Reclaim Rampart en La Opiníon
I have been attempting to chart the history of the old Rampart Station reutilization to a Metro division (SWAT, K-9 and Mounted) headquarters as a Prop Q project. All Prop Q projects, except for the reutilization of the old Rampart station, were slated from 2002 and were subject to guidelines that involved a high level of community awareness and participation. Prop Q was designed to be a seven-year project.
All projects were subject to a Citizen oversight Committee (COC) and an Administrative Oversight Committee (AOC). Public community hearings were announced with flyers and press releases made available. The community meetings included community workshops, community steering committees, master plan community meetings and master plan studies.
In 2008 the AOC voted to extend Prop Q over its seven-year, voter mandated time frame. The mayor then approved the extension. Of the projects to be completed within the new extended time period, two were projects that were originally part of the original Prop Q and had run into unforeseen difficulties. These projects were the Northeast division, which was originally slated to be a renovation, and renovations to the Police Academy and facilities, which had gotten bogged down in negotiations. The need for a new building for the Northeast division was made evident in 2008 at the same time the negotiations with the Police Academy were broken off. Money was redirected from the Police Academy renovation proposal to fund a new facility for the Northeast division. The only entirely new project never before mentioned as part of Prop Q was the reutilization of the old Rampart police station for Metro SWAT, K-9 and Mounted division.
I can find no mention of the old Rampart station as part of Prop Q prior to the extension in 2008. It was not discussed as part of the master planning, nor at any of the community meetings concerning Prop Q. Every successfully completed Prop Q project had adhered to the guidelines for community participation. The old Rampart station reutilization project has been subjected to no community vetting. It was invented just as time was running out for Prop Q and it was kept very quiet at a time when local sentiment towards Metro SWAT was decidedly low.
I went back through The Los Angeles Times archives for the years 2008 and 2009 and found no mention of either the extension to Prop Q or the Metro Division takeover of the old Rampart police station. The only press I could find was a one-sentence mention in the LAPD blog dated October 16, 2009.
In 2007 the Metro SWAT division shot rubber bullets into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators at Mac Arthur Park and in 2008 the city had to pay over 13 million dollars in damages to those harmed. One might assume news that Metro SWAT was poised to take over the notorious Rampart police station might have been met with some amount of community concern and perhaps even rejection.
The public, who funded this massive build-out of police facilities, were never consulted about changes and additions to Prop Q while its structure of community engagement was abandoned. The community around the Old Rampart police station was, quite literally, kept in the dark, and a 600 million dollar proposition from 2002 with a seven-year time limit is still funding a police project that was initiated secretly and has been kept very hush-hush.
Prop Q mandated community input. The community around the old Rampart police station deserve to have their say.
As stated in the August 2008 AOC report:
“The Old Rampart Station has been vacated with the completion of the new Rampart Area Station as part of Prop Q’s original scope. The new Rampart Area Station is complete and LAPD has moved into the new facility. The BOE, LAPD and GSD reviewed the Old Rampart Station for renovation work so LAPD may use this facility for a proposed new Metro Division.”
This same paragraph can be found in subsequent AOC Reports as well.
The complicity of the COC (Citizens Oversight Committee) is also apparent in their meeting minutes. The first time the old Rampart Police Station is mentioned is in January of 2008 when a committee member asked if the old Rampart Police station could be sold. In the meeting minutes dated 6.2.2008 they were informed that:
LAPD wants to reutilize the old Rampart building for Metro Division, which will move out of Central Area due to overcrowding. The facility will need to be upgraded at an estimated cost of 12.2 to 14.4 million.
And then again in September 2008:
“The LAPD wanted to reprogram the old Rampart Area Station space to house their metro division, which is their SWAT team, and allow them to move out of the Central area Station. General Services had visited the Central area and had determined that it was overcrowded. LAPD proposed the former Rampart facility as the new home for its Metro Division. Available funding in program contingency presented two options: either building a new Northeast division and not doing Rampart, or renovating both Rampart and Northeast. LAPD voluntarily withdrew the new Northeast Station, and identified their highest priority as the renovation of Rampart Station and restored Northeast to a renovation project.”
Neither of these two funding options were necessary since a decision was made to drop negotiations with the Police academy even though designs had already been bought and paid for. Money was then funneled over to Northeast Division so that both Northeast and the Old Rampart Police Station could be paid for.
|photo by Corey Bridwell|
A community meeting was organized by residents in the neighborhood after the clean up to talk about the abandoned police station.
In 2008 the Rampart Police were moved to a new 40+ million dollar building at 1401 West 6th Street. The old Rampart station was fenced off, a tarp thrown over the Police sign, and the lights in the large parking area turned off. And that's when the troubles began for the neighbors.
The large, now abandoned lot began to attract crime. The fence was soon cut, windows broken, the building graffitied, and the trash accumulated. Yet police were seen to be entering the facility from time to time. A local pastor who hoped to buy the building for his church was told that the station would continue to operate as a satellite station for the Rampart Division. Years passed. A sex trade developed in the shadows, leaving residents to walk their children to school on sidewalks littered with condoms and broken bottles. The police station, which had been the site of such a massive betrayal of community trust, exposed at last by the Rampart Police Scandal, again continued the legacy of bringing the community down.
By late 2011 the police station had been robbed of its copper pipes while water pressure was on, flooding the abandoned building, causing water damage, greatly adding to the budget needed for asbestos abatement.
The community began to take initiative. The police offered little information about the future of the building which continued to blight the area. LA CAN (Los Angeles Community Action Network) organized a series of community meetings to discuss what the community envisioned for the building. ideas ranged from a community service center with a police counter, a food bank, a gang rehabilitation, a center for at risk youth, a senior center, to a pocket park for the many children who attend the areas schools.
Eric Garcetti's office was contacted to ask for help securing the building against further vandalism. Field officer Ryan Carpio let the group know that LAPD had plans to turn the building into Metro Division Swat Headquarters. We turned to the Neighborhood councils: Rampart Village, Echo Park, Silverlake, Westlake. No one had been informed. We began to make phone calls and write emails.