WEST LOS ANGELES : Gardening Store Is Uprooted Again


Armstrong's Home & Garden, for decades a family-run landmark in West Los Angeles, is searching for a new location--again.

The gardening center, which has been at its West Pico Boulevard address for 46 years, must vacate its current site by June 1 because the property has been leased to another tenant. The Armstrong family, the store's owner, found a nearby site in the 11000 block of Tennessee Avenue near Colby Avenue. To secure the spot, the family deposited $100,000 and also paid for the demolition of an existing building.

For weeks, signs have been posted outside the gardening center's current location--which takes up a city block--to notify customers of the move. The family also spent $60,000 on newspaper and telephone book advertisements announcing the new location with a detailed map. And 2,000 regular customers received flyers about the new location.

But the planned move came to a sudden halt Feb. 15, when the city of Los Angeles told the family that it would have to conduct a traffic study on the Tennessee Avenue site. The time and cost of a study--estimated at $5,000 to $50,000--would make moving by June 1 impossible, said Liz Armstrong, who bought the business with her husband, Chuck, in 1965. Fifteen years earlier, Chuck's father, Charles Armstrong, founded the business.

"We're just going crazy, evaluating everything else that might be a possibility," said Liz Armstrong, whose children run the store. "We have nearly 100 employees and we are determined to keep them because they are wonderful people."

Despite spending $250,000 to move to the new location, the Armstrongs are looking for another site, either in an area zoned for retail or one that will not require a traffic study.

The staff for Los Angeles City Councilman Marvin Braude, whose district includes the West Los Angeles area, is working with the Armstrongs to find another location. Loyal customers have also offered their support, signing a petition asking city officials to expedite the relocation.

If the store moves out of West Los Angeles "it is going to put a crimp in my operation," said William Robledo, a landscape contractor who has shopped at the store for more than 30 years. "The personnel (are) very nice, easy to work with and knowledgeable. Here, I always could get anything and everything I needed."

According to a Los Angeles official, city planners must require a traffic study under the state's environmental quality act.

City officials also must take into consideration the complaints of several residents about the planned relocation. The residents have expressed concerns that parking problems and congestion on surrounding narrow streets would worsen if a store as large as Armstrong's were to move into the neighborhood.

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