City Council Approves 27-story tower at Parker Center Site and Huizar’s Visionary Civic Center Master Plan to reconfigure DTLA’s Civic Center over the next 15 years
The Los Angeles City Council approved (12-0) the Civic Center Master Plan Friday and the City-staff preferred option to build a 27-story tower on the Parker Center site. The Civic Center Master Plan is a visionary facilities document that aims to bring 1.2 million square feet of City office space, more than one million square feet of housing, more than 300,000 square-feet of retail, It also includes 32,000 square feet for cultural space and 45,000 square feet for a new civic plaza and will be built in six phases over the next 15 years, with the Parker Center site as Phase One.
The Civic Center Master Plan was introduced as legislation in 2015 by Councilmember José Huizar, the Downtown Los Angeles representative, asking for the City to create a broader facilities planning document during discussions to redevelop the Parker Center site. Huizar called for a more holistic study that would capture the larger Civic Center area long in need of redevelopment to replace City buildings, mall and plaza space, and redesign the Civic Center to open up City Hall to nearby communities.
Huizar’s 2015 motion also called for the City to study partial preservation as an option for Parker Center and add that analysis to the project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which was one of the EIR options considered by the City Council. That alternative, was deemed to cost, at minimum, $107 million more in construction costs and retrofitting for the earthquake-damaged Parker Center site. The City’s preferred alternative for Parker Center is to fully develop the site and demolish the current building, while ensuring that key historic elements are preserved, such as the bronze exterior sculpture by artist Bernard J. Rosenthal and the mosaic mural by artist Joseph Young on the interior. Construction costs for the new tower are $483 million.
The Entertainment and Facilities (E&F) Committee, Chaired by Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, approved both plans at its Tuesday meeting with a 2-0 vote, with O’Farrell and Councilmember Krekorian present.
In February, Councilmember Huizar’s Planning Committee and the full City Council voted to deny historic status to the Parker Center, designed in 1955 by Architect Welton Becket. They cited that Parker Center was not an exceptional example of Becket’s work – such as other more notable designs of his at the Music Center and the Capital Records building.
Furthermore, beyond the added $107 million costs to preserve the building, since its inception in the 1950s, Parker Center has had a dubious history with the surrounding communities, most notably Little Tokyo, which lost about ¼ of its landscape, along with hundreds of businesses and residential units to eminent domain to construct Parker Center. This, shortly after the Japanese residents and business owners of Little Tokyo were rebuilding their lives after returning from internment camps during WWII, which Councilmember Huizar called “one of the most shameful periods in American history.”
In its design, the original Parker Center literally turns its back to Little Tokyo. With today’s vote, the City of Los Angeles will construct a new Civic Center that is open and accessible to Little Tokyo and all of Downtown Los Angeles.
“Today’s vote is about acknowledging our sometimes painful past here in the City of Los Angeles – but also a commitment to build a better future and a City Center that is respectful, open and accessible to all,” said Councilmember Huizar. “What Little Tokyo and others have experienced for more than 60 years is something we should learn from and vow to never repeat. The Civic Center Master Plan provides an exciting blueprint for the future of Los Angeles that will open up City Hall and the Civic Center to increased public interaction through paseos and open space intermingled with multi-use City towers that will provide ample space to more efficiently do the City’s business, while also providing for other uses, such as retail, residential and restaurants. “A major goal of the Civic Center Master Plan will also allow us to reconnect our City’s Center with neighboring communities, such as Little Tokyo, El Pueblo, the Historic Core, Chinatown, the Arts District and our City’s Central Business Districts.”
The Civic Center Master Plan points out that currently the City owns and leases a considerable amount of properties and facilities in the broader Civic Center area. Many of these properties house critical municipal functions, while other properties are unused, underused, or reaching the end of their useful life without significant investment. There are more than 5,500 City employees from Council-controlled departments housed in at least 10 leased and City-owned office spaces in and within close proximity to the study area. The Civic Center Master Plan aims to redesign and reconfigure the Civic Center over a 15-year period, beginning with the Parker Center site, in order to allow the City to meet its goal of increased efficiency for City business and greater public access and use in a new and enlivened Civic Center for the future.