Representatives of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Healthy Housing Foundation, and the Coalition to Preserve LA held a press conference Wednesday morning announcing the new suit, the latest effort in a long-running battle to save the vacant, 300,000-square-foot, International Style complex. The organizations have filed a suit to stop the building’s demolition and to compel the City of Los Angeles to instead convert the structure into a 700-bed temporary housing shelter.
The debate began last year as efforts to landmark the structure took off against a backdrop of fierce community opposition to saving the tower. The complex was considered for Historic-Cultural Landmark status but the Los Angeles City Council voted in favor of razing the structure instead, choosing to make space for a new office tower being planned in conjunction with a new masterplan for the surrounding Civic Center area.
The Parker Center complex was designed by architecture firm Welton Becket & Associates in 1955 as a state-of-the-art headquarters for the Los Angeles Police Department and was used as a backdrop in the television series Dragnet, a police procedural drama from the 1950s focused on the intricacies of police detective work.
The organizations filing suit allege that the City has misrepresented the costs associated with converting the building into a shelter relative to its demolition costs. Further, the group accuses the City of using gassed up figures in its feasibility determination. The City of L.A.’s estimates put the shelter conversion at over $295 million, while an estimate commissioned by AHF indicates that a conversion would cost roughly $102 million.
In a statement announcing the lawsuit, Michael Weinstein, President of AHF sad, “City officials are padding their estimate to rehab and repurpose Parker Center as housing because they are bound and determined to tear it down.” Weinstein added, “It is a horrible waste of public funds and shows a lack of interest in the cost-effective use of existing resources at a time when the crisis of homelessness in Los Angeles rages on largely unabated.”
The replacement 27-story “luxury office tower” being proposed would cost at least $900 million to build, making it the most expensive municipal office building in the country if constructed.
The question of whether to save Parker Center has exposed old, unhealed wounds among several local constituencies, especially for the residents of the surrounding Little Tokyo neighborhood, some of whom saw their properties and businesses taken by force when officials were originally planning and consolidating the Civic Center district in the 1950s. Members of L.A.’s African American and Latino communities detest the building, as well, and see its existence as an extension of the city’s traumatic legacy of racist policing tactics.
A judge has yet to hear the case, but current plans called for demolition on the tower to begin as early as August 20. It is unclear if that timeline is still on track.