Chavez Ravine as a prime location for a federal housing project.
July 24, 1950 – Residents of Chavez Ravine receive a letter of notification that a federal public housing project called “Elysian Park Heights” will be built on the land and residents will be compensated and their property purchased after three independent appraisals are conducted by the Superior Court.Roz Wyman interview, walteromalley.com, August 11, 2014
Residents also are informed that the project is for “families of low income” and “later you will have the first chance to move back into the new Elysian Park Heights development.”
Renowned architects Richard Neutra and Robert Alexander were selected to design the ultra-modernist “Elysian Park Heights” project – 3,364 units in two dozen 13-story buildings and 163 two-story structures, in addition to playgrounds and schools.Journal of Urban History, “Housing, Baseball, And Creeping Socialism, The Battle of Chavez Ravine, 1949-1959,” Thomas S. Hines, UCLA, February 1982 Detailed plans and blueprints were drawn by the architects. It was expected that some 17,000 residents would live there with schools, churches, stores, community hall and auditoriums to also be constructed on site.
In 1950-51, residents were compensated for their properties as the Housing Authority began the buying of property and the relocation of its residents in December 1950. By June 1951, demolition work was begun.Los Angeles Times, “Settlement Losing Battle for Its Life,” August 20, 1951 Ninety-nine percent of the residents vacated the area, as the government begins clearing the land for the housing project. A handful of residents remained, not paying property taxes or for services. The Arechiga family was one who chose to stay put. The City Housing Authority acquired the Arechiga property by condemnation in 1951 when a federal public housing project was planned there. Remuneration was fixed at $10,500 by the Superior Court. That amount was deposited in the Arechiga name as the judgment became final with no appeal from the Arechiga family.Los Angeles Times, “Arnebergh Explains Background of Eviction,” May 9, 1959
In the early 1950s, the social (“Red Scare” and “creeping socialism”) and political climate are changing and the Elysian Park Heights housing project is eventually stopped – first by a vote of Los Angeles citizens through a referendum on June 3, 1952.Los Angeles Times, “Bitter Legal Fight May Doom Public Housing Plans Here,” January 20, 1951 The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the referendum later that year to enforce the original city and City Housing Authority contract, but when Norris Poulson campaigned against public housing in his winning mayoral race in June 1953 it effectively ends it.
August 20, 1951 – In a Los Angeles Times’ article it is reported that “The City Housing Authority began the buying of property in Chavez Ravine and the relocating of its residents last December. In June demolition work was begun – the destroying of houses too poorly constructed or too old to be sold and moved…Condemnation proceedings against the final third of the residents – the holdouts – have been filed, according to authority attorneys. The authority realizes the problem is a difficult one. Yet it was testified that surveys showed 87% of the structures in Chavez Ravine to have one or more basic deficiencies, to lack sanitary conditions and to be largely substandard.”Los Angeles Times, “Settlement Losing Battle for Its Life,” August 20, 1951
December 26, 1951 – The Los Angeles City Council adopted a resolution by an 8-7 vote which would cancel its contract with the City Housing Authority.Los Angeles Times, “Council Votes to Cancel Public Housing Project,” December 27, 1951
April 28, 1952 – The California Supreme Court held that the City Council could not cancel its agreement and that the referendum would have no effect.Los Angeles Times, “City Councilmen React Vigorously to Decision,” April 29, 1952
June 3, 1952 – Los Angeles voters rejected the public housing program in a city-wide referendum. This was in response to the City Housing Authority’s suit to have the Council’s action declared null and void and to force the Council to honor its commitment. The Council counteraction was to put to voters a referendum. The vote against the program was 378,000 to 258,000.Los Angeles Times, “Public Housing Proposition Beaten,” June 4, 1952
October 13, 1952 – The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the contract between the City and the City Housing Authority, after an appeal by the City Council of the California Supreme Court ruling.Journal of Urban History, “Housing, Baseball, And Creeping Socialism, The Battle of Chavez Ravine, 1949-1959,” Thomas S. Hines, UCLA, February 1982 This emboldened Mayor Bowron to continue to push forward with the housing projects, including at Elysian Park Heights.
