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Proposals for Police Station Attract Little Enthusiasm

September 28, 1989|JANE BAILIE | Times Staff Writer

Highland Park residents expressed mixed reviews Tuesday night for all three proposals for the unused Northeast police station on York Boulevard.

Proponents of three competing proposals for the historic building pitched them to about 25 people at a meeting arranged by the Highland Park Revitalization Project.

The city of Los Angeles is seeking a developer for the 1.3-acre site who will refurbish the building as a city landmark at an estimated cost of about $1 million.

Three developers have submitted plans to the city. One suggested converting the site to a restaurant and office complex, another proposed a police museum, and a third wants to build a low-income housing project and community center.

The proposals are being evaluated by the city planning staff to determine historical and architectural value and their financial viability. A final decision is not expected until after the first of the year.

The building, constructed in 1925, is the oldest structure of its kind in Los Angeles. Its facade is registered with the California Office of Historical Preservation. The station was closed in 1983 when the Los Angeles Police Department moved to its present site in Atwater Village. Since then, the building has been unoccupied, except when it is used as a movie set.

All three of the developers would leave the station's exterior mostly intact.

At Tuesday night's community meeting--the first of several scheduled to review the project-- each of the proposals drew criticism.

The audience reacted strongly against the most commercial of the proposals--by the Jackmar Companies--to construct offices within the station and a Shakey's pizza parlor next to it.

Several speakers said there are too many similar restaurants in the area. "I don't think there's anyone in this room who can't get a pizza in five minutes," said Billy Cioffi, a Highland Park-based musician.

A murmur ran through the room when Jackmar Vice President Jack Keese said the firm would use the same architectural firm that designs most other Shakey's restaurants. When people criticized the use of this firm, Keese replied that the company would be receptive to using a different architectural firm.

"I think people felt very underestimated by that proposal," said Diane Alexander, Highland Park Revitalization Project president. "The proposal doesn't seem to connect with the community."

The Los Angeles Police Department plan received the highest proportion of positive comments from the audience, even though the $1-million proposal lacks financial backing.

Sgt. Richard Kalk, who presented the plan, said the Police Department was seeking funding from various sources, including a voluntary paycheck contribution from each of the city's 6,000 officers.

Tentative proposals call for a series of displays illustrating facets of police work, a movie theater and a research library. The Police Department would allow part of the site to remain available to movie production companies for location filming.

"I like the aesthetics of the police museum. It seems more appropriate to the community," said Cioffi. "Perhaps this could bridge the gap between the police and the community."

But Highland Park Chamber of Commerce President Charline Abernathy said she would prefer a commercial venture that would contribute to the tax base and employment. After the meeting, she suggested a day-care center.

A number of residents also had reservations about a police museum.

"In many ways, the minorities in the community see the police as a violent force," said one resident.

Alexander concurred. "There are so many guns and violence in life today, and a police museum might be seen to glorify that."

The proposal by H.T. Greene for a low-income housing project and an arts-oriented community center, which initially was praised by the Highland Park Revitalization Project, drew criticism from members of that organization.

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