The LA City Council on Friday voted unanimously to approve a proposal to demolish Parker Center, the controversial former headquarters of the LA Police Department, and replace it with an office tower that would consolidate offices of city employees.
The council approved the project as part of a larger Civic Center Master Plan proposed by Councilman José Huizar, whose district includes Downtown LA. The plan includes 1.2 million square feet of new office space to consolidate city services and personnel that are currently spread among several buildings, as well as residential, retails and cultural space and a new civic plaza.
The proposal asked for a study to preserve key architectural elements of Parker Center, the 62-year-old building designed by prominent LA architect Welton Becket, including a bronze sculpture by Bernard J. Rosenthal and a mosaic mural by artist Joseph Young.
The proposed 27-story tower replacing Parker Center would have 713,000 square feet of office space and 37,000 square feet of retail space. The cost of the project is estimated at about $483 million, but that’s still being worked on.
"Today’s vote is about acknowledging our sometimes painful past here in the city of Los Angeles, but also a commitment to build a better future and a city center that is respectful, open, and accessible to all,” Huizar said in a statement.
Huizar pressed for demolition of the former headquarters of the LAPD, which abandoned it for a new building in 2015. Huizar cited historic animus from the surrounding Little Tokyo community that was heavily affected by the construction of the building in the 1950s, as well as a history of racial tension between the LAPD and local communities under Chief William Parker, for whom the building was named.
Such history was one reason the city council last month declined to declare Parker Center a historic-cultural monument, which had been recommended by the Cultural Heritage Commission.
The plan also argued that it was cheaper to demolish the seismically unsafe Parker Center and replace it rather than try to bring it up to current codes—a contention challenged by the LA Conservancy, which argued for its preservation.
Demolition could begin as early as next fiscal year as the first phase of the civic center plan, which consists of six phases over the next 15 years, Huizar's office said.
The LA Conservancy expressed disappointment in Friday’s vote. “The Conservancy is deeply disappointed in this action, as we have worked for more than five years to prevent the needless demolition of Parker Center,” it said in a statement. “We strongly believe reuse and rehabilitation of the building are fully capable of meeting the city’s intended goals and is the more cost-effective approach that can save millions in taxpayer dollars.”