Key to Preservation : Plans Abound for Future of Highland Park Police Station

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Police Department’s historic Northeast Division station house in Highland Park, vacant for two years, may get a second life as a senior citizens’ retirement home, a movie studio, a center for handicapped children, or an office building.

Anxious to have the landmark building preserved and back in use, the city has been soliciting proposals for the station house’s future for the last several months and expects to receive about a dozen by the end of this week.

The station, which is the oldest still standing in Los Angeles, was closed in 1983 when its 180 officers moved to new headquarters in the nearby Atwater district. Since then the building has been used exclusively as a location for movies and television because its fortress-like exterior, mahogany-paneled booking room and stark jail provide a picturesque throwback to the earlier days of cops and robbers.

Several proposals for the building were made public Tuesday at a meeting of the Highland Park Kiwanis Club. They include those by:


American Venture Associates, which has offered to buy the land for $250,000 and remodel the building as a permanent site for filming. A sound stage would be built on the adjoining parking lot.

Wittig Development and Rehabilitation Corp., which has drawn up plans for a 97-unit apartment complex for senior citizens. Fifteen apartments would be housed in the building, with the rest of the units built behind and alongside it.

M. R. Chase Co., which has offered to buy the property for $720,000, restore the building and turn it into offices and stores.

The California Assn. of Neurologically Handicapped Children, which would convert the building into a home or school for handicapped children. The plan also includes turning the police garage behind the building into a school for automotive repair and alloting parts of the building for a community center for Highland Park residents.


Reel to Reel Location, which has offered to purchase the property for $200,000 and preserve the building for television and motion picture filming.

URO Investments, which would either buy or lease the property and build apartments, offices and storage units. According to the proposal, 20% of profits from the development would be paid to the city, said Conrad Corral, a field deputy who is handling the search for City Councilman Arthur K. Snyder.

Landmark Lane Ltd., which would pay fair market value for the property or enter into a 30-year lease. The building would be turned into a film studio that would include a theater and restaurant.

Snyder’s office also is expecting to receive four or five other plans by the end of the week, Corral said.


This is the second time the city has solicited plans for the station, which was built in 1925 and last year was placed on the National Register of Historic Properties. The search has gone slowly, mainly because the city has specified that development plans must include the preservation of the building’s exterior, a task that will cost an estimated $2 million because it was built with unreinforced masonry. To be habitable, it must be brought up to earthquake and other safety codes.

Further, the city has not said whether it wants to sell or lease the 1.3-acre property and has not established a price for either alternative.

What was to have been a deadline of last Friday was extended “because we don’t want to miss out on any ideas for the old place,” said Corral. City officials have been handling the search carefully and have been paying particular attention to requests from those who want at least part of the structure, in the 6000 block of York Boulevard, to be set aside for community use.

The proposals will be reviewed by officials in the city’s real estate division, who will then recommend one plan to a 13-member ad hoc committee made up of city officials and Highland Park residents.


Once the city’s real estate staff has made its recommendation, the ad hoc committee will review all the plans and make its recommendation to the City Council. Corral said it is hoped that the recommendation will come September, when Snyder has said he will resign his council seat.

Diana Barnwell, a Highland Park resident who sits on the committee as a representative from a local preservationist group, Highland Park Heritage Trust, said the community is anxious to find a developer who will preserve the building and keep it accessible to the public.

“We would preferably like to see it used for commercial use, although we will seriously consider all the proposals,” Barnwell said.

Councilman Snyder prefers a commercial use of the property, Corral said, but also wants part of the building set aside for use by such groups as the Highland Park Chamber of Commerce, the Heritage Trust and the Police Department, which does not have adequate quarters to display its historical memorabilia.


“We want something that will bring business to Highland Park, and, at the same, make sure the building can still be used by the community in some sort of way,” Corral said.

Highland Park’s business community is encouraging the ad hoc committee to make a speedy decision on the property and would like to see a commercial use because several large businesses in the area have moved away recently and trade has been slow ever since.