In the June, 1953 mayoral election of U.S. Congressman Norris Poulson to replace L.A. Mayor Bowron, a proponent of housing projects, he received wide support from Citizens Against Socialist Housing (CASH) and his campaign pledge to cease support for “un-American” housing projects, such as Elysian Park Heights.PBS, “Independent Lens,” Chavez Ravine: A Los Angeles Story, The History of Chavez Ravine, 2005 Poulson envisioned better uses for the Chavez Ravine land and he negotiated compromises between the city and Housing Authority effectively cancelling the projects.
In 1953, youthful Roz Wyman ran for Los Angeles City Council and she distributed 3 x 5” cards to promote her campaign. “Literally, I walked from door to door and I got elected by walking door to door. And in those days, it’s almost like the (literature was the) size of a business card. We used to get 35,000 of those in those days for about $30. I had checked off on the piece of literature one of the points Bring Major League Baseball to L.A. when I ran.”walteromalley.com, “Wyman’s Historic Efforts Bring Dodgers to Los Angeles,” October 6, 2006 At 22, she was elected (Fifth District) and became the youngest City Councilmember in Los Angeles history. After her election, Wyman led the fight to bring Major League Baseball to Los Angeles.
In 1953, the Arechiga family sued to set aside the condemnation judgment on grounds that the housing project was “abandoned.”Los Angeles Times, “Arnebergh Explains Background of Eviction,” May 9, 1959 They continued to live on the land, paying no property or services tax.City of Los Angeles Resolution, May 13, 1959, available Dept. of Special Collections, UCLA Library They demanded $17,500 for their property.Los Angeles Herald-Express, “Chavez Ravine Fiasco,” William Randolph Hearst, May 12, 1959
At this time, Dodger owner Walter O’Malley’s sole focus was in finding a solution to replacing aging Ebbets Field and its limited parking, with a privately built and financed stadium. O’Malley wanted to build and privately finance baseball’s first dome stadium at his preferred location at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues in Brooklyn. He had worked with New York officials to resolve the stadium problem since 1946. But, over time O’Malley was repeatedly blocked in his unprecedented 10-year effort to remain in Brooklyn and privately build a new stadium for the Dodgers by powerful city planner Robert Moses, who had other ideas for the land.
October 6, 1953 – Comedians Bud Abbott and Lou Costello appear before Los Angeles City Council to be commended for their efforts to bring Major League Baseball to Los Angeles. Costello stated if the Dodgers would come to Los Angeles, “we’ll put up a stadium. Three clubs in New York are too much and the Dodgers’ attendance was way off this year.”Hollywood Citizen-News, “Abbott, Costello (No Laughs) Say Bums Can Be Had,” October 7, 1953 They declared that they could get the Dodgers (who had won N.L. Pennants in 1947, 1949, 1952 and 1953) to come to Los Angeles for $5,000,000 and a new ball park.
May 12, 1954 – The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to appropriate $761,474.11 “to pay half the cost of purchasing the abandoned Chavez Ravine and Rose Hills public housing sites from the Federal government” according to the Los Angeles Times.Los Angeles Times, “Council Acts to Acquire Housing Sites,” May 13, 1954 The City of Los Angeles purchased the Chavez Ravine land (some 169 acres) from the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles for a total of $1,279,204 (the remaining half to be paid by the city through an installment plan) included the proviso that it be used for “public purposes only.”“The Dodgers and Chavez Ravine,” by Norris Poulson, 1963, Page 199 and Los Angeles Times, “Bargain Housing Sites Offered,” August 22, 1953 This did not have to include housing. The City Council adopted a resolution offering either Chavez Ravine (Elysian Park Heights) or Rose Hills as a site for a new State college.Los Angeles Times, “Bargain Housing Sites Offered,” August 22, 1953
Following the transfer of land back to the City of Los Angeles in 1954, Mayor Poulson and the City Council struggled to find a use for the rugged, hilly and nearly barren acreage. Many ideas were considered, including a zoo,Los Angeles Times, “City Studies Plans for Five-Zone Zoo in Chavez Ravine Area,” May 13, 1957 a lake, college, a cemetery, a new jail, city park, opera house and expansion of the Police Academy. Walt Disney even considered the location for Disneyland. The land laid dormant for seven years, with just a handful of residents who had refused to leave and were not paying property or service taxes,The Dodgers and Chavez Ravine, by Norris Poulson, 1963, Page 211 as the city wrestled with how to use it. At the time, there was no funding from the city to move ahead on any of these potential projects.Roz Wyman interview, walteromalley.com, August 11, 2014 For whatever use city officials would decide on, the few holdouts had to be removed.
