Hollywood wants $72.5M police station
Mold, leaks, and limited space make new building necessary
HOLLYWOOD – The roof leaks. The air conditioners break. The toilets flood. The elevators break down.
And when a powerful hurricane is on the way, the entire place has to be evacuated.
We’re talking about the Hollywood Police Department, the gray four-story structure on Hollywood Boulevard that first opened in 1975.
Because the station was built before Hurricane Andrew, it’s not up to current storm code.
During Hurricane Irma in September 2017, the department’s 105 civilians and 321 sworn officers had to evacuate the building. Two SWAT members assigned to keep watch over the Property Room rode out the storm in an armored vehicle outside the building.
A new police station would cost
$72.5 million. But it’s all up to voters whether they want to take on a
25-year debt that would raise their tax rate.
On March 12, residents will decide whether to borrow $165 million to pay for a wish list of items that includes a new police station and high-security parking garage.
Hollywood Mayor Josh Levy says there is no way the current building can be redesigned or retrofitted to serve the department as the city continues to grow.
“You’d have to tear the building apart, gut it and rebuild it so it has the right capacity to install the tools that police need,” Levy said.
The cramped lobby, grimy and gray, is the first thing visitors see when they walk through the doors of the four-story headquarters on Hollywood Boulevard, just west of Interstate 95.
“This is the first opinion residents and visitors get when they walk in,” Police Chief Chris O’Brien said. “I’ve seen 10, 15 people in here at any given time. And there’s only one window to check in.”
What they don’t see are the four vaults that make up the department’s Property and Evidence Room. Boxes are stacked almost to the ceiling and atop rolling shelves because, as the chief says, they’re simply out of space.
“Items get misplaced because other evidence is coming in and it’s getting pushed one way or the other,” he said. Evidence is not getting lost, but it’s getting harder to organize, he said.
Exposed water and sewer pipes run overhead above boxes of evidence in some of the vaults, making for potentially disastrous consequences. In late 2017, sewage from an upper floor flowed into one evidence room, soaking documents and DNA swabs.
Major Derik Alexander remembers it well.
“We salvaged all the evidence as much as we could,” he said. “That was an ordeal. We had to have our employees and a biohazard waste company sift through that stuff and figure out what could be salvaged.”
Alexander, who has been with the department 25 years, called the building an embarrassment.
“If we turn on a fan or a coffee pot or heater, that could throw one of the breakers and turn off electricity to a section of the building,” he said. “I turned on my electrical teapot one day and turned off the power to the several offices on the fourth floor.”
The station’s outmoded design simply doesn’t work for today like it did nearly 50 years ago, according to the chief.
“The building is obsolete,” O’Brien said. “We’re completely out of space. We’ve had leaks. We’ve had floods. We can’t add any technology to this building because our electrical grid is tapped out.”
Bees and mold
Before O’Brien took over as chief in spring 2018, his predecessor’s office was literally buzzing with bees.
A nest was found above the window, where the bees flew in.
By the time O’Brien moved in, the bees were gone. But something just as bad — mold hidden by wallpaper — had taken over an entire wall.
“That was [my] welcome to the new position,” the chief said, pointing to photos of the moldy wall still stored on his phone. “They found
mold on the third and fourth floors. Now they’re checking the other two floors.”
Hot and cold
The new station, at 120,000 square feet, would be double the size of the current headquarters, where some floors run cold and some hot.
“It’s a meat locker up here,” police spokeswoman Miranda Grossman said from the building’s fourth floor one day this week. “It’s freezing on this floor. And it’s hot on other floors. That’s one of the problems.”
On the third floor, which happens to run hot, a portable air-conditioning unit sits on a desk in the criminal investigations unit. Nearby, detectives share space with an oscillating fan in an attempt to keep cool.
On other floors, people simple dress for the cold — or bring heaters.
What it will cost you
If the public safety bond passes, a new police headquarters would be built to the south of the current building. The old station would be demolished.
On March 12, residents can vote separately on three bond proposals: $72.5 million for a new police headquarters, plus $5 million for fire trucks and equipment; $64 million for parks and recreational facilities; and $23 million for neighborhood improvements, including sea walls.
For a home with a taxable value of $165,000, the bond debt would add $106 to the yearly property tax bill if all three pass. Here’s the cost breakdown: $50 would go toward the new police department; $41 would go to parks; and $15 to neighborhood upgrades.
Hollywood has set up a link on its website to help residents figure out what they’d pay if all three bond proposals pass.
To help residents learn more about the bond proposal, community tours of the police department are scheduled for 10 a.m. Feb. 2 and 6 p.m. Feb. 7.
The lobby at the Hollywood Police Department can get crowded quickly. It’s just one of many cramped places at police headquarters, officials say.
Mold covered the eastern wall of Hollywood Police Chief Chris O'Brien's office. The mold was uncovered after the wallpaper was removed.