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Site Near City Hall OKd for New Police Headquarters

The replacement for Parker Center will be built on 2nd Street, the council decides.

June 24, 2004|Noam N. Levey | Times Staff Writer

After almost a decade of failed attempts to find a new home for the Los Angeles Police Department, city leaders agreed Wednesday to build a $300-million headquarters a block south of City Hall.

The City Council, which a week ago rejected Mayor James K. Hahn's proposal to move the police to a 34-year-old office building south of downtown, first unanimously rejected earlier plans to put the headquarters in Little Tokyo.

That site was opposed by community activists and downtown Councilwoman Jan Perry, who argued that putting the headquarters there would destroy the neighborhood's character.

Instead, the council unanimously embraced Perry's plan to replace the aging Parker Center with a facility on the site of the Caltrans office building on 2nd Street between Spring and Main streets. The office building is slated to be torn down.

"I'm just pleased that people saw how important it was to respect the community," said Perry, who has been working for more than a year to find a site that would keep the headquarters close to City Hall without disrupting Little Tokyo's growing commercial district.

For a city that has struggled to replace the 49-year-old Parker Center, Wednesday's vote appeared to mark the end of a long search.

Through two mayoral administrations, city officials have been unable to move the Police Department out of its decrepit headquarters, whose lack of a sprinkler system and other safety problems had prompted police commissioners in the past to threaten to order the department out of the building.

But lack of funding and disagreements about where a headquarters should be located have derailed plans since 1996, when a comprehensive study of police facilities recommended that Parker Center be razed.

Last year, the city appeared set to build at 1st and Alameda streets on the edge of Little Tokyo. But Perry and neighborhood leaders fought that plan.

Earlier this year, Hahn proposed moving the police permanently to the Transamerica Broadway Building south of downtown, which the city had been negotiating to buy for use as a temporary police headquarters.

The council rejected that plan last week, deciding that the headquarters should remain in the city's Civic Center. And Wednesday, the council's chief legislative analyst, Ron Deaton, recommended the site of the Caltrans office building.

The northern end of that block is slated for conversion to a park.

Deaton reported that construction of the 500,000-square-foot headquarters would cost between $295 million and $311 million and could begin by the end of next year.

Deaton estimated that police would be able to move into the new headquarters in five years.

City leaders have not decided what to do with the Parker Center site on Los Angeles Street after the center is demolished.

Wednesday's vote was applauded by council members, community members and even the mayor's office.

"We feel the community will benefit as well as the city," said the Rev. Noriaki Ito, head minister of the Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo and chairman of the Little Tokyo Community Council.

Deputy Mayor Julie Wong, a Hahn spokeswoman, said the mayor was pleased with the resolution. "This is a great day for Los Angeles and Little Tokyo," Wong said.

Only Police Commission President David Cunningham III voiced concerns, noting that city leaders have yet to implement plans to improve safety conditions at Parker Center as the new headquarters is built.

"It's wonderful we're going to have a new building. I applaud the City Council," Cunningham said. "But we're talking about a five- to eight-year time frame. What do we do about the employees still in Parker Center?"

Deaton and council members said the city would install a sprinkler system and make other interim improvements to Parker Center.

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