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Relocating Foothill Division Police During Station Remodeling Ruled Too Costly

June 05, 1993|MICHAEL CONNELLY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A request by Foothill Division police officers to relocate while their station goes through 18 months of loud and intrusive renovations has been turned down by Chief Willie L. Williams as being too costly.

Los Angeles Police Capt. Gabe Ornelas, patrol commander at Foothill, said Friday that a cost analysis of the proposed move to a former Lake View Terrace hospital was conducted by the chief's office and determined to be financially unfeasible.

Though Phoenix House, a drug-rehabilitation agency that owns the former Eldridge Avenue hospital, had offered the police 10,000 square feet of space at no charge, costs of moving the station's personnel and communications equipment could be as high as $100,000.

"The department is strapped for money," Ornelas said. "We just can't do it."

A $5.2-million renovation was begun at the Foothill station earlier this year and is scheduled to last until next summer. The 33-year-old station is being completely remodeled while an additional building and a three-floor parking garage are being added under the project, which was funded by a 1989 bond issue.

But there is no money in the plans for a temporary move of the station's police operations. The plans were designed for construction to take place while the station is occupied. But police say that the oftentimes loud construction work has caused numerous disruptions for the 243 officers and 28 civilians assigned to the station.

"You can't even hear yourself think sometimes," Ornelas said.

Paperwork has been misplaced, prisoners have been misplaced and patrol cars have been vandalized while parked on the street while the walled parking lot is being turned into a garage.

When asbestos was found in the station, the front desk and watch commander's office was relocated to a trailer on the street for eight days while the material was removed. "The hub of the station was out on the street," Ornelas lamented.

Station officers believed the situation hindered their ability to adequately serve the Foothill area while leaving them vulnerable, particularly during times of high tension following the verdict in the Rodney G. King beating case.

But the rejection of the relocation request was taken in stride, Ornelas said. He said one cause for optimism is that construction--on the parking garage, at least--is ahead of schedule.

"I'm just telling my people here, 'Hang in there,' " Ornelas said.

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