Twelve years after it was first promised, officials announced Monday that bulldozers will begin grading in Mission Hills this week for the San Fernando Valley's sixth LAPD station, with construction expected to be completed in 2003.
The project had been hamstrung for more than a decade by a lack of funding and debate over the best location. The Los Angeles Police Department recently acquired title to the three-acre site at 11121 N. Sepulveda Blvd., just north of the San Fernando Mission.
"This is important because we desperately need another division in the San Fernando Valley," said Councilman Hal Bernson, whose district includes the new station site. "We are happy it is getting started. Hopefully, it will help reduce crime."
The five existing police stations in the Valley cover an average of 45 square miles apiece, more than twice the area policed on average by other stations.
Officials say the Foothill and Devonshire divisions will be helped the most. Emergency response time averaged 10.54 minutes in the Foothill Division last year, 9.9 minutes in Devonshire. In comparison, officers responded in an average of 7.3 minutes in the Newton Division outside the Valley.
"The creation of the North Valley Community Station will allow the department to reduce the coverage area of the other five stations," said Sgt. John Pasquariello, an LAPD spokesman. "It is anticipated that this reduction will result in a decrease in officer response times for calls for service throughout the San Fernando Valley."
Police Chief Bernard C. Parks is scheduled to join Mayor Richard Riordan, Bernson and others at a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday. Grading is scheduled to begin the same day.
Although work will not be completed until long after Riordan leaves office in July, the mayor has set a high priority on getting the project started during his term.
"It really focuses on one of his priorities, which is community policing," said Peter Hidalgo, a spokesman for the mayor.
The money for buying and preparing the site came from 1989's Proposition 2, a $176-million bond measure approved by voters that included the promise of funds for a sixth Valley station. However, other police projects turned out to be more expensive than expected, so the city ran out of bond funds before it could build the North Valley station.
That failure to deliver on a promise was seized on by Valley civic leaders who have opposed other police bond measures in the last five years, helping to cause their defeat.
"They know they won't be able to get police bond issues passed in the city until they deliver on this project," said Harry Coleman, president of the North Hills Community Coordinating Council.