September 23, 1954 – Walter C. Peterson, City Clerk of Los Angeles, sends a letter to Major League Baseball owners informing them of the City Council’s resolution which expresses its desire to bring a major league team to Los Angeles. The Council resolved, “That this City Council does hereby go on record in urging the cooperation of all agencies of the City, County and State government to the end that a site might be agreed upon which will be suitable to the Major League Baseball Clubs’ owners; and be it further resolved that all necessary preliminary steps be worked out to complete such arrangements.”
In 1955, Palo Verde Elementary School, built in 1924, in the northeast part of Chavez Ravine is closed.Los Angeles Times, “Burke May Block Chavez Deal,” September 20, 1957 Only a handful of residents live in the area, resulting in low school enrollment, since the federal housing project was originally announced and then discontinued.
May 31, 1955 – Two and a half years before the Dodgers arrive in Los Angeles, the citizens of L.A. reject a bond issue calling for $4,500,000 to build a 63,000-seat “major athletic stadium.” The proposition was defeated by 160,000 to 131,000 votes.Special to the New York Times, Gladwin Hill, May 30, 1955 and June 2, 1955 Walter O’Malley kept the newspaper clipping in his “new stadium” file. This was consistent with O’Malley’s desire to design, build, finance and maintain his own stadium, if he ever were to consider Los Angeles as an option. The Los Angeles Times stated in a news article on May 29, 1955, that it was opposed to a ballot referendum that would provide for a municipal baseball stadium.Los Angeles Times, “Small Ballot Up for Vote Tuesday,” May 29, 1955
July 7, 1955 – The Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, by grant deed dated July 7, 1955, sold and conveyed its entire interest in the site of the former low-rent housing project known as Elysian Park Heights, Project No. Cal 4-11, to the city of Los Angeles.
August 22, 1955 – O’Malley receives a letter from Walter C. Peterson, City Clerk for the City of Los Angeles, stating that the City has adopted a resolution proposed by Councilmember Rosalind Wyman once again conveying their interest in persuading a Major League Baseball team to relocate to Los Angeles. The resolution further adds that if O’Malley is unable to meet in Los Angeles with council representatives, Councilmembers Wyman and Ed Roybal were authorized to contact him in New York.
September 1, 1955 – Councilmember Wyman writes a letter to O’Malley regarding the city’s interest in obtaining a major league baseball team. Wyman and Roybal ask O’Malley to meet with them in New York several weeks later. Wyman writes, “We have been authorized by the Los Angeles City Council to discuss the matter with you for the purpose of bringing recommendations back to them.”walteromalley.com, Historic Documents, September 1, 1955 On September 7, O’Malley declines the request because of preparations for the Dodger World Series and to focus his attention on building a stadium in Brooklyn.walteromalley.com, Historic Documents, September 7, 1955
July 31, 1956 – The Los Angeles City Council requested the L.A. Department of Recreation and Parks and the City Planning Department to make a study of possible sites and the most suitable location for a Major League Baseball park in Los Angeles.
