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Westwood Federal Building may be razed

Times Staff Writer

The federal government is close to a decision to demolish the 17-story Federal Building at 11000 Wilshire Boulevard and replace it with two new towers that would become the Los Angeles headquarters for the FBI.

After looking at 35 sites throughout the region, the General Services Administration has determined that the Westwood site, at Veteran Avenue, is “actually the best,” said Gene Gibson, the San Francisco-based regional public affairs officer for the GSA. The GSA oversees land purchases, construction and other basics of managing the federal government’s businesses.

But politicians and community activists continue to take issue with the plan. In a Jan. 31 letter to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) said the GSA had failed to perform “a meaningful alternative site evaluation.” He added that it appeared that the FBI’s criteria appeared “to preordain the current site as the only suitable one.”

Laura Lake, a longtime Westwood activist, said the new towers would constitute “a huge target next to the elevated freeway.” She also said community members’ research indicated that the Federal Building property was initially part of what became known as the National Soldiers Home campus, now the Veterans Affairs campus, which is north of Wilshire Boulevard and just west of the Federal Building, and therefore should be used for operations that serve veterans.

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The FBI proposed the new headquarters several years ago because of increasing demands on its Los Angeles staff and a projected rapid rate of expansion after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The bureau has hundreds of agents and support staff scattered throughout the region and said it hoped to consolidate many of those operations. The FBI now occupies nine floors of the Federal Building, which also houses offices of a number of other federal agencies.

In 2004, the GSA notified public officials and community groups that it was studying the potential effects that building a 937,000-square-foot FBI office building next to the existing Federal Building would have on the already heavily congested area.

Elected officials and neighborhood groups decried the proposal, contending that the project would worsen traffic and create a target for terrorists.

The GSA said razing the existing building would help to address some of the community’s concerns. The current building has about 561,500 square feet, whereas the two new towers combined would have about 732,000 square feet, Gibson said.

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The GSA’s Gibson said the new buildings, as well as the existing post office, which would remain, would accommodate about 1,780 workers. The current building has about 2,070 workers.

In late April, the GSA is expected to release its final environmental impact statement on the project. Even if all went smoothly, Gibson said, construction would not begin for many years.

martha.groves@latimes.com


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