After nearly 40 years at the same location, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is looking to build a new substation in the northern section of the South Bay.
The new site will likely be near the intersection of La Cienega Boulevard and Imperial Highway on surplus state property not needed for the new Century Freeway, according to Capt. Walter Lanier, who heads the Lennox station.
The Lennox station, on Lennox Boulevard near Hawthorne Boulevard, serves the city of Lawndale and the unincorporated areas of Lennox, northwest of Hawthorne; Athens-Vermont, north of Gardena, and Gardena Park, east of Lawndale.
Some Lawndale residents are trying to get the new station built within the city's borders on a portion of the former Lawndale High School site near Inglewood Avenue and Compton Boulevard.
But the Centinela Valley Union High School District last month said it was not interested in selling part of the school site, which houses district administrative offices, adult education classes and Lloyde Continuation School.
Some residents are attempting to collect more than 1,000 signatures on a petition to encourage the school board to reconsider.
Lanier said he expects a decision on a new site within six months.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors two years ago approved $4.5 million to renovate the current Lennox station, which was built in April, 1948. The plan was to acquire adjoining property for the expansion of the facility.
But Lanier said the expansion was delayed when it was learned a year ago that a new station could be built for $6 million. Officials now believe that a new station can be built for about $8 million, and about $1 million has been approved for land acquisition this year.
Lanier said plans have not been drawn for the new facility, but that it would probably be similar to a new station that is being completed in Walnut. That station will have 38,000 square feet and holding cells for 54 people.
Lt. Jack Scully said the current Lennox station has less than half the space that will be available in Walnut. When the Lennox station opened, it housed 35 deputies, he said. Today, more than 160 deputies and more than 30 civilian employees are assigned to the 17,000-square-foot facility. Deputies often have to park their private vehicles on the street, Scully said.
Two detached garage-type buildings behind the main two-story station are used for writing reports and briefing deputies. Scully said doors and windows of those buildings often have to be left open for ventilation, which also lets in the roar of jumbo jets approaching Los Angeles International Airport a mile away, and the din of activity from the garage.
About 18 female deputies must use an 18x18-foot room as a locker room. A one-stall bathroom in the locker room has no shower.
Scully said the biggest deficiency is the lack of holding cells for suspects awaiting transportation to the County Jail in downtown Los Angeles.
By law, separate holding facilities are required for women and juveniles. The Lennox station has 12 beds for males and four for women. As a result, juveniles are often handcuffed to a bench in the main lobby until they can be transported downtown or to another station.
Scully said the station is under a flight path into Los Angeles International Airport. Besides the continual annoying roar of jets overhead, a plane crashing into the station would be an even larger disaster than a normal plane crash.
"What would normally be the disaster center (to coordinate emergency aid) would itself be the disaster," said Scully.
Lanier said he has tried accommodating Lawndale residents who want the new station in their city, but he said the Sheriff's Department does not want to "get involved in a pushing and shoving match" with the school board."
Lanier said that since the school board has already said it is not interested in selling part of the school site, the department is looking at other sites.
Still, some residents hope that the new station will end up in Lawndale.
Mayor Sarann Kruse said the site at Imperial and La Cienega is too remote from Lawndale, and if it is chosen she will seek a sheriff's outpost in Lawndale.
Lawndale Parks and Recreation Commission Chairwoman Shirley Rudolph is heading the petition drive to have the school board reconsider its decision. Rudolph, wife of Lawndale Councilman Larry Rudolph, said Lawndale is entitled to the station because it is the only contract city being served by the Lennox station and its residents pay more for sheriff's protection than residents of the county areas.
Shirley Rudolph said a Lawndale station would not add any additional patrol cars in the city, but because all cars would be entering and leaving the city, it would give the city increased police visibility.