LYNWOOD — The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which must start building a jail within 36 months or lose $162 million in state money, has received support from the City Council to built a 1,000-bed facility here.
The proposed criminal justice complex--still in the preliminary planning stages--would include a regional jail, the combined Lynwood and Firestone sheriff's substations and at least two arraignment courts, Assistant Sheriff Robert Edmonds said.
The Sheriff's Department is considering a 15-acre site at the southwest corner of Imperial Highway and Alameda Street, just within the city limits, Edmonds said. The land, which is zoned for manufacturing, contains some industry but is mostly undeveloped and does not include any residences, Edmonds said.
The site is across the street from 80 acres of unincorporated land north of Imperial Highway, which the city considered annexing last year. But at the time Assemblywoman Maxine Waters, (D-Los Angeles), whose 48th Assembly District includes both Lynwood and the unincorporated land next to Watts, accused the council of wanting to take the land so that half of it could be used for a county jail. Councilman E. L. Morris said at the time that there had been talks between the Sheriff's Department and city officials about the county's desire to have a justice center there but the talks were never specific.
Waters, Constituents Protest
Waters, along with some of her angry constituents, came to City Hall to protest the annexation, saying it would displace thousand of residents. Without allowing Waters or the group to speak, the council voted unanimously to terminate annexation proceedings.
Waters could not be reached for comment this week on the latest jail plan. She was on vacation, a spokeswoman said.
Edmonds said he did not believe the same kind of opposition would develop for this proposal because there are no residential areas involved.
If opposition does develop, Edmonds said, the department would immediately begin planning an expansion at its main jail in downtown Los Angeles.
"We are committed to building. We must build within 36 months or lose state money," Edmonds said. The money comes from Proposition 52, a bond measure, passed by voters in June for jail construction.
Public Relations Drive
A portion of the resolution approved by the council at the Sheriff's Department's request stated that there is a need "for the initiation of a forceful public relations program for the Criminal Justice Center to avoid last-minute controversies that could undermine the project."
Edmonds said he believes the city would benefit from the construction. He said it would not only provide employment for some residents but that the presence of deputies would help reduce crime in the area.
The Lynwood and Firestone stations would have a combined patrol force of between 275 and 300 sworn officers, he said.