By ELLEN ENDO, Rafu Shimpo
Parker Center, the former Los Angeles Police Department headquarters that in the early 1950s displaced approximately 30 Japanese American-owned businesses, is scheduled for demolition this month.One of the businesses displaced when the city exercised its eminent domain powers in 1950 was The Rafu Shimpo. The building located at 104 N. Los Angeles St. housed the newspaper’s staff, printing press, and archives.
When the outbreak of World War II led to the forced removal of all persons of Japanese ancestry, Rafu Shimpo publisher Akira Komai managed to continue to pay the rent on the Los Angeles Street building during his and his family’s three and half years of incarceration. He re-established the paper in 1946 only to be forced out of the location four years later.
Other Little Tokyo businesses that disappeared to make way for the new police headquarters in postwar L.A. included Iwaki Drug Company, Yasuhara Shoyu Manufacturing Company, Daiichigai Garage, medical office of Dr. S. Susuki, several small Japanese-operated hotels, dojos, restaurants, a barber shop, carpentry and painting shop, and other small businesses.
Details as to how and when the Parker Center demolition will take place were outlined July 27 at an informational meeting led by Mamud Karimzadeh, principal architect for the planned 27- to 29-story city office tower destined to be erected at the site.
Demolition by Silverado Contractors, Inc. will proceed beginning Aug. 20 at a cost of $16.7 million and take about 500 days to complete. The work will be accomplished in three phases and will include steps to contain dust, asbestos, lead-based paint, and other hazardous materials that may be found in the 63-year-old building.
On March 24, 2017, the Los Angeles City Council, with strong support from 14th District Councilmember Jose Huizar, voted to clear the way for removal of the structure, while also rejecting a proposal from the City’s Heritage Commission and L.A. Conservancy to grant landmark status to Parker Center.
Among those opposing the demolition is the Coalition to Preserve L.A., which on July 9 revealed efforts to gather signatures for a ballot measure that would allow for the rehabilitation of Parker Center. The coalition wants the structure to become housing for an estimated 732 homeless and be renamed in honor of the late Mayor Tom Bradley.
Representatives from impacted businesses and organizations expressed concerns over potential disruptions caused by the demolition and eventual construction activities. Among them were East West Players, Firm Building, Miyako Hotel, and the Tuesday Night Café, an outdoor event held in the Aratani Courtyard, Union Center for the Arts.
Kariuimzadeh pledged to establish an informational website and hotline and hold periodic community meetings.