By Skyfox11 at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
By Skyfox11 at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
A City Council committee will vote Tuesday on whether the Los Angeles Police Department’s former headquarters — viewed by some as a symbol of the department’s troubled past on race relations — is worthy of being a historic monument.

Parker Center has been mostly empty since 2009 when the department moved to new headquarters about a block away, and some historical conservationists are trying to save the structure as the city is developing a plan to tear it down.

The Cultural Heritage Commission has recommended that Parker Center be given historic-cultural status, and the Planning and Land Use Committee is scheduled to vote on that recommendation Tuesday. But the city’s Bureau of Engineering has recommended tearing it down to build a new  750,000-square-feet civic building.

Even if Parker Center were to be named a historic monument — which would need a vote of the full council to approve — the city could still demolish the building if no viable option for preservation is found.

The Bureau of Engineering’s 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 for city workers in the Civic Center area.

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.

But the Los Angeles Conservancy, a nonprofit historical preservation group, objects to tearing Parker Center down and also questions the dollar estimates in the report. The conservancy says preserving Parker Center will save the city $50 million.

“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 conservancy, told the Entertainment and Facilities Committee in January.

At that meeting, the committee put off voting on the Bureau of Engineering’s report until the Planning and Land Use Committee had an opportunity to vote on the Cultural Heritage Commission recommendation for historical monument status.

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 on race relations, 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.

After four LAPD officers were acquitted in 1992 of assault in the videotaped beating of motorist Rodney King, violent riots broke out across the city and Parker Center was targeted by protesters who set fire to a parking kiosk and threw rocks at the building.

Adrian Scott Fine, the L.A. Conservancy’s director of advocacy, told City News Service in January that all history — positive or negative — is worthy of preservation.

“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

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.