The AIDS Healthcare Foundation filed a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles Wednesday seeking to halt the planned demolition of the former downtown police headquarters building, which the nonprofit wants to see converted into a homeless shelter.
Representatives of AHF and two organizations it funds, the Healthy Housing Foundation and the Coalition to Preserve LA, held a news conference outside the building known as Parker Center to announce the suit.
The LA City Council approved the demolition of Parker Center in March 2017 to make way for an office tower for city employees as part of a larger redevelopment plan for the Civic Center area.
The City Attorney's Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the AHF's lawsuit, which comes in the wake of the organization's announcement in May that it would launch a ballot initiative in a bid to save Parker Center.
The suit cites California Civil Civil Code of Procedure 562a, which allows for lawsuits to be brought to prevent the waste of public funds, and says the AHF estimates the building could be converted to a homeless shelter for about $102 million, while the city estimates it would cost $295 million.
"City officials are padding their estimate to rehab and repurpose Parker Center as housing because they are bound and determined to tear down it because they simply don't want it in their backyard," said AHF President Michael Weinstein. "It is a horrible waste of public funds and shows a lack of interest in the cost-effective use of existing resources at a time when the crisis of homelessness in Los Angeles rages on largely unabated."
The estimated cost of demolishing Parker Center and building the new office tower is $708.9 million. The council, on a 12-0 vote, approved a public/private financing plan for the project and scheduled the demolition to begin this fall and be completed by December 2019.
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One of the goals of the project is to centralize more city employees in the Civic Center area by allowing the city to sell other buildings it owns or terminate leases in ones it rents, which the city estimates will save money and significantly reduce the overall cost of the new office tower.
The council recently approved a plan to explore converting the former Los Angeles Children's Museum, which is about one block away from Parker Center, into a temporary homeless shelter as part of a plan to spend tens of millions on temporary homeless shelters around the city.
Councilman Jose Huizar represents the Civic Center area and has been a leading advocate for the city to tear down Parker Center to make way for the Civic Center redesign. Huizar said at a July news conference that repurposing Parker Center for a homeless shelter would be too expensive.
"I think the AIDS Healthcare Foundation hasn't looked at the true cost of repurposing that building," Huizar said. "We have been told by our staff that it will cost quite a bit to repurpose it for a homeless shelter, and we're so far down the line with moving forward with the demolition. If they had come forward months ago, or a year ago, we could have sat down and looked at those options."
In voting for its removal in 2017, the City Council decided against naming Parker Center a historic-cultural monument even though the Cultural Heritage Commission recommended the move.
Parker Center, which opened in the 1950s and was named for former Chief William Parker, has been mostly empty since 2009 when the LAPD moved to a new building several blocks away. It was designed by Welton Becket, who also designed the Capitol Records building, Music Center and Cinerama Dome.