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Council Votes Down Plan to Move LAPD

Members decide to buy the Transamerica Broadway Building, but defeat the mayor's effort to make it the site of new police headquarters.

June 17, 2004|Noam N. Levey | Times Staff Writer

All but ensuring that the Los Angeles Police Department will remain near City Hall, a divided City Council defied Mayor James K. Hahn and voted Wednesday to prevent police headquarters from moving into an office building south of downtown.

The mayor was pushing to move the department from dilapidated Parker Center on Los Angeles Street into the Transamerica Broadway Building near Staples Center, which the city has been negotiating to buy for more than a year.

The council voted Wednesday to buy the building, ending months of debate over whether the city was making a wise investment by spending $35 million for a building built in 1970.

But the council balked at moving the LAPD there, expressing support instead for construction of a headquarters somewhere in the civic center.

"We really need to have a state-of-the-art facility," said Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, who led the effort to preclude the department from moving into the Broadway Building. "It's like buying a used car versus a new car."

The decision was applauded by the Police Protective League, which opposed moving into the Broadway Building.

And after initially questioning the council's authority to prohibit the Police Department from moving into the Broadway Building, Hahn will sign the council resolution, according to a mayoral spokeswoman.

A year after scuttling Hahn's plans to hire more police officers, council members voted a second time against an element of the mayor's public safety planning.

City leaders now plan to move the public works department and other city agencies into the just-purchased building from offices the city leases around downtown.

About $60-million worth of improvements are needed to ready the Broadway Building for use as city offices, according to city estimates.

The council's vote does not, however, settle the future home of the LAPD, which has campaigned for years to get out of its '50s era home.

An extensive 1996 study of police facilities recommended moving out of Parker Center and building a new headquarters as soon as possible.

But building plans that were in the works for headquarters at the corner of 1st and Alameda streets in Little Tokyo have been abandoned by city leaders in the face of opposition from community leaders.

And without plans for a temporary headquarters, the city cannot tear down Parker Center and build a new one there.

Councilwoman Jan Perry, who represents downtown, has asked for a new report on alternative sites near City Hall.

One leading contender is the old Caltrans office building between 1st and 2nd streets that is being replaced with a new state office building now under construction.

Perry said she hoped to have a report back by next week. And several council members expressed optimism that a site could be selected and a headquarters completed in two years.

The mayor indicated Wednesday that he would be open to another site as a permanent home for the Police Department.

But Police Commission President David Cunningham III, who with other police commissioners has been campaigning vigorously to get the police out of Parker Center, said he was "very disappointed" with the council's vote.

"It's shortsighted," said Cunningham, who said he thought that moving to the Broadway Building was the fastest way to get police officers out of a building that did not even have a sprinkler system.

"I'll bet the Police Department will still be in Parker Center in two years," he said, expressing doubt that a new headquarters could be built that quickly.

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