A Los Angeles city councilman has taken steps to replace a developer who had agreed to buy and renovate the landmark 1920s police station in Highland Park and build retail shops around it, city officials said.
Alhambra developer Maurice R. Chasse has planned to restore the building and develop the 1.3 acres around it since 1986, but Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alatorre said that negotiations have taken too long. He said he is recommending that the city find another private developer to purchase and restore the property.
Two years ago, a three-year city search for a private partner to preserve the historic building appeared to have ended successfully when the Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance approving the sale of the property to Chasse. But negotiations over the terms of the sale have dragged since.
Motion to Rescind
Alatorre, who represents much of Highland Park, has introduced a motion to rescind the City Council's approval of the sale of the station at 6045 York Blvd.
In 1986, when the ordinance approving the sale to Chasse was passed by the council, Alatorre took a leading role in backing the proposal.
"Enough time has elapsed, and we're all pretty frustrated," said Robin Kramer, Alatorre's chief of staff. "We've all dealt with it fairly and patiently, and we decided we have to go forward. The community is suffering, the building is deteriorating, and we've decided it's really time to move on."
The motion introduced by Alatorre on Feb. 14 also instructs the city division of engineering to solicit new proposals to purchase and restore the station.
Discussions between Chasse and the city came to a standstill last year after inspectors working for the developer discovered asbestos insulation in the building.
Provisions for Removal
State law requires asbestos in any construction site be removed by a licensed contractor. Alatorre said that the city agreed to remove the asbestos and to charge less for the property, but Chasse and the city disagreed on how much it would cost to remove the hazardous material.
Kramer said Chasse has voiced other concerns about the property in letters to Alatorre since December. And Kramer said Chasse has given no firm assurances that he can come up with financing to buy the property. Chasse originally had agreed to buy the building and the 1.3-acre property surrounding it for $725,000, but Kramer said city officials offered to lower the price by $80,000 to compensate for removing the asbestos.
In an interview, last week, Chasse said he was still willing to buy the property at a reduced price, but that it would cost more than $110,000 to remove the asbestos. He said city officials have not replied to a letter he wrote them in November outlining his conditions for purchasing the property.
"I've got financing; all I've got to do is reach in my back pocket," Chasse said. "Financing isn't the issue. The issue is the original agreement as written and agreed upon by the city. The city hasn't kept to that agreement. It's changed over the years."
The station is a city, state and federally recognized landmark. It has stood vacant since 1983, when the Los Angeles Police Department's Northeast Division moved to larger quarters on San Fernando Road near Atwater.
Many civic leaders and local merchants hoped that Chasse's plan would preserve the building, revitalize the sleepy commercial district surrounding it and increase police presence in the area. Under the agreement with Chasse, a portion of the police station was to be used as a drop-in station for officers from the Northeast Division to write reports, make phone calls and meet people.
Kramer said Alatorre remains committed to such a plan, and she said more than a dozen developers have expressed interest in the property in recent months.
"It's a grande dame there; it's a beautiful building that is suffering," Kramer said. "There is a lot of interest in this site."
The motion to solicit bids for the purchase of the police station specifies that new construction conform to the building's Renaissance Revival architectural style, that the station's basement be set aside for community use, and that an area near the sergeant's desk be made available as a Police Department substation, Kramer said.