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H.B. police chief: Rodgers Seniors’ Center could be officers’ temporary home during HQ modernization project

Huntington Beach Police Chief Robert Handy
Huntington Beach Police Chief Robert Handy tells residents about the deterioration of his department’s headquarters during a community meeting Thursday at the Rodgers Seniors’ Center.
(Priscella Vega)

With plans underway to modernize the Huntington Beach Police Department’s headquarters, Chief Robert Handy this week proposed temporarily housing officers who will be displaced during that work at the old Rodgers Seniors’ Center — another building with an unknown future.

“This is a proposed use,” Handy told the about 80 residents who attended Thursday’s Special Interest Committee meeting at the center. “It’s not up for a vote yet. No decisions have been made. It’s one of the options we’re exploring.”

Community Services Director Marie Knight said a formal decision regarding the center’s future won’t be made anytime soon, as city officials are still in the information-gathering phase. Knight said residents should attend a Sept. 28 meeting at the center, 1706 Orange Ave., where a consultant will discuss possible options for the site.

Handy said pending work at the Police Department’s headquarters — located next to City Hall on Main Street — will displace some officers and staff members, but he is trying to place those employees at city-owned properties instead of leasing a building.

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The department also is planning to relocate employees to three other substations throughout the city during the modernization project, he said.

If the center proves to be feasible, Handy said it would house about 122 officers from the department’s patrol, traffic and training bureaus, plus two support staffers and six cadets, for over a year.

Between 10 and 20 patrol officers at a time would work in three shifts, seven days a week. Handy said those officers would use the center for training and to file reports before going back into the field.

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The center’s parking lot would be reconfigured to provide 120 stalls to accommodate 80 patrol and staff vehicles. This would mean the center’s lot, which is currently available to residents, would be off-limits to the public to ensure officers’ safety.

Handy said it is still undetermined whether the department would conduct any public business at the site, but assured the crowd Thursday that it would not be used as a jail. He said the existing jail at 2000 Main St. would not be impacted during the headquarters modernization project.

Several residents, though, pushed back against Handy’s proposal — citing their use of the parking lot, concerns over a lack of street parking and noise.

Resident Phil Burtis told Handy that the former senior center — which was replaced by the current one in Central Park — also is decaying, and pointed to leaky tiles in the meeting room as evidence. The center, he added, also has experienced plumbing issues.

Handy said refurbishing the center for the temporary use would cost about $300,000.

Resident Nathalie Wong said she sympathized with the department’s needs, but suggested splitting the parking lot in half to accommodate children who use it to ride their bicycles and skateboards. Handy said that likely wouldn’t be an option.

Another resident, Linda Flemins, said the department should look for a new building to lease.

Also in attendance Thursday were several members of the American Legion Huntington Beach Post 133, which hosts its meetings at the Rodgers center twice a month. Their concerns were allayed once Knight and Handy said they would find them a location to host their meetings, even at another property.

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For the past several years, the old Rodgers Seniors’ Center’s future has been uncertain. Some have suggested rejuvenating the facility to be open part-time for things like community and police activity league meetings, while others have proposed demolishing part or all of the site to make room for a public park.

Special Interest Committee member Lisa Kemmerer said Thursday that she understands why residents would be hesitant to accept Handy’s proposal, as the center is “already a sensitive place.”

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