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City Council Expected to OK Plan for Retail Center : Redevelopment: Officials predict it could generate more than $400,000 a year in new tax revenue.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The City Council this week is expected to approve a plan to transform four blocks of aging factories, stores, houses and apartments into a huge shopping center that officials hope will produce more than $400,000 a year in new tax revenue for the cash-strapped city government.

A Diamond Bar-based developer, Staff Consolidated Fund, plans to build the 300,000-square-foot North Renaissance Center on a four-square-block area--from Pacific Boulevard east to Santa Fe Avenue, and from 57th Street south to Slauson Avenue. The site is just west of Pacific Boulevard, the city’s commercial hub.

The residents of about 50 houses and apartments, and operators of nearly 60 businesses would have to be relocated to clear the path for the redevelopment project, city officials said.

“It’s a blighted area,” said Mayor Jack W. Parks. “We’ve had this in mind for a long time. Hopefully, we can make it happen.”

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During the past three years, at least three other developers have tried to build similar projects in the same area, but their plans fell through primarily because of financing problems, Parks said.

But Staff Consolidated officials have assured city officials that they will complete the $35-million shopping center. Staff Consolidated is arranging to bring in a large discount store and other mid-size retailers, said Bill Chow, the city’s assistant planner.

Developer David Maxwell, of Staff Consolidated, could not be reached for comment.

The shopping center is expected to create 380 new jobs and bring the city $458,000 in additional sales tax revenue a year.

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Huntington Park could use the extra income. The city, which has laid off more than 25 employees in recent years because of money problems, runs on a general fund budget of about $10 million. The new sales tax money would go into the general fund, which pays for most employee salaries and city services.

Staff Consolidated has reached a purchase agreement with Maurice J. Sopp & Sons, the largest property owner in the four-block area, Chow said. The auto dealer’s truck storage and servicing facility occupies nearly three acres of the area where the shopping center will be built.

Staff Consolidated has reached agreements with several other landowners as well, said a spokesman for the firm’s real estate agent. But he declined to give further details because the purchases are pending.

Under the development agreement, Staff Consolidated must acquire rights to 51% of the property in the four-block area. After that, the city’s Redevelopment Agency will use its condemnation powers to force the remaining owners to sell. State law requires that Staff Consolidated pay fair market value.

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Parks said the Redevelopment Agency would consider using eminent domain, for example, if a property owner were to stall the project by holding out for an exorbitant price.

“We’re not trying to beat anybody out of a nickel, and we don’t want (Staff Consolidated) to either,” Parks said. “We want everyone to get a fair price.”

In addition to using its powers of eminent domain, the Redevelopment Agency will try to help Staff Consolidated secure financing for the project, according to the agreement.

The City Council initially approved the project Aug. 5 on a 4-1 vote, with Councilman Luis Hernandez dissenting.

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Residents in the area, mostly renters, did not protest the plan. Under the agreement, Staff Consolidated would reimburse residents for moving expenses--about $4,500 per residence--and help them to find comparable housing in the area.

But a handful of property owners worry that they might be forced to sell their property for less than what they could get if the Redevelopment Agency were not involved.

Joan Sherwood of Los Angeles owns two houses in the project area. Sherwood said Staff Consolidated’s offer for her property was too low, but she declined to specify that amount.

“I’m not going to let them steal it,” Sherwood said. “I’m going to go to court.”

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Another concerned property owner is American Healthcare Management Inc., which owns Community and Missions Hospital in Huntington Park. American Healthcare owns a small parcel of vacant land on Slauson Avenue in the project area.

It eventually wants to expand Community Hospital and use the land for a parking lot, said Keith Wolfe, hospital administrator. The hospital is about a block away from the parcel.

“We’re opposed to them taking the land with no substitute,” Wolfe said. “We have a desire to work with the city to resolve the issue.”

Mayor Parks said the city would work to ensure that Community Hospital has ample parking for an expansion.

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Councilman Hernandez said he voted against the plan because he is not satisfied that property owners such as Sherwood will get a satisfied that property owners such as Sherwood will get a satisfactory deal, and he fears they will file lawsuits against the city.


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