By Skyfox11 at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
By Skyfox11 at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
A City Council committee took no action Tuesday after a lengthy debate about the future of a building many view as a symbol of dark aspects of the Los Angeles Police Department‘s past.

Parker Center, the LAPD’s former headquarters, has been mostly empty since 2009 when the department moved to new headquarters about a block away, and some historical conservationists are scrambling to try and save the structure as the city considers tearing it down.

More than 20 people lined up as guest speakers and voiced their opinion on Parker Center Tuesday to the Entertainment and Facilities Committee, which opted to continue the discussion at a later meeting.

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, the committee’s chair, said he wanted to put off any vote until the Planning and Land Use Committee has a chance to hear a Cultural Heritage Commission recommendation that Parker Center be given historic-cultural status, which is expected to happen by mid-February at the latest.

The commission made the recommendation in September, which was the second time it had done so.

In January 2015, the commission made the same recommendation, but the Planning and Land Use Committee missed a deadline to consider the nomination. Even if the committee and then the full City Council were to adopt the recommendation, the council could still approve demolishing the building if no viable option for preservation is found.

The current plan is to demolish the building to make way for a new 750,000-square-feet civic building, which the city’s Bureau of Engineering recommended in a report approved by the Municipal Facilities Committee in August.

Under the demolition plan, a memorial to Parker Center would be included at the new site that could feature artwork and relics from the building.

The report also considered alternatives, such as fully rehabilitating the structure or constructing a new 588,000 square-feet civic building around Parker Center while preserving and rehabilitating much of the original building. However, the report found those alternatives do not help meet the city’s estimated need for 1.1 million new square feet of office space in the Civic Center area for city workers.

Preserving and rehabilitating Parker Center while building around it would cost $621 million, versus $514 million for tearing it down and building a new structure on the site, the report found.

The Los Angeles Conservancy, a nonprofit historical preservation group, objects to tearing Parker Center down and said in an email to supporters that it believes rehabilitating it will save the city $50 million because the projections in the BOE report show the city “putting their thumb on the scale” of the preservation options.

“We believe that there is a big enough discrepancy of $50 million dollars that the city should take a breath and bring in an independent cost estimator that has some preservation experience and really look at whether there is a possibility of finding a real win-win solution,” Linda Dishman, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Conservancy, told the committee.

Parker Center was designed by Welton Becket, who also designed the Capitol Records building, Music Center and Cinerama Dome. It was made nationally famous on the 1960s TV series “Dragnet,” as well as other TV shows and films.

But for many, Parker Center symbolizes the LAPD’s dark past, starting with its name.

The building was originally known as the Police Facilities Building. In 1969, it was named after former Chief William H. Parker, who served in the LAPD from 1950 until his death in 1966.

Allegations of racial discrimination by police and abuse against the black community are part of Parker’s legacy, which included the 1965 Watts Riots.

Yukio Kawaratani, a member of the Little Tokyo Historical Society and Little Tokyo Community Council, said when Parker Center was built it ate up a key area of the neighborhood.

“It was an immense environmental impact on the community. The Little Tokyo community only has bad memories of Parker Center. We want to forget it. Don’t continue to memorialize a bad building and police chief,” Kawaratani told the committee.

Adrian Scott Fine, the L.A. Conservancy’s director of advocacy, told City News Service that it is important to not just preserve pleasant history.

“It has a negative history, or a difficult history, but ultimately history is history and you can’t pick and choose or arbitrarily pick and choose which history you prefer to keep versus others that you throw away,” Fine said. “We’ve always acknowledged that Parker Center does have different meaning and perspectives for different people, and that is part of what is important, is it illustrates just how far Los Angeles has come as a place.”

–City News Service


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