For more than 20 years the city has used the former Naval & Marine Corps Reserve Center near Dodger Stadium as a training facility for firefighters. The approximately 133,000-square-foot, Art Deco-style building – completed just before the nation entered World War II – sits on nearly 11 acres of land that has been valued at $41 million. But under a deal worked out with the property owner, the U.S. Navy, the City of L.A will be able buy the historic site for only $1.
Under the building’s soaring roof, an estimated 100,000 sailors were inducted into the military and received training , according to the Living New Deal Website. One of the most notable – and some would say bleakest – moments in the center’s history took place only two years after it opened when new recruits armed with clubs emerged from the compound and swept across the city, beating up young Mexican-American youths dressed in Zoot Suits.
The U.S. Navy remains the owner of the property but has not used it for decades. The idea of buying the Stadium Way property, now known as the Frank Hotchkin Memorial Training Center, has been around for more than a decade. In fact, in 1997, the City Administrative Officer recommended buying the building, , but it was not until 2013 that the L.A. Fire Department and City Attorney revived negotiations that resulted in a deal with the Navy, according to city records.
While the city would purchase the property for only $1, it would need to spend an estimated $5 million for necessary repairs and renovations, including seismic retrofitting and building an elevator to make the building accessible to the disabled. The city must also declare the structure a historic monument as part of the agreement.
If the city decides against the purchase, the Navy might decide to offer the surplus property to other users, forcing the L.A. Fire Department to find and lease space somewhere else, according to a report by Ralph M. Terrazas. “It must be noted that over the years, local public agencies, such as Los Angeles Unified School District, have expressed interest in purchasing the property,” according to the report.
The same report, not surprisingly, recommends that the City Council and Mayor go ahead with the purchase. That report is now scheduled to be reviewed by the City Council’s Innovation, Technology and General Services Committee.