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L.A. City Council backs plan to knock down Parker Center, build office tower

L.A. City Council backs plan to knock down Parker Center, build office tower
A Los Angeles police honor guard folds an American flag during the formal closure of LAPD's Parker Center in January 2013. (Los Angeles Times)

Over the objections of preservationists, the Los Angeles City Council voted Friday to demolish the LAPD's Parker Center and replace the former police headquarters with a $483-million office tower for city employees.

The council voted 12 to 0 to raze the 1955 building designed by architect Welton Becket — a structure that critics called an unremarkable piece of architecture and a symbol of the Los Angeles Police Department's racist past.

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The Los Angeles Conservancy opposed the vote, contending that Parker Center is a "significant" building and that the city's police history shouldn't be wiped away.

The preservation group also accused the city of using inaccurate cost estimates to justify knocking down Parker Center, which the city denied.

The plan to demolish the building and erect a 27-story office tower comes as local leaders seek to remake the downtown Civic Center, a 10-square-block area of government buildings bordered by Chinatown, Little Tokyo and the Historic Core.

Council members also voted Friday to pass the Civic Center Master Plan to encourage the development of stores and restaurants in the neighborhood.

"Our current civic center is outdated and poorly designed," said Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents the downtown area. "It doesn't meet our current needs to house our city personnel."

A city-commissioned analysis estimates the new tower will cost $483 million, while preserving Parker Center and erecting a new tower will cost $590 million.

The conservancy's study states that preservation would cost at least $100 million less than the city's estimate.

Several Little Tokyo community leaders supported the plan to tear down Parker Center, which sits on a block that once housed Little Tokyo businesses.

The city razed hotels, a barbershop and stores in the 1940s and 1950s to make way for the police headquarters, said Kristen Fukushima, managing director of the Little Tokyo Community Council. Today, Parker Center stands as a "wall" to Little Tokyo, she said.

Fukushima praised the office tower site plan, which uses plazas to connect Little Tokyo with the Civic Center.

"The L.A. of today is not the L.A. of the '40s or '50s," she said.

Twitter: @dakotacdsmith

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