The launch of a Los Angeles ballot initiative to save long-empty Parker Center from demolition and renovate it as the Tom Bradley Center to house the homeless drew a big media and civic response today.
Under the initiative proposed by Coalition to Preserve LA, Parker Center, the iconic Mid-Century LAPD headquarters, would be stripped of its name honoring the divisive 1950s-60s era LAPD Chief William Parker and renamed after L.A.’s legendary and unifying Mayor Tom Bradley.
To gasps from the audience, Coalition Executive Director Jill Stewart said that a few years ago, top City Hall officials privately discussed — but eventually rejected — a plan to use the abandoned Parker Center “to store homeless belongings confiscated by the city” thus keeping the homeless’s belongings safe, but not the city’s homeless.
A broad mix of civic leaders today demanded that Parker Center not be demolished to make way for a $490 million luxury office skyscraper for city employees, an out-of-step plan approved by the L.A. City Council.
Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, noted: “You don’t have to tear Parker Center down to wipe away the stain of what the police department did and what (former chief) Parker did. By renaming it and housing 732 people we can also honor one of the most important leaders in our city’s history, Tom Bradley.”
AHF has rehabilitated several old buildings to quickly and cheaply house L.A.’s homeless in recent months, while city leaders struggle to renovate any buildings or open any new housing for the homeless.
Susie Shannon, Executive Director of Poverty Matters, who works directly with the homeless, said, “The last thing the City of Los Angeles needs is another office building when people are starving and living in squalor on the streets of Los Angeles. … If one is not guided by the humanitarian argument consider this: taxpayers save $35,000 to $45,000 when someone is moved from the streets to permanent supportive housing.”
Clemente Franco, a Los Angeles community leader and tenant’s rights attorney, said he grew up in a South L.A. community that hated Chief Parker, for whom Parker Center is named: “If I were back in 1992 when people surrounded the building, I would say knock it down. But today, I say we should save it, rename it and we should open it up. … it can be a beacon of hope and a gesture of love to our brothers and sisters living on the streets.”
Pastor Kelvin Sauls of Holman United Methodist Church — a city commissioner on the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and a director on the AHF Board — declared at the press conference: “Homelessness is a multifaceted challenge, but ultimately it is about people — people who are affected and people who can make a difference.”