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Support Grows for Replacing Parker Center

New LAPD headquarters is needed, council members say. Paying for it will be a challenge.

November 21, 2002|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

City Council members Wednesday launched a review of a proposal to replace the LAPD's aging headquarters amid agreement that conditions at Parker Center are deplorable and uncertainty about where the city will get the money.

Council members took the action a day after Police Commission President Rick Caruso said he will report to the commission next week on the availability of downtown office space that can be leased for police operations so Parker Center can be demolished and rebuilt.

"It's not safe for humans. It's in shambles," said Councilman Dennis Zine, a former police sergeant.

Zine joined council members Cindy Miscikowski, Nick Pacheco and Mark Ridley-Thomas in introducing a motion calling for a report to the council to "identify appropriate space to relocate employees [from] Parker Center in the near term" and come up with "permanent solutions" to house LAPD headquarters.

"The facility, while state-of-the-art when built, is now obsolete and is not adequate to house the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters," said the motion, written by Miscikowski, head of the council's Public Safety Committee. The council will vote on the motion next week.

All 10 council members interviewed Wednesday said they support the goal of replacing Parker Center, which opened in 1955.

The council members asked the Municipal Facilities Committee, which includes representatives of the mayor and chief legislative analyst, to produce the report.

Mayor James K. Hahn, who is in Asia this week, supports efforts to replace the building, a spokesman said Wednesday.

"We agree that Parker Center has outlived its useful life for the city, and we are beginning to look at options," Deputy Mayor Matt Middlebrook said.

Ridley-Thomas also said he plans to raise the issue next week at a meeting of a council panel that oversees city facilities.

Officers working at police headquarters have long complained about leaky pipes, paper-thin walls, dangling cables and sagging floors.

And while all council members interviewed agreed that conditions are not good at Parker Center, many said it may be difficult to find money for a replacement. Voters turned down a bond measure in 1999 that would have provided $67 million to build a new police headquarters.

"We need to support our LAPD and ensure they have appropriate offices," Councilwoman Wendy Greuel said.

But she and other council members warned that in the face of many pressing law enforcement needs, the city will have to make tough choices.

Greuel said the council may have to choose between hiring more officers and paying for a new building, while Councilman Jack Weiss said anti-terrorism measures and community-based policing must remain priorities.

Chief Legislative Analyst Ron Deaton said one option may be to go back to voters to seek $150 million to $200 million for a new police headquarters. Councilman Hal Bernson said the problems with Parker Center should have been addressed after the building was damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. At that time the city had federal relief money to rebuild damaged city buildings.

"I think we made a big mistake after the earthquake in not doing some of the things that should have been done then," Bernson said. "We can't afford it now, but we could have then."

Since a consultant recommended in 1996 that Parker Center be demolished, officials have been looking at options including buying or leasing a new building, or buying an older building. Either scenario is costly, given that the police have special requirements for security.

Councilmen Tom LaBonge and Zine said the city might want to disperse some functions in Parker Center as part of the move to decentralize city government. That way, any new police headquarters need not be as large and expensive.

Zine said functions including records and jail facilities might be better moved out of any headquarters, while specialized crime-fighting units also could be located elsewhere.

"There is a need for a central police headquarters, but if there is a benefit with this situation to put some units outside focused on the community, I want to do that," LaBonge said.

However, LaBonge and Zine are concerned that various city departments are already spending approximately $30 million annually to lease space in private buildings for city offices.

With that in mind, the pair introduced a motion Wednesday calling for a report on all existing leases with an eye toward saving money by better using city buildings and possibly purchasing rather than leasing structures in the future. That motion also will be taken up next week.

"We need to consolidate and save dollars," Zine said, adding that savings could help solve the problem of Parker Center.

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