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19-Acre Justice Center in Final Design Stages

November 29, 1987|LEE HARRIS | Times Staff Writer

LYNWOOD — After years of struggling to find a home for a new regional justice center--complete with a 1,000-bed jail--Sheriff's Department officials say plans to build here are proceeding smoothly.

The $145-million Lynwood Regional Justice Center is scheduled to open by mid-1992, with construction beginning in early 1989. It will include a sheriff's substation, three Municipal Court hearing rooms and a community center.

A linchpin in the plan has been community acceptance. Sheriff's Cmdr. Gary Osborn said the department has tried to quiet any fears that the public, especially area residents, might have about security.

Since January, departmental spokesmen have addressed about 7,000 people, including residents, business and professional people, and schools "on the positive effects" of the proposed center, said Osborn, who is one of the project coordinators.

"We simply tried to tell them what a regional justice center is. We stressed that there will be more radio cars, more security and new employment for the community," Osborn said. "We told them that inmates would be housed in the jail for a short term, pending trials and transportation to state prison. We received very little negative feedback."

The City Council already had approved the project. And in recent weeks, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has approved a series of contracts leading to construction.

The final designs for the complex are due in February, said Bob Levine, project design director for Dworsky Associates, a Century City architectural firm that won the $6-million design contract.

Preliminary plans call for the buildings to be constructed around a courtyard. Even though it will be a maximum-security facility, it will have a "campus-like" appearance, Osborn said.

"You will be able to enter from the parking lot and go from the courtyard to the courts, the custody section or substation," Osborn said.

A new concept also is planned in which video cameras will be in the courtrooms, allowing arraignments to take place without a judge being physically present, Osborn said.

"The judge can be in another court, say in Compton, and conduct the arraignment, which also reduces the transportation (of inmates)," Osborn said.

The center will be built on a 19-acre industrial site on Lynwood's western border, bounded by Alameda Street on the east, Industry Way on the south, Mona Boulevard on the west and Imperial Highway and the Century (I-105) Freeway on the north. There are no residents on the site.

The county will start to make purchase offers to the six property owners, including Southern Pacific Transportation Co., perhaps by the end of this year, said Michael Hays, county facilities project manager.

Hays said a preliminary environmental impact report indicates there is only minor soil contamination from metals or chemicals from industries that have operated on the site. A complete report of the soil study is due in December.

The Lynwood City Council recently moved to press for the construction of on- and off-ramps at Imperial Boulevard and Alameda Street near the proposed center, where the Century Freeway is being constructed. There are no ramps planned for the area. The council instructed City Manager Charles Gomez to confer with U. S. District Judge Harry Pregerson, who oversees the freeway's construction, and the California Department of Transportation about building the ramps.

Councilwoman Evelyn Wells said the city does not want to delay construction of the center.

"The city wants the center," Wells said, because of the benefits it will bring, particularly employment.

In addition to sheriff's deputies who will be assigned to the station, Osborn said, an estimated 300 other jobs, including administrative, clerical and maintenance positions, will be created by the center's construction.

The existing Lynwood and Firestone sheriff's substations would combine their operations to form the new station. The center will have about 360 regular sheriff's deputies and an estimated 350 uniformed sheriff's deputies for the jail section.

The complex will be financed by state and county funds, according to Sharon Bunn, the county's principal administrative analyst.

More than $80.7 million in state money has been earmarked for the project and the county is ready to supply the remaining $64.3 million, Bunn said.

The state funds were made available through Proposition 52, a construction and renovation jail bond passed by voters in 1986. The county must decide how it will come up with its funds, Bunn said, but it probably will be through some type of long-term financing.

The site is across the street from 80 acres of unincorporated county land north of Imperial Highway that the city considered annexing in 1985.

But opposition to the annexation, led by Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), whose 48th Assembly District includes both Lynwood and the unincorporated land next to Watts, forced the council to terminate the proceedings. Waters said at the time that the annexation would have displaced thousand of residents.

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