By Jeff Hall
The other night at the Brentwood Community Council meeting, there was some discussion about the Duttons Bookstore building – also known as the Barry Building, Green Hollow Square or “Charlie Munger’s place.”
A sign went up recently, saying a demolition permit was being sought.
Charlie Munger, now in his mid-90s, has reportedly turned this over to his children to figure out.
Attendees at the BCC meeting were told by an attorney representing the Mungers that there were no plans to build anything there; the owners simply want to demolish the property and sell it as an open piece of land.
Fixing up the building, according to the attorney, is economically infeasible. It would cost three or four times as much to fix it than to build a brand new building completely up to code.
This request for a demolition permit doesn’t mean anything immediate will happen; there is still a long process involved, which will include an environmental impact report. The building has certain historic protections, as well.
Upon hearing this announcement, John Binder of Mandeville Canyon suggested the property could become a public park called “Munger Park.”
When you think about it, that would be pretty amazing. Brentwood doesn’t have much open space. There is no central gathering place.
Over the years, lots of ideas for the property have been floated – retail mall, theater, retirement center, community center, public swimming pool, a bookstore, etc.
The original retail mall idea – Green Hollow Square – got hammered pretty hard by opponents because of the fear of added traffic in the area.
I was personally never that excited about a retail shopping mall. I’m sure it would have been a nice mall, but we all have too much stuff already; do we really need to buy more from fancy stores?
And, as the world has “gone Amazon,” retail as we once knew it might not be such a good bet anymore.
Surely there’s a need for more affordable housing in the area – but then we’re talking traffic again.
I’ve written a few times over the years that a retirement home/assisted living facility on that property would be ideal, for at least three reasons:
There is currently no retirement home in Brentwood, and, as we all age, any one of us might want to live there at some point;
Presumably those in a retirement home won’t be driving much, so the traffic impacts will be minimal; and
Because there is no retirement home or assisted living facility, when it’s our time to move into one, we’ll be forced to leave the community we love, taking us away from family, friends and familiar haunts.
Every time I propose this idea, people tell me how much they support it. We all get old – if we’re lucky.
Ideas often build upon one another. Maybe a retirement home and a public park can be blended into one campus called Munger Park.
Maybe a small theater could be squeezed into the facility that would double as a public meeting place.
Maybe a pool for the retirees could be opened up to the public on weekends.
The property is big, but probably not that big.
So if it’s a park only or a retirement home only or a community center only, any one of these things would be a “win” for Brentwood.
I hope we can keep the Mungers in the picture. Charlie is a very decent guy; he was treated pretty shabbily back when he was promoting Green Hollow Square.
Maybe we can make it up to him by letting him and his family know Brentwood would happily embrace “Munger Park” – a park, a retirement home – or maybe even both.
Maybe Charlie would like to live in Brentwood. We know just the place!
If the property gets sold, we’ll be starting all over again. Maybe the next owner will want to put something truly awful there. Let’s keep an open mind and let the Mungers know Brentwood would love to explore this more – and that it will be different this time.