October 11, 1956 – In his first official visit to Los Angeles as the Dodgers are headed to Japan for a Goodwill Tour, O’Malley holds a press conference at the Statler Hotel and tells the gathering that there are “three reasons why his National League Club was not available to Los Angeles.” He states, “1 — In the last 10 years Brooklyn has drawn more people than any other baseball club except the Yankees. 2 — Substantial progress is being made toward a new stadium in Brooklyn. 3 — The Los Angeles franchise (of the Pacific Coast League) is owned by my good friend Phil Wrigley and I wouldn’t be guilty of invading a friend’s territory.”Los Angeles Times, Paul Zimmerman, October 12, 1956
November 21, 1956 – Findings of a joint study by the L.A. Department of Recreation and Parks and the City Planning Department about possible sites and the most suitable location for a Major League Baseball park in Los Angeles were released. L.A. City Council requested a joint study in July 1956. “The resolution of the City Council suggested investigation of four specific locations, including a) The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, b) Wrigley Field, c) Chavez Ravine and d) Garbutt Estate in the Silver Lake District.” In the findings of the study, it states, “Consideration was given to the possibility of other suitable sites, however none was found within the City with qualifications meriting serious consideration.” As to the Chavez Ravine site, the study noted, “The rugged topography of this area does not appear to be desirable for the proposed use. Although possible to design a major league baseball park with essential large flat surfaces, and necessary parking areas, such facilities would involve extensive earthwork and retaining walls. Most of the property considered for this use is owned by the City of Los Angeles and is vacant. Abutting land is in private ownership and, except for a few small residences, is vacant.”Council File 74399, City Plan Case 7581, Joint Study by the Department of Recreation and Parks and the City Planning Department – Possible Sites for the Construction of a Major League Baseball Park in Los Angeles, July 31, 1956
In 1957, the District Court of Appeals ruled “when the judgment in the condemnation case became final, they (the Arechiga family) were divested of all interest in the property (in Chavez Ravine) regardless of the purpose for which it might later be used.”The Dodgers and Chavez Ravine, “The Arechiga Case,” by Norris Poulson, 1963 From the time they refused to abandon the property in 1951, the Arechiga’s lived there, despite a check that was held in escrow for them for $10,050, minus $11 deduction for unpaid personal property taxes ($10,039). The Los Angeles Times reported that the property that they refused to vacate was intended to be used as part of the 40-acre youth recreation facility, not part of Dodger Stadium property.Los Angeles Times, “Chavez Ravine Family Evicted,” May 9, 1959
February 21, 1957 – The Dodgers exchanged their Fort Worth team in the Texas League for Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, the Pacific Coast League L.A. Angels and territorial rights in Los Angeles with Chicago Cubs’ owner Philip K. Wrigley. He was a proponent of Major League Baseball expansion to the West Coast.
March 6, 1957 – A delegation from Los Angeles, including Mayor Norris Poulson, John Gibson, president of the City Council; Samuel Leask, city administration officer; L.A. County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn; county chief administrative officer John Leach; and Milton Arthur, chairman of the county recreation commission meet with Walter O’Malley at the Dodgers’ innovative spring training complex, Dodgertown, in Vero Beach, FL and tried to persuade him that they were indeed ready to bring the major leagues to Los Angeles.
May 2, 1957 – While visiting Los Angeles from May 1st-5th, O’Malley takes a 50-minute helicopter ride to view prospective sites for a new stadium. He rides in the two-seat helicopter with pilot Capt. Sewell Griggers. They depart from the Sheriff’s station at Biscailuz Center. On the ground waiting for them are Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, Undersheriff Peter Pitchess and Del Webb, co-owner of the New York Yankees. Also, O’Malley surveys the mammoth Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for possible temporary use by the Dodgers until he can build and privately finance his dream stadium.
May 28, 1957 – The National League owners, meeting in Chicago, granted the New York Giants and the Dodgers permission to move to San Francisco and Los Angeles, respectively, if the two clubs would shift together before October 1, 1957. Major League Baseball ensured that for team travel purposes, the other N.L. teams could play two series on the West Coast.
