LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Parker Center, considered by many as the symbol of the Los Angeles Police Department’s troubled past, appears headed for demolition, but a City Council committee meeting Tuesday could change that fate.
The LAPD’s former headquarters has been mostly empty since 2009, when the department moved to new headquarters about a block away. Some historical conservationists are scrambling to save the structure as the city moves forward toward tearing it down.
The committee meeting Tuesday is considering a plan to demolish the building to make way for a new 750,000-square-foot civic building, which the city’s Bureau of Engineering recommended in a report approved by the Municipal Facilities Committee in August. The plan includes a memorial to Parker Center that could feature art work and relics from the building.
The report also considered alternatives, such as fully rehabilitating the structure or constructing a new 588,000 square-foot civic building around Parker Center while preserving and rehabilitating much of the original building. However, the report found those alternatives do not help meet the city’s estimated need for 1.1 million new square feet of office space in the civic center area for city workers.
Preserving and rehabilitating Parker Center while building around it would cost $621 million, versus $514 million for tearing it down and building a new structure on the site, the report found.
The Los Angeles Conservancy, a nonprofit historical preservation group, objects to tearing Parker Center down and has issued a “call to action” asking the Entertainment and Facilities Committee to postpone Tuesday’s vote so the city can complete “an independent cost estimate involving preservation experts.”
The conservancy said in an email to supporters that it believes rehabilitating Parker Center will save the city $50 million because the projections in the BOE report show the city “putting their thumb on the scale” of the preservation options.
Parker Center was designed by Welton Becket, who also designed the Capitol Records building, Music Center and Cinerama Dome. It was made nationally famous on the 1960s TV series Dragnet, as well as other TV shows and films.
But for many, Parker Center symbolizes the LAPD’s dark past, starting with its name.
The building was originally known as the Police Facilities Building. In 1969, it was named after former Chief William H. Parker, who served in the LAPD from 1950 until his death in 1966. Allegations of racial discrimination by police are part of Parker’s legacy, which included the 1965 Watts Riots when officers were accused of harassment and abuse against the black community.
In January 2015, the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission recommended that Parker Center be given historic-cultural status in an effort to delay plans to demolish the building, but the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee missed a deadline to consider the nomination.
The commission in September again recommended Parker Center for historical status, but even if the City Council were to adopt the recommendation, it still could approve demolishing the building if no viable option for preservation is found.
(©2017 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)