|Parker Center Los Angeles Police Department Headquarters|
One of the things that yours truly is fond of saying is "historic preservation is not always about saving the happy and victorious places. Sometimes, the places that have dark stories to tell are worth saving too." This applies to Parker Center in Los Angeles, California, the former headquarters of the police department. The building has been scheduled for demolition and redevelopment before it hit a procedural bump in the historic designation process earlier this month. Adrian Scott Fine, the director of advocacy at the Los Angeles Conservancy (http://www.laconservancy.org) wrote in a post for the DoCoMoMo US Newsletter, ""L.A.'s Parker Center: Should Buildings with Difficult Histories be Saved,"
Now after nearly six months of efforts to designate the building as a local landmark, a procedural error by the City forced the process to begin again from start. The good news is the City has introduced a motion to study another preservation alternative that hopefully will find the right balance between preservation and ...demolition of the building.
|William H. Parker|
Parker Center is a building with a controversial past. Named for the late police chief William H. Parker who brought institutional reforms to the department. Yet for all his efforts to make the LAPD a professional and respected organization, he could not train away the racist, bigoted, and misogynist attitudes his men held. James Ellroy's wonderful novel (later a great movie) L.A. Confidential is good popular culture example. The movie takes places in the fifties during the Parker-era. The opening scene, where the officers are celebrating the Yultide, based on the "Bloody Christmas" incident which left seven men-five Latino and two Caucasian-with multiple fractures and ruptured organs.
|William Parker and Jack Webb|
Many people cannot imagine preserving Parker Center given the building's troubled history and being mired in controversial events and personalities. While it encompasses both positive and negative association, Parker Center is undeniably historic. it is a place with such significance that it can help teach us valuable lessons and empower us to face, and own, the totality of our history.
|Theme Mural of Los Angeles|
Joseph Young (1955) Parker Center
Photograph courtesy of the L.A. Conservancy
|Street scene in Little Tokyo|
Los Angeles, California
The site upon which Parker Center now stands was once two of the most active blocks in Little Tokyo. Contained within these two streets were numerous family owned businesses and cultural organizations that served the Japanese-American community. Beginning in 1948, the City designated these blocks as part of the Civic Center expansion plan and nascent urban renewal. The existing buildings were razed, however as Ms. Fine observes, "...many of which would be considered historic if still standing." The site was remade into a single superblock and construction on the LAPD headquarters began in 1952.
|Little Tokyo, c.1935|
Los Angeles, California
|Parker Center with City Hall in the background|
The history of Parker Center has not always been a positive one-given its urban renewal ancestry. William Parker, who oversaw construction, was one of the most distinguished yet controversial police chiefs in the city's history. During his tenure (1950-66), he professionalized the force and instituted standards that are still in use today. Yet, for all these accomplishments, Chief Parker's leadership was marred by rampant discrimination of African-Americans and Latinos. This problem was brought into the glaring light of day in 1965 following the Watts Riots and in 1992 (under the tenure of his protege Chief Darryl Gates) after the acquittal of the four officer accused of beating Rodney King.
It may sound ironic, almost counter-intuitive to preserve a place like Parker Center but as yours truly said at the top of the post, historic preservation is not always about saving the happy and victorious places. Places with a controversial history are living documents of where we were as a society. Their continued existence is a reminder of our past deeds. From controversial places, we can glean lessons for the future.
If you would like more information about the Los Angeles Conservancy's efforts to save Parker Center, please visit their website http://www.laconservancy.org and please help by signing their petition on http://www.change.org.