The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to move forward with demolition of the former downtown headquarters of the Los Angeles Police Department to make way for an office tower for municipal employees, amid a substantial increase in the estimated cost of the project.
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 estimated cost at the time was $483 million for the office tower, but has since jumped to $708.9 million.
The council, on a 12-0 vote, approved a public/private financing plan for the project and scheduled the demolition to begin this fall and be completed by December 2019.
“Tuesday’s vote sets a course for a new Civic Center — a public/private partnership that will provide much-needed and centralized city office space, as well as more than one million square feet of housing,” said Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents the Civic Center area and helped craft the plan.
One of the goals of the project is to centralize more city employees in the Civic Center area by allowing the city to sell other buildings it owns or terminate leases in ones it rents. Replacing Parker Center is just one part of a comprehensive planned overhaul of the area.
“The Civic Center Master Plan that I called for in 2015 will create efficiencies and save hundreds of millions of dollars by centralizing city employees and services in one location,” Huizar said. “It will turn the Civic Center into a 24-hour destination by creating an open, pedestrian-focused design with a plaza, paseos and a campus full of residential and retail space. It will also ensure that the surrounding communities, most notably Little Tokyo, are not shut out in both form and practice — as they were decades ago when their property was taken.
“A quarter of Little Tokyo disappeared forever when Parker Center was built with its back turned to that community,” he said. “It’s time to build the Civic Center Los Angeles deserves.”
In voting for its removal in 2017, the City Council decided against naming Parker Center a historic-cultural monument even though the Cultural Heritage Commission recommended 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.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein and his supporters announced an effort in May to halt the demolition of Parker Center and convert the building into a homeless shelter through a ballot measure.
The effort to create a city ballot initiative would cost around $100,000 and require about 65,000 signatures from registered voters, Weinstein has 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. He also conceded the city had the legal right to tear the building down even if a 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.