LOS ANGELES – Five of Robert F. Kennedy's (search) nine surviving children urged school officials Thursday to scrap plans to preserve parts of the landmark hotel where he was assassinated in 1968.
The offspring said the district should devote the entire 23-acre site of the Ambassador Hotel to an education complex.
The proposal to enshrine parts of the ballroom where Kennedy gave his last speech, and possibly the pantry where he was gunned down, runs "counter to his life's work and the kind of legacy our family has tried to maintain," the family members said in a letter to the Los Angeles Unified School District, which owns the dilapidated hotel.
"Our father's entire public career was devoted to creating a better future for young people," said the letter, by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (search), Maxwell Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Christopher G. Kennedy and Rory Kennedy.
Considered a historic gem by preservationists, the long-closed hotel was once a celebrity hotspot whose guests included F. Scott Fitzgerald, Rudolph Valentino and Albert Einstein (search).
District officials have said they would demolish much of the Ambassador but use as much as $15 million to preserve a coffee shop, the hotel's once-swanky nightclub and parts of the Embassy Ballroom, where Kennedy spoke after winning the California presidential primary in June 1968.
District officials proposed having a panel study whether the pantry where Kennedy was shot by Sirhan Sirhan should be preserved.
Glenn Gritzner, special assistant to the superintendent, said the district considered its plan "a way through the thicket" of competing interests.
"There's a very vocal group that wants to keep it, a very vocal group that wants to get rid of it," Gritzner said. "What we've been trying to do is really balance the needs. The first priority is having a school."
The Board of Education is expected to vote on the construction plan later this year. If approved and not delayed by lawsuits, the school could partially open in 2008. It eventually could have room for 4,200 students.