Friday, June 30, 2006
Civil Grand Jury Urges Quick Action on Hall of Justice
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles County must move swiftly to formulate and put into motion a strategic plan with respect to the Hall of Justice, evacuated in the aftermath of the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, to avoid forfeiting $16 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds, the civil Grand Jury said yesterday.
The 2005-2006 panel noted that the FEMA grant was made in 1994, and warned:
“Taxpayer dollars are being wasted. Construction costs rise and the County has dragged its feet for 12 years. While projects are explored and scrapped (at great cost), the value of the $16 million FEMA Grant is greatly diminished. Projections today for refurbishing the HOJ are in the $200 million range. Each year all of the above costs are growing.
“THE COUNTY MUST MOVE FORWARD TO FORMULATE A PLAN AND ACT ON IT IMMEDIATELY.”
The funds are “still in the coffers of the Federal Government,” the report said, and will be released only as the county makes expenditures.
The structure, at 211 West Temple Street in the downtown Los Angeles Civic Center, housed courtrooms, jails, and the Sheriff’s Office until it was “red-tagged” and boarded up following the earthquake. A reinspection in 1998 showed that the closing of the building was in error—that the damage was merely cosmetic.
Sheriff Lee Baca has been urging that the building be refurbished and that his department be allowed to return there.
The Grand Jury called upon the chief administrative officer to “[t]ake appropriate steps to make sure the County does not lose the $16 million FEMA Grant currently scheduled to expire in 2006” and for the auditor to assess various costs including “[a]ctual market value” of the Hall of Justice “if sold as real estate.”
The report noted:
“Built in 1925, the oldest structure in the civic center was designed in the architectural style known as Beaux Arts. This was a combining of classical Greek and Roman Architecture with Renaissance ideas, which was the favored style of its time for grandiose public buildings. The grand entrance hall with its marble walls and floors, chandeliers, fine polished woods, majestic staircases and polished brass banisters made an impressive statement for all who entered the building.
“In its tenure it housed the famous and infamous, during life in its upper floor jails, and during death in its Coroner’s Office. It was the site of many sensational trials such as Bugsy Siegel, Charles Manson and Sirhan Sirhan. The Coroner’s Office processed the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Robert Kennedy. The building was further renowned as a site location for many movies and TV shows.”
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company