Anyone who's ever played the popular "Sim City" series of city-building computer games understands the predicament: how to build a police station cheaply and efficiently in a city without much vacant land. The best spots are already taken. Those that are available cost a bundle. Something has to give. More often than not it's the taxpayers who end up footing the bill. But when officials from the Los Angeles Police Department found themselves in a similar situation a few years ago, they found a solution that ended up saving taxpayers more than a million dollars.
The land on which police officials wanted to build a new North Hollywood station was perfect: centrally located, on a busy street and close to onramps to the Hollywood Freeway. Problem was, the land was part of North Hollywood Park, a skinny patch of green that stretches between Camarillo Street and Burbank Boulevard.
So the cops proposed a swap that gave them nearly 3 acres at the north end of the park. In return, the city's Department of Recreation and Parks got the old North Hollywood station, $160,000 in cash and a little piece of land sliced off from the park when the freeway was built. Parks officials plan to use the old station as an administrative and recreation center.
None of this happened overnight. It took six years of tough but cooperative negotiations between police and parks officials to make the deal work. In the end, everyone benefits: North Hollywood gets another community center, the park gets a long orphaned patch of land, police get modern quarters and Los Angeles taxpayers get a break. Few can quarrel with the results, which illustrate how much can be accomplished even in tight times when public officials innovate and cooperate.