Hotel in Triangle Development Area OKd More Than a Year Ago : Shopkeepers Still Waiting for Wrecker's Ball to Hit

Times Staff Writer

Ivy Boggs has known for more than five years that the wrecker's ball would eventually demolish her King Harbor-area lapidary shop to make way for redevelopment. But just like a boulder, Boggs remains difficult to budge.

"I'm patient-- manana --and that doesn't necessarily mean tomorrow," said Boggs as she sat playing solitaire near the counter of her rock shop, empty of customers, one rainy afternoon recently. "I've been here 14 1/2 years so I'm not looking forward to moving."

Approved in 1983

Along with several other remaining business owners, Boggs is biding her time, waiting for the city to submit an acceptable offer before she agrees to move. And while the businessmen and women acknowledge that the bell will soon toll, a few complain that the city itself has failed to move quickly to help them relocate their businesses.

Indeed, by some standards, redevelopment in the Triangle area--between Catalina Avenue, Harbor Drive, Pacific Avenue and Beryl Street--seems to be moving forward in geologic time rather than Pacific standard.

It was in late 1983--almost a decade after plans began percolating for the sizable area--that the City Council finally approved a 353-room Sheraton hotel. But it was not until last September that the developers, Redondo Beach Hotel Assn., won council acceptance of their $40-million construction bond from the Bank of America.

And while the city began notifying tenants and landowners in November that they face eviction by eminent domain, some notices have yet to be served.

"As far as the right to go onto the property and begin demolition . . . the way the law reads is 90 days from the time they are served with the court papers," said the city's relocation attorney, Stephen Chase. "We are in the process of serving those court papers now."

At this point, the city still hopes that ground breaking for the hotel can occur this spring, said city harbor director Sheila Schoettger. But Schoettger said she is hesitant to make specific projections because she has hoped for ground breaking for the past five years--and was wrong before.

The once-thriving block of shops now looks something like a bomb-struck area, with several storefronts falling apart or nailed shut. Yet some of the remaining businesses are still thriving--or at least surviving.

Waiting for Firm Offer

Boggs, for one, continues to attract customers from across the Southland and beyond. And she says she doesn't plan to leave until the city submits a firm and fair offer for her business.

"They said they would be out next week with an offer--but that was before Christmas," she said.

Once she is forced to leave, Boggs will probably put her rocks, gems and jewelry into storage, since she has not found an affordable location to move to.

"When we find a suitable place to fit all our equipment, the cost is prohibitive," she said.

Several Triangle businessmen said they have received few visits--and little assistance--from the city's contracted relocation officer, Richard Wheeler.

"I'm concentrating on developing some referrals at this point," Wheeler countered. "I'm concentrating on some of the more difficult users."

Lower Rents

Whatever the case, the businessmen say, the city's help might not matter anyway, because their problems are probably insurmountable.

For years, as the block's future hung in the air, rents remained far lower than average for the pricey Redondo Beach area, they explained. Therefore, it is virtually impossible to find similar space for comparable prices anywhere nearby.

"Where else are we going to find another shop for $600 a month . . . around the beach area?" asked Dennis Donini, manager of Red's Bait and Tackle, which has hired an attorney to fight the city. "They (the city) said they will work with us (to relocate). What for? Let 'em find a place for us for $600 on the waterfront."

Donini said that if Red's is forced to close, he fears for the health of his 80-year-old boss Harold (Red) McWhorter.

"You're taking a guy's life and cutting off his right arm," he said.

Customers too will suffer, he said, because of reduced competition.

"They're moving out the poor for the rich, which they do and they do and they do," Donini said.

In No Hurry

Thomas Bowman, longtime owner of D & D Drugs, is also in no hurry to move.

"I figure maybe we'll be here another three to six months--I haven't planned on moving out tomorrow," said Bowman. "After all, we've been here 17 years at this spot and at the previous location since 1910."

Bowman, who owns his building, said he is negotiating with the city but has been unable to find affordable accommodations to relocate.

At Mickey's Marina Gym, the problem is different. There, manager Pete Gaimari blames the city's dallying in redeveloping the Triangle for a major decline in his business.

"They let the area run down on purpose so they could condemn it," said Gaimari, as he sat watching a TV set in near solitude at the front of the gym. "(And) our business went from 400 members to 50 in the last two years."

Now, wherever the gym moves, it will be like starting over, he said.

Mark Vollmer, on the other hand, hopes the delays continue.

Vollmer, a sail maker, moved into a vacant storefront three months ago for $400 a month.

"I jumped in because it's cheap and has good exposure to the Marina," he said. "As far as I'm concerned I have (at least) three months to go. . . . They've been saying this is going to be torn down in six months for the last four years."

Several businesses in the Triangle's Antique Arcade have already closed or relocated to the Memory Lanes Antique Mall in Harbor City. And the nearby Weaving Depot has moved to downtown Torrance under a new name, Weave 'n Knit Depot.

Plans for the block call for a six-story Sheraton hotel to be built by a development partnership consisting of Chuck Johnston, a major King Harbor leaseholder; Glenfed Realty Investments, and Paul Fay and Robert Hayne, both of the development firm of Haas & Hayne, which will oversee construction. Completion is targeted for the summer of 1986. The hotel is expected to generate $700,000 to $1 million in annual taxes.

The city, meanwhile, plans to purchase needed land for the development mostly with tideland oil revenues.

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