The Armenian Cultural Foundation plans to use a vacant Encino fire station for after-school tutoring, earthquake drills, blood drives and bicycle rides to promote genocide awareness, according to foundation spokesman Dr. Raffi Chalian.
In a highly controversial move, the foundation was unanimously granted a 50-year lease by the Los Angeles City Council for $1 a year. Neighbors called it a "land grab."
Chalian told the Encino Neighborhood Council in July that former Fire Station 83 at 5001 N. Balboa Blvd. will host the many groups the foundation sponsors, including a dance group and its Armenian Youth Organization. It will provide community services to the greater Encino neighborhood and not just its Armenian residents, he said.
The Daily News reported in July that residents were hoping the station would be used as an additional building for Encino Charter Elementary School, located next to the station. The newspaper said in May that there were 600 signatures on a petition to block the lease.
"It's basically a land grab," Lisa Becker, a parent and board member of the Parent Teacher Organization, told the Daily News. "How the city can justify giving them that property for $1 is beyond me."
According to the Daily News, the station has been vacant for almost seven years. The building has also been the target of vandalism and copper wire theft. The Armenian Cultural Foundation offered to invest $1 million in repairs, the newspaper reported.