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City Council Rejects Parker Center Historic Designation

Buildings on the north end of Little Tokyo at First and San Pedro streets are demolished in the 1950s to make way for Parker Center.

Rafu Staff and Wire Reports

A week after 80 Little Tokyo stakeholders appeared before the City’s Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee, the Los Angeles City Council on Feb. 14 unanimously shot down the idea of designating Parker Center, the Los Angeles Police Department’s former headquarters, as a historic monument.

“I’ll be glad to see it go,” commented former LAPD Commander Terry Hara, who remembers his years working in Parker Center and worrying that it might cave in one day.

The City Council’s 10-0 vote came in the wake of the PLUM committee’s recommendation to reject the Cultural Heritage Commission’s proposal to grant the building historic status.

At the PLUM Committee’s Feb. 7 meeting, Little Tokyo representatives emphasized that the block on which Parker Center stands was once part of the Japanese American community and home to Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, The Rafu Shimpo, small businesses and professional offices until the early 1950s, when the city exercised eminent domain to seize the property.

The Los Angeles Conservancy, a nonprofit advocacy and preservation group, waged a campaign, mainly through L.A. Times op-ed articles, to retrofit and save the aging structure despite the JA community’s objections.

Councilmember Jose Huizar, the committee’s chair, fought back tears when he said Parker Center “does embody an important story about the history of policing in Los Angeles… but in some instances, abuse of power, cruelty and racism.”

“It has a negative history, or a difficult history, but ultimately history is history and you can’t pick and choose or arbitrarily pick and choose which history you prefer to keep versus others that you throw away,” Adrian Scott Fine, the conservancy’s director of advocacy, told City News Service in January.

Little Tokyo stakeholders have pledged to persist in the fight against preserving Parker Center. Chris Komai, chair of the Little Tokyo Community Council, criticized the conservancy for dismissing the community’s concerns. Komai is grandson of Henry Toyosaku Komai, patriarch of the family that owns Rafu Shimpo.

Parker Center has been mostly empty since 2009, when the department moved to a newly built headquarters building about a block away.

The city’s Bureau of Engineering has recommended tearing it down to build a 750,000-square-foot civic building. The new building, as currently conceived, would embrace Little Tokyo and create flow to El Pueblo and Chinatown as well.

The decision on what to do with Parker Center will now move to the Entertainment and Facilities Committee, which had been holding off on a vote on the development plan until the historic monument status vote.

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