June 11, 1957 – In a letter, the City of Los Angeles, acting through Mayor Norris Poulson, requested the cooperation of the Housing Authority in removing the restriction “to be used for public purposes only” in the event the City of Los Angeles desired that said property be used for the construction of a major league baseball park.
July 3, 1957 – In a letter, the Commissioner of the Public Housing Administration (PHA), Charles E. Slusser, advised the Housing Authority that neither the PHA nor the federal government had any legal interest in the future use of said property and that any decision regarding said use was a matter for the Commissioner of the Housing Authority and the City of Los Angeles to determine.
August 21, 1957 – O’Malley first meets with Chad McClellan, an independent negotiator representing the City of Los Angeles to discuss an exchange of land between the Dodgers and the city. Two days earlier, the New York Giants announced their intentions to move to San Francisco for the 1958 season.
August 21, 1957 – In the Los Angeles Mirror-News, the Arechiga family refused to comply with an eviction order and was granted a two-week stay. Victoria Angustain, the daughter of Manuel and Abrana Arechiga stated, “The city wants this land to build a ball park for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Well, we are not going to give up our life-long home and property and oil rights for that.” Councilmember Ed Roybal said “the delay would permit arbitration of the city’s claim that the Arechigas owe $4000 for rent since the housing authority took over the home four years ago.”Los Angeles Mirror-News, “Family Won’t Budge for the Dodgers,” August 21, 1957
October 7, 1957 – The Los Angeles City Council approves a resolution to enable the Dodgers to play in Los Angeles and exchange land on which the Dodgers will privately finance and build a new stadium.
October 8, 1957 – The Dodgers announce that they will shift operations to the Los Angeles territory beginning with the 1958 season. O’Malley and the City of Los Angeles adopt a contract which obligated him to privately finance, build and maintain a 50,000-seat stadium; initially pay $500,000 to develop a youth recreation center and an additional $60,000 annual payment for 20 years; put the land on the property tax rolls for the first time in years, beginning at $345,000 in 1962Los Angeles and the Dodger War, 1957-62, Cary S. Henderson, Southern California Quarterly, Fall 1980; and transfer L.A.’s Wrigley Field, then valued by the city at $2.2 million, all in exchange for roughly 300 acres in Chavez Ravine.“The Dodgers and Chavez Ravine,” by Norris Poulson, 1963, Page 202 (The American League Angels used Wrigley Field for home games in 1961.) Despite numerous delays, O’Malley proceeded to privately build Dodger Stadium, for $23 million, which opened on April 10, 1962 and he completely fulfilled his contractual obligations to the city. Through the Dodgers, Major League Baseball’s expansion was now historic as it reached the West Coast. St. Louis previously was the National League’s westernmost city, while Kansas City served as the American League’s westernmost city. This opened the west to the possibility of other major league teams coming and subsequently the Los Angeles Angels (1961), Oakland Athletics (1968), San Diego Padres (1969) and Seattle (1969).
December 1, 1957 – Walter C. Peterson, City Clerk for the City of Los Angeles, announced enough valid signatures on petitions have been collected to put the city’s contract with the Dodgers on a referendum challenging its validity on June 3, 1958. This is the start of “Proposition B,” the baseball referendum in which voters in the city are asked to vote “Yes on B” to support the previously approved contract between the Dodgers and the city or vote “No on B” to void the agreement.
June 1, 1958 – In preparation for voting on the “Proposition B” referendum, a live, five-hour Dodgerthon is held on KTTV Channel 11 in Los Angeles. A jam-packed lineup of civic leaders, celebrities and sports stars including Jerry Lewis, actor and future U.S. President Ronald Reagan, George Burns, Chairman Joe E. Brown of the Taxpayers’ Committee for “Yes on Baseball,” Dean Martin, Jack Benny, Laraine Day, Debbie Reynolds, Ray Walston, Casey Stengel and Jackie Robinson (via tape) all participate in support of the City’s contract with the Dodgers.
