LA’s Parker Center Should Be Relegated to Dragnet Reruns

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Behold Parker Center, former home of the LA Police Department and star of many a Dragnet episode:

From the collection of the Los Angeles Public Library

You can see a more recent picture here. Parker Center was built in 1955 but has been empty for years. It’s also, as you might expect, the focus of yet another tedious battle from preservationists who seemingly want to save any gigantic box ever built by a notable architect:

The building was designed by Welton Becket, the prolific architect behind the Capitol Records building, the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, the Cinerama Dome and the jet-age Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport.

Los Angeles city engineers contend that the mid-century building, which now sits empty, is seismically unsafe….The Los Angeles Conservancy disputes the city’s analysis and accuses officials of using inaccurate estimates to justify Parker Center’s demolition — something the city denies.

The battle over the building, which was named for former Police Chief William Parker, comes as city leaders push for a dramatic remake of the Civic Center, roughly 10 square blocks of government buildings surrounded by Little Tokyo, the Historic Core and Chinatown.

Who cares if it’s seismically unsafe? If the city wants to build something more useful on the site, they should go ahead and do it. It’s one thing to preserve houses and smallish buildings here and there, but multi-acre structures in the heart of a city should be preserved only if they’re truly unique, historical treasures. The Parker Center, like the Ambassador Hotel, just doesn’t qualify. It’s a typical mid-century design, nicely executed, but nothing more. This kind of acreage can’t be set in amber without a helluva good reason.

I wish preservationists would back off from this kind of stuff and put their energy into truly important fights. The center of a city is a living thing, and it needs to change to accommodate the needs of its residents. That’s hard to do if giant swaths are declared off limits. Buildings that aren’t truly iconic need to make room for the new when their time is up.

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