A Los Angeles City Council committee moved forward Tuesday with the planned demolition of Parker Center, the former police department headquarters, along with a substantial increase in the estimated cost of the project to replace it with an office tower for municipal employees.
The City Council approved the demolition of Parker Center in March of last year as part of a larger redevelopment plan for the Civic Center area.
The project had originally earmarked $11 million in bond money to help pay for Parker Center’s demolition as part of a $483 million budget for the office tower, but a new report from the Municipal Facilities Committee approved by the Information, Technology and General Services Committee raised the estimate to $708.9 million for the overall project and more than $32 million for the demolition.
The report also stated that the demolition would begin this fall and be completed by December 2019.
Chief Administrative Officer Rich Llewellyn said the city had not yet determined which employees would ultimately move to the new building but that it would help the city sell some buildings it owns or end leases at buildings it is renting while consolidating more workers in the Civic Center.
“We have people in city buildings, some leased, some owned all over downtown. Trying to co-locate our employees downtown will provide better customer service, more synergy, more energy, lower traffic time, a better use of our city assets and will reactivate the civic core, which will ultimately be good for the neighborhood, good for the city and good for our tax dollars,” Llewellyn said.
No council members on the committee raised any objection about the spike in the estimated cost of the project.
The committee’s action comes after AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein and his supporters announced an effort in May to halt the demolition and convert the building into a homeless shelter through a ballot measure. If approved, it’s unclear when the ballot measure could come before voters.
The effort to create a city ballot initiative would cost around $100,000 and require about 65,000 signatures from registered voters, Weinstein said. The city is not due to hold another election until 2020, but Weinstein said the city could call a special election for the ballot measure if it gets approved. He also conceded the city had the legal right to tear the building down even if the ballot measure is approved, but argued the optics would not be in the favor of city leaders to do so as they grapple with the growing homeless crisis.
Both the office of Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Jose Huizar declined to comment on the AHF’s efforts to save Parker Center when the initiative was announced. Huizar represents the Civic Center area and supported the demolition of Parker Center.
In voting for its removal in 2017, the City Council decided against naming Parker Center a historic-cultural monument, despite the Cultural Heritage Commission recommending the move.
Parker Center, which opened in the 1950s, has been mostly empty since 2009 when the LAPD moved to a new building several blocks away. It was designed by Welton Becket, who also designed the Capitol Records building, Music Center and Cinerama Dome.