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Alatorre Backs Plan to Convert Police Station

September 11, 1986|DENISE HAMILTON | Times Staff Writer

A proposal to convert a vacant 1920s Los Angeles police station house in Highland Park to offices and build 30 adjoining retail stores has received the preliminary endorsement of Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alatorre.

The plan was selected over three others, including one to convert it to a live theater serving food and drink and another to turn the 60-year-old red-brick building into a permanent film site. Movie studios now use the station about 100 days a year to film jail scenes.

The chosen developer, Maurice R. Chasse of Alhambra, said he hopes the project will inject new life into York Boulevard's sleepy commercial district, which is lined with small retail stores, service industries and fast-food restaurants.

Chasse plans to buy the 1.3-acre site from the city for about $725,000 and build 34,000 square feet of offices and commercial space. His proposal is being evaluated by the city engineer and Department of Public Works. Afterward, it will go before the City Council for final approval. Alatorre represents Highland Park, so his recommendation is expected to carry much weight.

Vacant Since 1983

The landmark York Boulevard station has stood vacant since 1983, abandoned when the Northeast Division moved to larger quarters on San Fernando Road near Atwater. Inside the empty station, some graffiti mar the jail-cell walls, and, even in summer, the metal cots once used by inmates are cold to the touch. The entryway and booking room are more elegant, with wood side moldings lining the walls. The original floors are hardwood.

Last year, anxious to preserve the building and put it back in use, the city began soliciting proposals for its renovation.

In October, after reviewing a number of proposals, including converting the station to a senior-citizen housing project or a home for handicapped children, an ad hoc committee of Highland Park residents and city officials pared the list of potential developers to four, including Chasse. The final selection was made by Alatorre's staff and approved by the councilman.

Meanwhile, the station, one of two old-fashioned and unused police stations remaining in the city, is in great demand by the movie industry, which pays $250 a day to lease the site, said Dirk Beving, director of the city's Motion Picture Film Office.

Most Requested Building

Beving and others said that the station is the most-requested city building for filming and that it would be "a real tragedy for the film industry" if it were lost.

Chasse said he will leave intact the entryway and a wooden sergeant's desk used to book suspects and will continue to make the area available to film studios. But seven jail cells that date back to the 1920s will be removed, he said.

Through his aides, Alatorre said Chasse was selected because he "had a solid proposal that would bring in revenue to the area, preserve the historic design of the police station and at the same time provide space for the community's benefit."

Brad Sales, Alatorre's press deputy, said Chasse has agreed to lease the station basement back to the city for $1 a year. The city will consider putting a police museum there or making the basement available for community meetings and activities, Sales said.

Some Highland Park residents say they are satisfied with Alatorre's choice but feel they should have had a final voice in selecting a developer. The ad hoc committee was originally formed to review all proposals and make a recommendation to City Council.

But, in the confusion after the resignation of Councilman Arthur K. Snyder, the project was put on hold, and when Alatorre was elected to replace him last December, the new councilman directed his staff to recommend a developer without consulting the committee.

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