Los Angeles taxpayers will spend a bit more than expected to demolish and replace Parker Center, the former police department headquarters just north of Little Tokyo, after a City Council committee advanced the project’s plan on Tuesday.
The demolition alone was originally budgeted at $11 million, but a new plan approved by the Information, Technology and General Services Committee raised the estimate to $32 million for the demolition. The final price tag for the city employee office tower expected to replace Parker Center was originally estimated at $483 million, but is now at $708.9 million.
Despite the costs, members of the Little Tokyo Community Council spoke in favor of the project, saying it would improve the neighborhood by consolidating city employee offices and putting employees close to local businesses and restaurants.
“Our history lives with us today,” Chris Komai said. “[For] Little Tokyo, in trying to maintain its cultural heritage and viability, this project is important.”
Komai also praised city efforts to keep Little Tokyo community members abreast of the project since the very start. Komai joked that although community feedback was sometimes reflected only in color schemes, he said this had been one of the best projects he’d participated in, especially as Parker Center sits on a Little Tokyo block seized by the city through eminent domain in the 1950s.
— Jose Huizar (@josehuizar) June 19, 2018
According to Nate Hayward, staffer for City Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents Little Tokyo, helping the local community was a priority from the very start. Consolidation of city employee offices and revitalizing the civic center were also important principles behind the project, Hayward said.
“This has really been a team effort,” he said. “This is the first step in delivering the Civic Center Master Plan.”
That plan, first unveiled in early 2017, also calls for the demolition of City Hall South and East, and the Metropolitan Detention Center. Individual projects such as these will have to be separately approved.
But not everyone is in favor of the Parker Center demolition. AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein announced an effort in May to halt the demolition and convert the building into a homeless shelter through a ballot measure. It’s unclear when the measure will appear on the ballot. Weinstein has said that a special election could be needed. In May, Weinstein said city leaders could look bad if they spent millions to house their employees while homeless on Skid Row go without a home.
“Every time City Hall wants to give an exemption to a luxury developer, they scream NIMBY,” Weinstein said. “Well this is in their backyard, so they can show leadership by doing something in their backyard.”
Demolition of Parker Center will begin this fall and be completed by December 2019, according to city documents.