The Wilshire Area Community Coalition and other neighborhood groups vow to continue to demonstrate every weekend outside the Midtown Shopping Center in an effort to replace the swap meet there with a more upscale department store.
The swap meet sits in a shopping center that will soon include an Alpha-Beta supermarket and a Sav-On Drugs store in addition to new retail shops.
Developer Jim Young, who holds a long-term lease for the center, plans to remodel the 40-vendor swap meet, improve its layout and appearance, and rename it Midtown Shops.
But Marie Gaines, president of the neighborhood coalition, said that many residents around the shopping center in the 4700 block of West Pico Boulevard feel that a Target or WalMart store would be better suited to their middle-class community. “We want a store with quality merchandise that serves the entire community,” she said.
At community meetings and hearings, Young has said that department store chains have told him that the site is too small. Moreover, Young said he must honor the existing lease agreements with the swap meet vendors.
City Councilman Nate Holden, who talked to about 30 demonstrators on April 23, said that because the swap meet, which has been open for several years, has permits the city can do little about it.
“We could try to work out a deal to get it out of there, but anything we do would have to be with the concurrence of the property owner and the vendors,” said the 10th District councilman.
Asked by demonstrators for advice, Holden said, “Just keep doing what you’re doing.”
Gaines said her group has collected more than 1,000 signatures on a petition urging Young, the city and RLA, formerly Rebuild LA, to “aggressively recruit a recognized anchor store to open a store in place of the swap meet.”
Roderick Sykes, who lives in nearby St. Elmo Village, said neighbors are tired of “swap meets, liquor stores and auto shops totally dominating our community. When does it stop? Someone has to have the guts to say, ‘No more.’ ”