A Last Wish - A Great Civic Park
When the Cultural Affairs Committee meets on Thursday, the voice of a late, local civic leader and activist is to be distributed to the members in attendance. The voice I refer to is that of Ira Yellin. His widow, Adele Yellin, has prepared a set of documents for the Committee laying out a vision for a great civic park across from City Hall, the current selected site of the new LAPD station. While I will be the first one to stand up and say we need a state of the art police station (and the man power to also staff it), we also need to think about the ramifications of this planning decision and how it will so drastically change the landscape of downtown. Let's hope she is at least shown respect, unlike others who have ventured into the hearing rooms of our city government, and people take the opportunity to hear her plea. As blogdowtown posted, the NC arts committee heard the presentation last evening, and it is at least worth exploring and hearing out.
To help her amplify that voice, I post the letter below:
Attention: Members of the Cultural Affairs Commission
On Monday of this week, I was informed that Thursday, Jan. 20 the Police Headquarters Project would be an agenda item before Cultural Affairs. Unfortunately, I am out of town for the weekend and cannot attend the meeting.
Please note my strong objection to the Police Headquarters Project on this site.
Let me explain. My late husband, Ira Yellin helped develop a downtown civic plan that included a public square as its center piece. He was committed to building Los Angeles sense of community.
Indeed, Ira was a proponent of a Civic Park, a public green space, opposite City Hall as proposed in the Diamond plan. He was certain that a Civic Square opposite City Hall was important as a gateway between the revitalizing Historic Core and the halls of city government. At the very end of his life (the last two weeks) he encouraged me and others to make sure the park was created. Ira envisioned the park as a central, gathering place for this city-without-a-center: a place to hold a city gathering for the New Year; a place to protest, a place to celebrate.
Moreover, Ira dreamed of instituting a program in the park similar to the summer program at the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, London. There, each year a famous contemporary architect builds a pavilion for the public to view. This program has been credited with educating the British public on the beauty and creativity of contemporary architecture. While a program such as this could be installed on any site in the city Ira felt this site at the heart of the city was the ideal location.
The problem: The city has decided to build a 500,000 sq. ft. building on the site to house the police headquarters. Parker Center is decrepit and I am committed to making sure the police have a state of the art building for their headquarters. In my view sitting the building on this land opposite City Hall is a planning mistake that will be with us into the next century. Not only does it become a physical barrier to the historic core, it is a psychic barrier as well. The message of a heavily fortified police headquarters opposite city hall and next to the LA Times will feel more like a government under siege rather than an open democracy where people can voice their support and/or their objections to one issue or another. I am convinced this is not the message Los Angeles wants to convey to the community and world.
There are a number of other locations that would be ideal for a new LAPD headquarters. The headquarters does not need to occupy the only natural site for a civic square and the gateway to downtown Los Angeles historic core. Let me be clear, the placement of the police headquarters building next to the new CalTrans building will create a wall, effectively blocking off the Civic Center from the revitalizing downtown.
I have tried to carry on Iras vision. To that end I enlisted the help of the J. Paul Getty Trust; they underwrote a design plan for civic square. I believe this park will make Los Angeles a stronger city. I am attaching the Civic Square concept developed by Campbell and Campbell last year. Look at the importance of this open space to anchor, and animate the area; this site is the hinge that connects the civic center with the historic core.
I urge you to object, indeed, to stop this unfortunate planning/building decision. Preserve this unique site for a Civic Park!
Should you wish additional materials on the park site I am happy to present them to your commission at a later date.
Thank you for your consideration of my views.