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Fight Over Mental Health Court Averted in the Arts District?

By Eric Richardson
Published: Friday, June 10, 2011, at 08:19AM
Open Space Next to SCI-Arc Eric Richardson / blogdowntown

This 7.9-acre parcel next to SCI-Arc was recently targeted by the state as the site for a new Los Angeles Mental Health Court

The state appears to have backed off plans to locate a new Los Angeles Mental Health Court on a key five-acre parcel in the Arts District, averting what would certainly have been a lively fight over the future of the neighborhood on Downtown's eastern edge.

The land, located immediately next to architecture school SCI-Arc, would have been used to build three courtrooms and associated offices, including space for County of Los Angeles mental health offices linked to court activities. The court is currently housed in an outdated facility north of Dodger Stadium.

Concern flared up this week when word of the state's planned purchase of the large open-space parcel next to SCI-Arc started to make its way across neighborhood email lists.

On Thursday afternoon, Central City East Association director Estela Lopez sent word to her stakeholders that the state was now looking elsewhere for its first choice. Still, she urged recipients of her email to continue to express their concerns to elected officials. A final site choice is expected to be announced in the upcoming weeks.

In April, SCI-Arc completed a $23.1 million purchase of its campus from Legendary Investors. The deal, which included 4.5 acres and the 1907 railroad depot the school has rented since 2001, was originally negotiated with previous owner Meruelo Maddux.

The school site and its neighboring 7.9 acres of open space were acquired by Legendary in January as part of a bankruptcy settlement with the company.

The court move would have stood in opposition to city plans to make the neighborhood a hub for cleantech businesses. It wouldn't be the first time that agencies have ended up with different agendas for the neighborhood: in November plans to locate Lucky Brand jeans' headquarters at 540 S. Santa Fe surprised Metro planners who had targeted the site for rail car storage.

The Mental Health Court, Superior Court Department 95, is the county's only mental health court facility. Approximately one-third of its cases involves criminal proceedings.

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