In a bid to save the Los Angeles Police Department’s old headquarters from being demolished, a city panel recommended Thursday that the building be granted historical status.

The eight-story Parker Center tower and surrounding landscaping was home to the LAPD’s administrative staff from 1955 to the fall of 2009, when the department moved across the street into a larger, glass-paned complex.

The Cultural Heritage Commission voted in favor of declaring Parker Center a city historic-cultural monument, citing the building’s role in the LAPD’s “complicated” history of race relations, the modernization of the policing profession and the architectural design by Welton Becket, who also designed the Capitol Records building, Music Center and Cinerama Dome.

City Historic Resources Manager Ken Bernstein said the landmark status does not confer an “ironclad” protection against razing the building, but city officials would be given the opportunity to stop demolition.

The City Council — which has final say on whether to grant historic landmark status to Parker Center — is set to consider a $475 million proposal by the city Bureau of Engineering to demolish the building and replace it with a bigger office tower.

The council has 90 days to act on the commission’s recommendation, with the option for a 15-day extension, Bernstein said.

Commissioner Barry Milofsky said the building was frequently shown in the television series “Dragnet,” which dramatized actual LAPD cases.

“It really is an icon of both of the city and icon of the entertainment industry, and of incredible significance in terms of the social history of the city,” Milofsky said.

Commissioner Jeremy Irvine said before moving into Parker Center, the LAPD “had a reputation of being extremely corrupt, and there was a lack of transparency.”

The building, which was constructed at a time when police facilities were being centralized around the country, aided the LAPD in “solving crimes in an efficient, technical manner,” he said.

The historic status was also endorsed by the Los Angeles Conservancy, a nonprofit historical preservation group.

The building has been on the group’s “radar as an important modern resource,” preservation coordinator Laura Dominguez said.

In addition to being designed by a notable architect, Parker Center is associated “with the rise of modern policing … the history of urban renewal and also race relations in the city,” which “provides us with an important opportunity to understand some of these patterns and their relevance today,” Dominguez said.

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

Parker garnered national recognition for his efforts to make the police department more efficient and disciplined, and he was responsible for starting the Department of Internal Affairs.

Racial discrimination among police ranks also marked Parker’s tenure, which also covered the 1965 Watts Riots, with officers being accused of harassment and abuse against the black and Latino communities.

City News Service

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