June 3, 1958 – The largest turnout in Los Angeles history for a non-presidential election (62.3%) results in voters passing “Proposition B” referendum with 351,683 voting in favor of the previously approved contract between the Dodgers and the City of Los Angeles, clearing a major hurdle for O’Malley and the Dodgers to begin the construction of Dodger Stadium. The final margin of victory for “Proposition B” was 25,785 votes, with 351,683 voting for and 325,898 voting against. L.A.’s 9th District, which covered the Chavez Ravine area, Boyle Heights, Bunker Hill, Civic Center, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, and the Central Avenue corridor and was represented by Councilmember Ed Roybal, had one of the largest margins of approval for the referendum.
June 19, 1958 – Walter O’Malley announces that the Dodgers relinquish all interest in oil rights on the Dodger Stadium acreage.Los Angeles Times, “Chavez Oil Rights Ended by Dodgers,” June 20, 1958
July 14, 1958 – The City of Los Angeles’ previously approved contract with the Dodgers is ruled invalid by Superior Court Judge Arnold Praeger, which sets off a series of appeals and legal challenges.
January 13, 1959 – The California State Supreme Court votes unanimously (7-0) to uphold the contract between the City of Los Angeles and the Dodgers, which L.A. citizens had supported, reversing the lower court’s decision. A joyous O’Malley said that day, “I pledge the finest stadium any sports fan ever has entered.” Chief Justice Phil S. Gibson declared the contract valid as “serving a proper public purpose” in his written (21 page) opinion. The Court explains, “In considering whether the contract made by the city has a proper purpose, we must view the contract as a whole, and the fact that some of the provisions may be of benefit only to the baseball club is immaterial, provided the city receives benefits which serve legitimate public purposes.”
January 20, 1959 – The Commissioners of the Housing Authority adopt a resolution that 1) the Chairman or Vice-Chairman and Secretary or Assistant Secretary of this Authority are hereby authorized and directed to execute a quitclaim deed and 2) this quitclaim deed is to “release the lands hereinabove described from any covenants, conditions and restrictions imposed by the above-mentioned deed (July 7, 1955) by the Grantor herein, upon the condition, however, that the City of Los Angeles, or its successor in interest, construct a baseball stadium with a seating capacity of not less than fifty thousand seats.”
March 9, 1959 – The last 12 remaining residents are given written notice that they must vacate Chavez Ravine in 30 days.Los Angeles Times, “The Chavez Ravine Incident,” May 13, 1959
April 13, 1959 – In the Los Angeles Herald-Express, it is reported that the holdout of the Arechiga family at the properties on Malvina Street is adjacent to the abandoned Palo Verde grammar school. “They (the Arechiga’s) successfully resisted efforts of four sheriff’s deputies, other law enforcement officers including a dog catcher and moving van crews, to move them out last August.”
May 6, 1959 – In his letter to “The Mailbag” of the Los Angeles Mirror-News, Manuel Arechiga writes, “I haven’t anything against the Dodgers but if they want my land let them pay a reasonable price for it, not take it away. I am 72 and cannot buy a house for the price they offer me and stay out of debt. I have two houses and three lots and they offer me $10,050.”Los Angeles Mirror-News, “The Mailbag,” May 6, 1959 Seven years prior, after reviewing three independent appraisals and picking the highest amount for the land, the Superior Court then put the funds in escrow.Roz Wyman, interview with walteromalley.com, August 11, 2014
May 8, 1959 – When the city had to clear the land for O’Malley to start construction, there were just 12 individuals living on the land.Sunday News, UPI story “Last 12 in O’Malley’s Way,” May 10, 1959 Despite repeated eviction notices, they refused to leave and were evicted by Los Angeles County officials. According to Councilmember Wyman, “A very prominent television news anchor instructed the last remaining holdouts, ‘Don’t just leave or there’s no story. Say that you have no place to live and let the Sheriff carry you out.’”Roz Wyman, interview with walteromalley.com, August 11, 2014
May 11, 1959 – The Arechiga family appeared before the Los Angeles City Council and was granted a public hearing. They made it sound as if they were destitute and have no place to live, but of no mind to accept charity. However, arrangements were made for them to live in public housing quarters at no expense to them, but they again refused to leave Chavez Ravine and continued living in tents.
