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Is the Los Angeles Times moving to this horribly outdated vision of a newsroom?

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Tronc commissioned a bizarre design proposal to relocate to Aon Center and is also considering Playa Vista

Designed by Wolcott, the proposal says LA Times staffers will arrive at their new Aon Center offices via a functioning helipad.
Photos of WAI renderings by Los Angeles Times Guild

After the acquisition of the Los Angeles Times by media conglomerate Tronc in 2016, the iconic Los Angeles Times Building was sold to Canadian developers Onni, who will likely turn it into condos and retail space. So what will happen to the LA Times’ newsroom?

LA Times reporters have uncovered two potential scenarios that Tronc is entertaining, neither of which sound particularly appealing.

In a blog post by the Los Angeles Times Guild organizing committee, a group of employees working to unionize, a group of unnamed LA Times reporters says Tronc is “actively looking at the Westside as a possible future location,” with potential sites being considered in Santa Monica or Playa del Rey, including Playa Vista.

The reporters also uncovered that Tronc had commissioned an interior design proposal for moving to the 62-story Aon Center in Downtown.

An LA Times spokesperson denied a deal had been made for a move to the Aon Center in July, but reporters are still worried. They recently dug up a concept study prepared in May by Culver City-based Wolcott Architecture to convert floors 11, 12, 13, 55, and 56 into LA Times office space. (Tronc has a deal to lease two floors of space in the Times Building back from Onni through June 2018.)

In a letter to Ross Levinsohn, the publisher of the LA Times, the Guild’s organizers explain why both moves would be problematic.

The 28-page Aon Center proposal is deemed “alarming” in the Guild’s letter, namely because it was prepared without the input of journalists. Executives would have private offices in “lavish penthouse accommodations” which include a “game room and tricked-out helipad” while journalists are relegated to lower floors and cramped communal work tables with lockers for personal belongings.

That helipad would actually be functional, according to the proposal, which says that people will arrive at the building via the roof: “After landing in the helicopter, people have the choice of staying on the roof to mingle or progressing down the stairs to the concierge area.”

Other features of the proposal are not as much alarming as they are dated, like graffiti murals, signature coffee cups, an Apple store-esque Genius Bar, and branded uniforms. Wait—uniforms!?

Reached by phone, Jenniffer Haberlin, who is listed on the proposal as senior project manager, said, “I don’t know anything about it.”

In the same letter, the Guild’s organizing committee builds a case against a move to the Westside, which would not only make it more difficult for journalists to report on City Hall and other government agencies headquartered Downtown, it would also have a significant impact on employees’ housing costs and commute times.

LA Times journalists calculated how many hours per day would be devoted to traveling to the new office if it were hypothetically moved to Santa Monica:

We did a detailed analysis of commute times for newsroom staffers, based on their home addresses and Google traffic data. It determined that nearly 90% of the staff would spend more time driving to and from work if The Times moved to, for example, Santa Monica. In the morning, the average drive beginning at 9:15 a.m. would jump from the current 37 minutes to more than an hour. Roughly the same would occur for the evening drive, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Employees whose commutes start closer to the thick of the rush would be in traffic even longer. And for staffers who use mass transit, daily round-trip commutes would shoot up from 2 hours and 35 minutes to more than four hours.

Maybe a helipad for commuting journalists would come in handy there.

If a move makes reporting on local government harder for LA Times journalists, everyone in Los Angeles should care. There is a dearth of LA news right now in the wake of layoffs at the LA Times, the shuttering of LAist, and the gutting of the masthead at the LA Weekly.

Levinsohn did not confirm any decisions being made by the Los Angeles Times but he responded to the Guild’s request for comment. “Thanks for taking the time and effort to research and write the note regarding your concerns about our business going forward,” he wrote in a statement. “When the time is right for the company to communicate our go-forward strategy, including our current lease situation, I will do my best to do so in the right setting.”

In June of 2016, Levinsohn purchased a $3.35 million home in Brentwood.

Results from the Los Angeles Times Guild’s vote to unionize are expected next week.