L.A. councilman pushes for city to buy burned downtown building

L.A. councilman Tom LaBonge pushes to buy site of burned building downtown, use it as parking

A Los Angeles city councilman wants the city to explore purchasing the property of a downtown apartment building that was severely damaged in a fire last year, possibly to be used as parking.

Part of the Da Vinci project, one of several downtown apartment blocks created by developer Geoffrey H. Palmer, was burned in a massive December blaze. Federal officials are still investigating the fire, which they have concluded was deliberately set.

Like several other Palmer projects, the Da Vinci was being built alongside downtown freeways -- a Palmer strategy that has raised concerns about how residents might be affected by vehicle emissions.

"Personally, I don't think that building should be rebuilt," said Councilman Tom LaBonge, who asked city financial staffers to look into a possible purchase at a council meeting Wednesday. "It's too close to the freeway."

LaBonge said that if the developer chooses not to rebuild, the area could provide public parking for downtown. He said he was unclear on whether Palmer was interested in selling the property.

"I don't know if the man wants to rebuild there," LaBonge said.

Palmer could not be immediately reached for comment on LaBonge's proposal. He issued a statement last month saying that despite "temporarily" losing one of the two Da Vinci buildings, he still expected the northern section of the development to open in January.

City records also show that Palmer started applying last year to build another, bigger project alongside a highway -- a 1,500-unit development on the southwest side of the interchange between the 101 and 110 freeways.

Times staff writer David Zahniser contributed to this report.

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