May 13, 1959 – Newspaper reports revealed that the Arechiga family owned 11 other homes at a value of more than $75,000, including “an unoccupied house located not far from their illegally-established camp site in Chavez Ravine…” The next day’s Los Angeles Times’ headline stated, “11 L.A. Homes Owned by Chavez Evictees”.Los Angeles Times, May 14, 1959
May 15, 1959 – One other resident, Ruth Rayford, a trained actress who studied at the Perry School of Dramatic Arts in St. Louis, had been instructed to look upset by the eviction. “The television man told us to look fierce, and I thought it would be fun, so I raised my cane and did the best I could. We knew the time would come when we would have to move, so we didn’t mind too much. We should have done it sooner, and then we would have been settled by now,” she told the Los Angeles Examiner.Los Angeles Examiner, May 15, 1959
May 15, 1959 – Another resident who resisted moving until she was forced to was Alice Martin. According to the Mirror News, Martin “named four men as advisers in her resistance against eviction...She displayed a small book with the names and telephone numbers of J.A. (Blackjack) Smith, C.A. Owen, John Loyd and Jerome Murphy. She identified them as men ‘working with Councilman John Holland.’” Holland was one of the leaders against the Dodgers move to Los Angeles.
“(Blackjack) Smith is a shipbuilder, canner, banker, oil producer and rancher. He also has an interest in the San Diego Padres (minor league) baseball club.” Smith was interested in getting a Major League Baseball team in San Diego.Roz Wyman, interview with walteromalley.com, August 11, 2014 “Murphy is a businessman here and has been active in politics. She said today that Murphy ‘told me not to surrender. Let them break in. Mr. Murphy told me that if they let Chavez Ravine go they will take the whole city.’ Owen was chairman of the Citizens Committee to Save Chavez Ravine for the People and Loyd was identified as a tape recording technician who was active with the anti-Dodger forces during the campaign against Proposition B.”Mirror News, May 15, 1959
May 15, 1959 – From the Los Angeles Examiner editorial and Mayor Norris Poulson’s comments about the Arechiga family, “It is perfectly plain now,” he said, “that the family needs no sympathy. It is a victim of its own eagerness to extract from the taxpayers more than it was granted by valid court decisions.” The editorial states, “His comments on the shocking disclosures that the family owns some 11 other homes valued at more than $75,000 burned away much of the oratorical underbrush that has sprung up around this incident.
“Those leading the fight in the (City) Council to defy the legal eviction order are the very ones who, with respect to the Dodger agreement, set themselves above a majority of the Council, a vote of the electorate, the State Legislature, the Governor and two unanimous rulings by the State Supreme Court.”Los Angeles Examiner, May 15, 1959
May 18, 1959 – California Attorney General Stanley Mosk commended Los Angeles Mayor Norris Poulson in a letter (reported in the Los Angeles Times) regarding the eviction proceedings at Chavez Ravine: “The spectacle created was a disgraceful reflection upon the city of Los Angeles, and those responsible for creating the illusion that public officials are ruthless when they enforce the law and court orders have done a disservice to our nation and to its fundamental concept of justice. I am delighted to see you express public criticism of the television actors who so frequently distort the news and give emotionally slanted views on matters of public interest. The very same television actors whom you criticized – and everyone knows who they are – have assailed me, too, for adopting the same position which you and the city attorney assumed in this case – that respect to our courts of justice is essential if our American system is to survive.”
