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Should LA Save a Beautiful Symbol of a Terrible LAPD?

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Downtown LA's Parker Center, the long-time home of the LAPD, has been headed toward demolition for about a year now (the police moved to new headquarters nearby in 2009), but now preservationists are making an eleventh-hour attempt to, at the very least, buy some time for the building. Los Angeles's Cultural Heritage Commission is expected to vote this week to nominate the building for Historic-Cultural Monument status, which would not definitively save it from the wrecking ball, but would at least put a demolition on hold during the process, says the Downtown News. (It's not common for the CHC to nominate a structure itself—usually suggestions come from outside the agency.) The building, designed by Welton Becket and built in 1955, is a beautiful example of Mid-Century Modernism, but also a symbol of the LAPD at its civil-rights-violating worst (see its intimidating appearance in the recent Inherent Vice).

The city still hasn't officially decided what to do with Parker, but public agencies have recommended they demolish the old building to make way for a 27-story tower; approvals for that project were supposed to be debated this May, but the HCM nomination will likely mess with that timeline.

Parker definitely meets all the requirements for a city landmark, as it's considered a great example of Becket's work and was a state-of-the art facility when it opened. The eight-story structure also features original artworks, including a large, beautiful lobby mosaic, and became widely famous after being used in the TV show Dragnet. It's also notable for its connection to some of the most difficult times in LAPD history: it was one of the first places where people gathered en masse to protest the 1992 decision not to convict officers who were filmed beating Rodney King, and its namesake William H. Parker has been called, in the same breath, "a godfather of modern policing" and a man whose "legacy is clouded by the negative influence he had on race relations" in Los Angeles.

The LAPD moved into its headquarters just a few months after the end of a nine-year consent decree that went into place after the Rampart Division misconduct scandal of the 1990s (in which officers were convicted of beatings, framings, robbery, and more). The deal with the US Department of Justice required the force to make a number of civil rights reforms and, during the same period, then-Chief William Bratton put an emphasis on rehabilitating the force's reputation among Angelenos. The new headquarters were symbolic of a new era in the LAPD, and the Parker is a symbol of a tainted past. (Not that the force doesn't still have problems.)

If the Parker Center receives Historic-Cultural Monument status, it could still be demolished. But the decision to do so, or even to renovate the building, would have to be reviewed by the Cultural Heritage Commission; that could tack on an extra year to the process as Los Angeles debates whether it should hold onto this piece of its history or try to forget it.

Parker Center

150 North Los Angeles Street, , CA 90012 Visit Website