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Spat Brews Over Car Lot of Elite

Times Staff Writer

Looking for a used car with a pedigree? Maybe a luxury-model Mercedes with low mileage, driven only to weekly private tennis lessons?

Or how about a vintage Rolls-Royce, one that’s accustomed to being parked outside an exclusive North County address?

Well, forget National City’s Mile of Cars. Ditto for Car Country Carlsbad.

Come on down to the Block of Beauties at the corner of Highland Avenue and Lomas Santa Fe Boulevard in Solana Beach. No pushy salesmen here.

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Residents of the nearby community of Rancho Santa Fe have turned a street corner across from the exclusive Lomas Santa Fe Country Club into a bustling weekend sales lot where exotic cars are being sold at the drop of a phone number.

As in other neighborhoods around San Diego County, the Highland Avenue site in Lomas Santa Fe was turned into a car lot by locals who wanted space along an oft-traveled thoroughfare to show off their used cars to a buying public.

This, however, is affluent North County. So the cars are usually sleek, foreign and expensive. Not a clunker in the lot.

On any Saturday and Sunday, BMWs and Jaguars and Bentleys--not to mention an occasional Volkswagen beetle--can be found parked along the residential block, each displaying “For Sale” signs to turn the heads of local motorists.

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All of which has miffed the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

“I hate that block,” said Deputy Michael Cea, recently assigned to the department’s motorcycle patrol in Solana Beach. “I don’t have anything against people trying to sell their cars. And I don’t have anything against people who park their own cars legally to take a look at what’s for sale.

‘About to Wage War on Situation’

“What I don’t like are the people who stop in the middle of the road to take a look-see or jot down a phone number. They hold up traffic and create a dangerous situation. And I’m about to wage war on the entire situation.”

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An ordinance adopted by the city of Solana Beach sets several conditions on the advertising of used cars on city streets, according to Cea.

Such vehicles must display their signs--which can be no larger than 8 1/2 by 11 inches--in a side window only, not the front or back ones, the ordinance states.

“If these people did that, they’d be within the law,” Cea said. “But the code isn’t really well-known or understood, even by our own deputies. Many of them will see a car up for sale on the street and bing! They’ll tag it with a ticket without ever looking to see where the sign is placed.”

Several residents who have displayed cars on the lot said they were unaware of the code.

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“I certainly didn’t know about it,” said Bob Meyer, a Rancho Santa Fe resident who recently placed his 1985 Jaguar X-J6 on the Highland Avenue block.

‘People With Cash in Their Pockets’

Meyer is asking $20,000 for the car, which has a mere 49,000 miles logged. He doesn’t expect it to sit there for long.

“It’s an amazing little place,” he said. “I’ve sold cars there before. There’s a lot of traffic on that street, people with cash in their pockets. And everyone uses their own marketing approach.

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“I use tear-off tags so people don’t have to go looking through their glove box for a pen and paper. And it works.”

So far, no Lomas Santa Fe club members have lodged complaints against the practice.

“I haven’t heard any complaints about it,” general manager Mike Carey said. “But that doesn’t mean that our members don’t have their own thoughts about it. They might even be sellers from time to time.”

But some residents have complained that the cars, no matter how classy, are disturbing the neighborhood peace with the traffic they attract.

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“All weekend long, these people drive down the street, going 2 miles an hour, looking at these cars,” said 21-year-old Tom Archino, whose family’s house sits several yards from where the cars are parked.

“It’s dangerous. There’s joggers and people walking their dogs going by there all the time,” Archino said. “If people are gonna sell cars, they should use a lot, not park them on the street. Nobody in our family is too happy about it. But we’re not going to start a neighborhood war over it.”

Meanwhile, Deputy Cea said he plans to keep a closer eye on the block to ensure that sellers play by the rules. He’ll be scouting out the goods during work hours only, of course.


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