May 19, 1959 – In the Los Angeles Mirror-News, a story that the Arechiga’s property was on land that “will not come into Dodger possession for another 20 years. The club’s contract with the city requires the Dodgers to build a 40-acre public recreation center in that section and maintain it for 20 years. The property was condemned by the state in 1951 as part of a 169-acre public housing site. It was later sold to the city after defeat of public housing at a referendum in 1952. The Arechiga family still had not picked up $10,050 held in Superior Court for purchase of their property.”Los Angeles Mirror-News, “Arechigas Quit Tent in Chavez,” May 19, 1959
June 3, 1959 – In the office of Los Angeles City Council President and Acting Mayor John S. Gibson, Jr., O’Malley signs the official contract with the City of Los Angeles and the Dodgers.
September 17, 1959 – After numerous delays and legal challenges, a crowd of 5,000 attends groundbreaking ceremonies for Dodger Stadium.
In 1959, the City and Dodgers agree that it will initiate proceedings to re-zone to C3 and for granting a conditional use permit. Later, the City Planning Commission recommends zoning of the stadium property from C3 to C2, which has building height restrictions and because the C3 zone was becoming obsolete.
October 19, 1959 – The United States Supreme Court denied certiorari and dismisses the case trying to block the City of Los Angeles from entering into its previously approved contract with the Dodgers for land at the Chavez Ravine location. With this last legal hurdle cleared, O’Malley can proceed with the grading the rugged topography and future construction of Dodger Stadium.
February 12, 1960 – The Dodgers obtain in escrow title to three properties at a price of $310,000 in the Chavez Ravine area, while working on purchasing nine other properties. The City of Los Angeles was unable to obtain this land from owners who had banded togetherLos Angeles Times, “Chavez Families Unite in Land Sale Covenant,” May 23, 1959 to sell properties at considerably higher amounts than the independent appraisals.Los Angeles Examiner, “$310,000 Paid for 3 Chavez Lots,” February 13, 1960
In 1960, the City of Los Angeles made its last and best offer based on fair-market appraisals, but owners were not accepting it, blocking the way for O’Malley. The city dropped its condemnation proceedings, forcing O’Malley to act. Records show the appraised total for these 12 properties to be $85,750. O’Malley ended up spending a greatly-inflated $494,200 to purchase the 12 properties so that he could continue to move forward in the process. O’Malley had all legal right and title to the land, but nevertheless many residents held it against him and not the federal government, Housing Authority or city officials. The fact remains, however, that no property owners should have been on the land after 1951-52.
August 4, 1960 – Huber Smutz, Chief Zoning Administrator for the City of Los Angeles conditionally grants approval for a site of 275 acres to construct, build and maintain a baseball stadium with seating capacity of 56,000 persons, instead of the maximum 3,000 seat capacity automatically permitted on C2 zoning permit. The Ordinance No. 110,264 approves the contract with the Dodgers and the City of Los Angeles. The contract was approved by referendum and adjudicated in the Courts. Ordinance 114,949 reclassifies the property to C2 zones. Smutz grants conditional use approval to rezone to commercial and parking classes from former residential classes. The record is clear the area was purposely not reclassified to an M1 zone so that various conditions and limits could be placed on development of Stadium and so no other commercial or industrial uses not be permitted to occupy the area.
The conditional use (C2 zone) limitations include the use of the Stadium is limited to primarily baseball games and incidental and necessary activities. Any other use of the Stadium to attract more than 3,000 persons is limited to an average throughout the calendar year of not exceeding four events per month, but under no circumstance shall there be more than two events in any one week.
April 10, 1962 – Dodger Stadium opens to rave reviews and wide fan acceptance as a crowd of 52,564 view the beauty of the new ballpark – designed, built and privately financed by Dodger owner Walter O’Malley.
May 12, 1962 – The Arechiga family still had not collected a check in excess of $10,000 from the City Housing Authority, according to Director Howard Holtzendorff. “The money has been on deposit for her (Abrana Arechiga) since 1953,” he said in an article in the Los Angeles Times.Los Angeles Times, “Arechigas Continue Chavez Fight,” May 12, 1962