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L.A. City Council backs spending plan for $700-million office tower

L.A. City Council backs spending plan for $700-million office tower
Parker Center, once home to the LAPD, is set to be knocked down and replaced with an office tower for L.A. city workers. ((Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press))

The Los Angeles City Council moved forward Tuesday with a construction and financing plan for a $708-million downtown office tower for city workers on the site of the Police Department’s former headquarters, Parker Center.

The council voted unanimously to back a public-private development model, which involves hiring an outside development team to oversee construction, financing, operations and maintenance of the project.

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Officials say the tower, which would rise 27 to 29 stories, would provide centralized office space for Los Angeles city workers now based in other downtown buildings. The city could then sell its unused office buildings or end leases at sites it doesn’t own, officials said.

The tower is the first planned phase of a proposed makeover of the Civic Center, a staid neighborhood dominated by government buildings. Officials want more shops and restaurants to make the Civic Center “blend into the rest of downtown,” Jose Huizar, the Los Angeles councilman who represents the area, said after Tuesday’s meeting.

A previous city-commissioned analysis said the office tower would cost $483 million, but that figure didn’t account for rising construction costs or so-called soft costs, which include design work and project management. The new estimates were included in a May report.

The council also voted Tuesday to allocate $32 million for the demolition of Parker Center, including money for pre-design work.

Critics have questioned the city's decision to tear down the 1955 building, designed by architect Welton Becket and named for controversial former Police Chief William Parker.

The rising costs of the new tower, which would top $900 million when operations, maintenance and financing costs are added, have also raised questions. The $900-million figure is in present-day dollars; the total nominal cost would be $2.2 billion, city of Los Angeles Engineer Gary Lee Moore said Tuesday.

Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which advocates for affordable housing, said in a statement Tuesday that a “luxury” office building is “the last thing we need during the current homeless catastrophe.”

The Coalition to Preserve L.A., a project launched by the foundation, is seeking to convert Parker Center into housing for homeless people and hoping to put the issue in front of voters.

The coalition will soon begin gathering the needed signatures to quality the initiative for the ballot, Jill Stewart, the group’s executive director, said Tuesday.

Stewart said the issue could go before voters in 2020, or sooner if an election is announced. She wasn’t worried that the city would complete demolition of Parker Center before voters consider the ballot initiative because she said the city of Los Angeles moves slowly.

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